There is assistance for producers who are dealing with farm stress. Soybean growers have resources available as close as a click or a social media search. #SoyHelp is available anytime but was given a special push during May, Mental Health Awareness Month.
“Mental health is very important and if you need help, reach out,” said Huron, South Dakota farmer Brandon Wipf, a director on the American Soybean Association (ASA) Board. “There’s a number of resources that our organization has made available. And in my mind, [Mental Health Awareness Month] is a reminder to all of us that we can be the help, to our neighbors or to the people in our family that maybe need someone to lean on as well, and so it’s kind of important that we’re thinking on both sides of that.”
Anyone in any walk of life has plenty of reasons to feel stress from any number of sources, acknowledges Wipf, adding that it seems especially so for farmers. “We’ve had really volatile prices over the last few years, from very low to high, but with those high prices have come high input costs. And so, there’s a lot of farmers that are wondering, ‘ok, what is the future looking like for me, and is it going to be easy for me to pass this on to the next generation?’ Just all these questions and it can really weigh on a person,” said Wipf. “If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with those things, please reach out to someone.”
As an example, Wipf pointed out that he’s personally very fortunate to have strong faith and a supportive family who constantly make him “feel valued.” But to manage heavy demands on his time, he would agree to be interviewed about farm stress only after being assured that he could talk while keeping his planter tractor moving to finish fieldwork between rains. There are extraordinary seasonal schedules surrounding farm work, but the primary issue is not that there’s too little time to talk about one’s feelings, said Wipf, it’s the discomfort of even bringing it up.
“For many years there’s been a stigma about not talking about [mental health issues], or we should just tough it out and swallow your feelings and all that,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve come to a better realization on the importance of mental health and making it a part of our overall wellbeing.”
The soy community continues proactive communications to combat farm stress by offering the social media hashtag, #SoyHelp, and there is a range of options on the website, soygrowers.com. Examples are national mental health resources, including crisis centers and suicide hotlines. There are also agriculture-specific resources for farmers and farm families.
“What we want to do at ASA is try to break that stigma,” said Wipf, “and make it ok to talk about.”