Farm Neighbors Care looks for Heroes of Hope
WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Farm Neighbors Care campaign is looking for nominees to be their Heroes of Hope. The campaign was started by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau in 2019 to help ensure mental wellness in rural communities. Now it is a coalition of agricultural groups throughout the state all working toward the same goal. Heroes of Hope is a program started this year to recognize farmers who have gone out of their way to help their neighbors.
“I think now, more than ever, because of the pandemic and because of economic stressors and environmental stressors, we should suspect rates should rise. And this includes not just suicide rates, but stress,” said National Farm Medicine Center Director Casper Bendixsen.
Bradley Guse is the Senior Vice President of Agricultural Banking for BMO. He knows the factors that were likely to cause more stress among farmers in 2020.
“There was a huge disruption in the supply chains. So we went from supplying restaurants with product and supplying grocery stores with product and that whole supply chain disruption created a lot of questions.”
Guse is trained in mental health first aid. He says it is skills like his that can get help to farmers who are struggling, but feel isolated.
“It’s really about being trained to recognize some of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and the diseases that are associated with that,” Guse said.
Bendixsen says recognition needs to be followed by de-stigmatization. A 2017 study by the University of Iowa showed that farmers have a much higher chance of dying by suicide than the general population.
“Some occupations like farming being more stressful or having less resources is an important part of that. And yes farmers are stoic, and they’re tough, and they’re independent but we need to change the conversation about mental health for all communities including rural, including ag,” Bendixsen said.
He said changing the conversation also means keeping it going.
“Whether or not rates rise or fall is really a matter of who’s paying attention. And we should be paying more attention consistently,” he said.
Guse said Wisconsin farmers went to great lengths to band together to get through everything the pandemic threw at them. He said the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has a hotline number to help those feeling overwhelmed. Anyone experiencing these issues can call 1-888-901-2558.
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