Supporting our neighbors in rural Iowa

To the editor:

Land rental prices are up. Corn prices are down. When economic stability drops, a farmer?s sense of security often does, too.

The nation is beginning to take notice. A slew of articles have been published in recent months telling farmers? thoughts of anxiety, depression and suicide.

We here in Iowa are not immune.

Calls to Iowa Concern, a hotline first established by Iowa State University in the 1980s to help farmers respond to the Farm Crisis, saw the greatest increase of farm-related calls to the center in March 2018 and rates have remained high in the months since, according to Tammy Jacobs, human sciences hotlines coordinator with the university?s Human Sciences Extension and Outreach division.

?As we have faced the poor planting conditions and heavy rains in certain areas of the state while still being in a drought in other parts of the state, we are going to start to see a greater concern of stress and other issues as we move into the fall and harvest times,? Jacobs said.

In April, a coalition of more than 30 farm and rural advocacy organizations urged the U.S. Congress to fund the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a program authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. The national dialogue continues.

Locally, it?s important to open up conversations about the present crisis. Not simply the economic one; the emotional one, too.

We Iowans have grit. We work hard and are told it isn?t polite to complain. So in the spirit of Midwest humility and perseverance, we?re reticent. And it?s killing us. Literally.

When farmers suffer from physical ailments, we?ve been known to lend a hand to our neighbor. We help him get the harvest in. We help her milk the cows. It should be natural that we do the same when one another?s mental health is at stake.

If you see warning signs like increased anxiety or extreme mood swings, ask probing questions. Be supportive in your responses.

Encourage your neighbor to speak to a mental health professional. Don?t assume someone is OK. The risk is too great.

During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month this September, let us rededicate ourselves to these important conversations.


? Tracy Liptak, southeastern Iowa regional behavioral health director for Optimae LifeServices