Talking about mental health struggles is never easy. It can be hard to share with others if you are struggling. For loved ones to bring up the topic if they are concerned is also difficult. That is more true in farming than many other professions.
Farmer mental health has come to the forefront in recent years. To support farmers struggling with mental health challenges, the Wisconsin Farm Center created the Farmer Wellness Program. One of the support services and biggest program the Center offers is counseling vouchers. These vouchers can be used by farmers to receive free counseling specific to what they need.
Karen Endres is the Farmer Wellness Program Coordinator and is very involved in getting those vouchers to farmers in need. Endres says that last year the program redeemed 217 vouchers – an all time high for the program. “Out of all of the vouchers that I issued, 4 out of 5 of them were used which is just great,” said Endres.
Offering these vouchers is a way to try and prevent the rising number of farmer suicides. September is National Suicide Awareness Month and the Farm Center encourages people to receive training in recognizing the signs of someone considering suicide. Endres says there is 8 hour mental health first aid training available for anyone who wants to learn more.
As National Suicide Awareness Month begins, Endres thinks of a farmer in Northwestern Wisconsin who committed suicide at the beginning of August. “His family wants everyone to know that we need to continue talking about it”, said Endres.