You look up at the sky and see a cloud of smoke billowing from the mountainside. The smell of fire fills the air and your first thought goes not to your home, but to your livelihood – the cattle you have on that mountain. Unfortunately for Utah cattlemen this has become an all too familiar scene. In Utah last year close to half a million acres of land were destroyed by wildfires.
One cattleman, Andy Neves said this about a fire where he lost 25% of his herd. “We’ve raised these cattle since they were babies,” said Neves. “Some of these cattle, the older cows, they helped pay to get my wife and I through college. We know them, some of them have names, and they’re a part of the family. Somebody who doesn’t understand this lifestyle might think that’s a little crazy, but it’s sad for us.” (Daily Herald, 2018)
Events like these cause stress that farmers, here meaning those whose work includes ranching, farming, working the land, etc., must carry as they rebuild their lives. Stress that can be debilitating for many, especially those living in rural areas. These farmers not only face the challenge of rebuilding their lives after disaster, but also deal with many other issues that plague the agricultural and rural community including drought, lack of medical providers, stigma, raising living costs with no increase in profit cost, increased opioid usage, extreme isolation, etc.
With so many challenges facing those in the agricultural community, the question then becomes, what do we do to help? One solution we’ve been working on in Utah is teaching Mental Health First Aid courses. These courses are used to inform community members how they can support one another in their struggles managing the difficulties of farming life. The course goes over signs, symptoms, and ways to help, providing an action plan to use in multiple ways depending on the situation.
Although not commonly discussed, mental health issues do plague farmers and ranchers, and having a plan in place to help those who are farmers and ranchers and who work with farmers and ranchers can help mitigate the mental health risks posed by the constant stressors that come while working in this area.
|Conference||2020 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference|