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A World Farming Crisis

J.S. Campbell

Posted on June 17, 2018 07:59

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Farmers till the soil, grow the crops, raise the animals, and feed the world in the process. They also constantly battle the elements, the developers, and the bankers. We hold farming and farmers in high esteem, and we should be aware of a darkness that often overshadows life down on the farm.

Back in 1985, with famine raging across Ethiopia, Bob Geldof organized a global concert, Live Aid, to raise funds for relief efforts. Superstars lined up to perform. Bob Dylan played the concert and happened to remark about it maybe being a good idea to use some of the money to help farmers pay off debts to save their farms. He only meant it as a gesture to the struggling farmers who were responsible for the food that fed the world. Dylan was criticized at the time for being nationalistic. Regardless of his intentions, those remarks inspired the annual Farm Aid concerts to raise money for struggling farmers.

Farmers around the world share many things in common. They devote most of their waking hours to growing and producing food, when so many of the factors determining their success are out of their control. They are continually operating on a thin budget with most being in perpetual debt or risk of losing their property and livelihoods season after season.

Many people have kind of an idyllic notion of farm life, but in truth, the difficulties of farm life create a tremendous amount of stress on their oftentimes isolated families. This stress leads to another commonality between farmers around the world. Tragically, farmers commit suicide at an alarming rate.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that those working in the agricultural industry take their lives at a higher rate than in any other industry. Recent reporting by the New York Times focused on Australian farmers and what is considered a rural mental health crisis there. Farmers in Australia are at significantly higher risk than the general population for suicide, and, alarmingly, the rates are rising. One reason may be the stigma associated with depression combined with rural farmers’ tendency to suppress feelings or to neglect seeking help.

Across the globe the rates are worsening, with one farmer per week committing suicide in the United Kingdom, and a farmer committing suicide every two days in France. In India, almost 300,000 famers have committed suicide since 1995.

On US soil, as the farmer suicide crisis developed, organizations were formed, like Sowing Seeds of Hope, to help provide affordable behavioral health services to farming communities. The effort led to the formation of a national program, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, but federal funding continues to be an issue, and the farming community continues to pay the ultimate price.

I know that celebrities garner more of the attention in the news regarding suicide and mental health issues, but coming from a family with deep farming roots, and with family members that struggle with mental illness, including depression, I wanted to focus on an area that maybe some are not familiar with. This is such a pervasive problem in our society that requires us all to do what we can to help improve the human condition, for suicide leaves an unfillable void and it is certainly not painless.

J.S. Campbell

Posted on June 17, 2018 07:59

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Source: NPR

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