Agriculture is a high-risk industry for mental health struggles. Stressors are everywhere, from the risk of illness to the livestock to severe weather events. These difficulties further highlight the need for proactive mental health awareness and support.
As the agricultural industry marked World Mental Health Day on October 10, DoMoreAg is leading the charge in highlighting the importance of mental health within the agriculture community. It has teamed up with the “Walk With Me ”campaign, a global initiative to raise awareness about mental health.
Megz Reynolds, the Executive Director of DoMoreAg, is a staunch advocate for mental health awareness in agriculture. She says one of the biggest challenges is dealing with the stigma surrounding the issue.
“Stigma is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to mental health and agriculture and one of the biggest barriers that keep people from being able to acknowledge that something is going on with themselves and then reaching out for support,” says Reynolds, emphasizing the need to overcome the roadblock.
Reynolds points out that over the last few years, there has been significant progress in breaking down the external stigma surrounding mental health in agriculture. However, she’s noticed that at conferences and farm shows, individuals have expressed strong support for discussing mental health issues but hesitate to acknowledge their own need for support.
“People are really supportive of the fact that we’re talking about mental health, that we are acknowledging there are increased challenges in mental health in agriculture. But they’re also quick to say that while they support someone else reaching out for support, they would never need to do that. So, we’ve come a long way in breaking down that external stigma, but we still have to work together to break down that internal stigma.”
Reynolds doesn’t just talk the talk, she’s walked the walk. In 2019, her marriage ended, and she transitioned from being a grain farmer to a life off the farm, leading to an identity crisis. She moved to a tiny community to raise her two children. Then the pandemic hit.
Despite being a mental health advocate, she initially believed she could handle all her struggles by herself.
“It took family and some really good friends making multiple outreach attempts, encouraging me to connect with a mental health professional before I finally got over my own internal stigma and feeling of being uncomfortable with the idea of that before I did reach out and connect. I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to work through all of those things had I tried to do it on my own.”
Reynolds says working with a professional in a safe space allowed her to reflect on her situation, share her concerns, develop coping mechanisms, and maintain daily awareness of her mental health. She acknowledges she may not have become the Executive Director of DoMoreAg if she didn’t reach out.
Reynolds says knowing the signs of mental health struggles in yourself and others is important. Things to look out for include:
- Being quick to react to something instead of responding
- Trouble focusing and procrastinating. With high levels of stress, we tend to go into freeze mode and disengage
- Alcohol consumption increases
- Trouble sleeping
- Pulling away from people or isolating, in-person and even online.
There are many ways to participate in the Walk With Me movement, including donating. The Do More Agriculture Foundation has teamed up with BASF, a leading provider of agricultural solutions, which has generously committed to match every donation made to the Walk With Me campaign up to $10,000. That means every contribution you make will have double the impact in supporting mental health initiatives in the ag sector. To contribute, you can do so at this link.
As the “Walk with Me” campaign continues to gain momentum, it’s a reminder that together, we can break down the internal stigma surrounding mental health in agriculture. By sharing personal stories and supporting one another, the farming community can move towards a future where seeking help is not seen as a sign of weakness but as a strength. The road to better mental health in agriculture is one we all walk together.