Through the years there is one statement I really don’t have time for and that is, “But I am just one person, I can’t make a difference.”
Our country was founded and built on the backs of one person who did something courageous that made, literally, all the difference in the world. It all starts with one. When one person is willing to go against the stream and do something uncomfortable, others will follow. In fact, I could take us down the path of how uncomfortable it must have been for Christopher Columbus to sail the ocean blue in 1492 yet today a loud group, in the minority, want to demonize him and his courage. His type of courage is exactly what we need in today’s world and I see it happening globally.
I hope that you got wind of the fact that the past week was deemed #AgMentalHealthWeek. That didn’t start with some government agency or even an ag group at all. It started with a couple, Peter and Paula Hynes, who farm and dairy in Ireland. They have recognized that the suicide rate in farmers is twice as high as the non-farming public. In fact, in the United Kingdom, there is one per week and in India one farmer takes his/her own life every 30 minutes.
Everyone is quite aware that farming was not easy prior to the bottlenecks and struggling markets of 2020. Compound that with what has taken place in the past six months including the farmers who are now taking government payments just to put food on the table. That all grinds on your mental wellbeing. I remember a few years ago when I learned 22 veterans in the United States alone are committing suicide daily and that number was startling to me. It was then that I learned the rate for farmers is really no different. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that farmer suicide has increased by 40% of the past two decades.
For the purposes of this piece, I don’t think I need to spend much time on the cause of mental health issues in the farm community but rather I want to seek solutions. You know what nobody wants to talk about is the division within rural communities. I do not remember a time when the Hatfields and the McCoys were more prominent in our communities. I do not remember a time when, at school and church functions in the community, have people been sitting more distinctly on opposites of the aisle, literally and figuratively.
In fact, since the death of a young woman who was a family friend, I have spent as much time as possible on the issue. The science clearly says that proper nutrition was at the core of factors related to mental health. While I fully agree with that, it is very clear that one of the factors and perhaps the most obvious solution is community support.
Peter Hynes shared with me a story about a man he had never met who reached out to him via social media three years ago. In their first exchange, they communicated for hours via direct message. They have kept in contact over the past three years and just last Friday he called Peter and thanked him for “talking to me that night. Had it not been for you, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Peter and Paula Hynes did a very simple thing that suggested that everyone share a personal story via social media and tag #AgMentalHealthWeek. I have enjoyed the many one-minute videos from folks all around the world about what they do when the day seems to be getting dark. I realize this will not be the ultimate solution to a very complex problem but I really do understand that by being willing to start the discussion, anything is possible. It reminds me of Kelli’s most frequently used words of wisdom: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” So be a part of the solution. You never know when simply taking the time to put a person ahead of all of the busyness of our lives, will you find rewards far beyond anything you could ever imagine.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at email@example.com.