Farmer suicides prompt more federal money for mental health services

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By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A United States Senator from Kansas hopes more federal resources will help fight a growing problem in rural America:  farmer suicides.

Sen. Jerry Moran says it is a disturbing trend.

“Well, sadly, there are a significant number of farmers, family farm members, who commit suicide and the numbers are increasing,” according to Moran.

Moran of Kansas inserted the allocation in the Farm Bill.

“I think about farmers who look back and they recognize that their great-grandparents, their grandparents, their parents; they were able to keep the farm together and succeed and pass it on to another generation and I’m sure there’s this concern, this worry that, ‘Why can’t I do that? Why are things so difficult? Why can’t I manage this farm, operate it in a way that allows me to pass it on to my kids?’ So, there’s tremendous stress in agriculture today,” Moran says.

Moran sponsored the Farmers First Act with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

“We’ve set out to be helpful,” Moran says. “There are, of course, not enough mental health services in rural America, probably not enough mental health services anyplace in the country and so we’re trying to strengthen the ones that we have and encourage them, provide them the resources to help farmers and ranchers in rural America.”

While Moran succeeded in getting more federal money to tackle the problem, he suggests a little neighborly concern could make a big difference.

“What I would say is that all of us know farmers and ranchers. We need to check in. We need to have conversations with them. We need to pay attention to how they’re doing and we need to encourage them if it is suggested that it’s needed to see a professional, to seek out counseling, to talk to their minister, their pastor, to talk to friends,” Moran says. “We can’t allow farmers to be isolated.”

Moran says a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found agricultural workers have a higher suicide rate than individuals with any other occupation.