Agriculture workers have one of the highest suicide rates of any industry in the country

The CDC says the agriculture industry has the fourth highest suicide rate. Ty Higgins, the Ohio Farm Bureau spokesperson, said this is from stigmas and stress.

OHIO, USA —May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Tony Coder, the executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, said this is a good time for awareness and for people to check in on loved ones.

“We lose five people a day to suicide in the state of Ohio,” Coder said.

Suicide risk is higher in certain population groups, according to Coder. He said members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans and farmers are all at higher risk.

“Agriculture has one of the highest suicide rates of any industry in the country,” Ty Higgins, spokesperson for the Ohio Farm Bureau said. “That has been a long-standing statistic for years and it’s something we really need to get in front of.”

Higgins said the stigma surrounding mental health in the agriculture industry makes this a harder conversation to start having.

“I think farmers seem themselves as strong and resilient, and they are,” Higgins said. “But they very rarely want to show a sign of what they consider weakness. And I consider it a strength to talk about your mental health and what’s stressing you out on a farm.”

Higgins said the stress that farmers experience in the industry can lead to anxiety, depression or suicide.

“We don’t always have a certain amount of time to get the crop in the ground and prepare it,” Landon Smith, farm manager at Rohrs Farms said. “Sometimes there’s challenging moments with equipment breaking or the weather setting us back.”

Concerns over farmers’ mental health are why the Ohio Agriculture Mental Health Alliance was formed, Higgins said. Some of the partners include the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. 

Higgins said there’s not a lot of data out there regarding farmers’ mental health, so the alliance is working to figure out what stressors are, how farmers are dealing with them and what resources are available. There is a survey farmers can fill out to help the alliance know what needs they see.

Coder said it can start with asking friends how they are doing. He said over the past five years as executive director, he’s been to a lot of funerals.

“Not one time have I ever heard at one of those funerals that I did too much,” Coder said.

Coder also said people can use resources on the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services website.

One of those resources is dedicated to just men. Coder said 80% of the suicides in Ohio are men between the ages of 35 and 65. He said one reason for this is the stigmas attached to mental health.

Man Therapy is a statewide campaign dedicated to targeting men’s mental health. It includes videos and activities people can do at their own pace.

Another resource both Coder and Higgins mentioned is the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline. The number is 988 and will connect people with local resources, or assist them in helping a friend or family member through a situation.