Extension office releases video to help raise awareness of mental health struggles among farmers

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Mallory Meek, an agent for the K-State Research and Extension Office for Douglas County, speaks to the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Meek spoke to the County Commission about stress among farmers and how they can get help to address mental health issues.

With poor crop prices and even worse weather, the farming community in Kansas dealt with a lot of stress last year.

“It all seems to pile up on you all at once,” says Lowell Neitzel, a Douglas County farmer, in a new video produced by Douglas County and presented by the local K-State Research and Extension office.

The extension office released the video — titled “Farm Stress: You Are Not Alone,” — in an effort to help farmers alleviate mental health struggles. Mallory Meek, an agent for the extension office, presented the video at the Douglas County Commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

In the video, Neitzel and other Douglas County farmers explain the factors that cause them stress and why it’s important to find help.

Neitzel says in the video that he didn’t normally talk about mental health issues until he spoke to a doctor, who helped him address his stress.

“It was really kind of eye-opening,” Neitzel says in the video. “(The doctor) gave me some tools I never thought about to combat some of the stress and some of the anger issues I was having in certain situations.”

Farm Stress: You Are Not Alone

The video also goes over the warning signs of mental health problems, and it lists resources that farmers across the state can use to get help.

In a letter she sent to the commission before Wednesday’s meeting, Meek said farmers experience “higher reported rates of depression and suicide” and that there should be more resources that are tailor-made for farmers.

“The agriculture community often has difficulty talking about mental health or finding resources they relate to or find useful,” Meek wrote in the letter.

Meek said she now plans to send the video to other agriculture-related organizations — including all of the county extension offices in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Farm Bureau — so they can help spread awareness.

Commissioner Patrick Kelly said he appreciated the office’s work on raising awareness for a serious issue. He said he believes the video and the resources it lists will greatly help Kansas farmers deal with mental health struggles.

“The only way I think we can really make a difference when we are talking about erasing the stigma of mental health is to continually talk about it,” Kelly said. “Your video is going to save lives. I have no doubt.”

The video is just part of the extension office’s effort to address mental health struggles in the agriculture industry.

At a County Commission meeting on Sept. 25, 2019, Meek explained how the extension office was partnering with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to raise awareness and provide resources to local farmers. One example of the partnership’s work is a webpage on the extension office’s website highlighting various resources for farmers.

In other business, the County Commission elected Kelly as chair and Michelle Derusseau as vice chair of the commission for 2020.

The two commissioners switched positions, as Derusseau served as the chair and Kelly served as the vice chair in 2019.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Douglas County Commissioners Patrick Kelly, left, and Michelle Derusseau share a word after switching positions on the commission during a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. The commissioners selected Kelly to serve as the chair of the commission for 2020. Derusseau, who served as the chair in 2019, will serve as the vice chair.

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