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Montana Ag Network: Ag Producers Call for Mental Health Services in Farm Bill

Farmer and Rancher Mental Health
Posted at 1:50 PM, Sep 22, 2023

WASHINGTON D.C. — According to the Centers for Disease Control, Farmers and Ranchers are 40% more likely to die by suicide than any other occupation in the country.

“There's an awful lot of stress in this industry. What my wife would tell you is she questions my mental health every day,” shared Brett DeBruycker, Teton County Farmer, and Rancher.

Agriculture is an uncertain industry, and uncertainty can lead a mind to wander. Consumption of bills, drought, and long winters can be a heavy burden.

“I got so stressed out this spring and my banker was concerned that I was going to commit suicide. And he said, you cannot get this stressed out, Susan,” shared McCone County Farmer and Rancher, Susan Herden.

Herden has refinanced everything within her power to stay afloat.

“I've never worked so hard in my life for the last ten years. I've done nothing but refinance and borrowed money, borrowed against the equity, and tried to put up. Every year we have no crop. In the last ten years, we had one stellar crop in 2018. The stress is through the roof.”

The Farm Bill has wiggle room to provide more mental health services for agriculture producers.

“We speak up for the farmers, all of us as a community, and say they must have just as much input. They need just as much mental health and health help as we do when we have insurance. I would say there's a large portion that doesn't have insurance. They pay out of pocket,” said Jackie Gittens, Director of Voices of Hope in Great Falls.

“She (referring to Herden) needs to know that there are people out there she can talk to and that it seems bad right now, but it isn't as bad as what you think,” said Senator Jon Tester.

Senator Steve Daines believes research can help diminish crops that aren’t resistant to crops in the future.

“That's why it's important we protect the funding that goes into ag research in places like Montana State University so we can produce more disease resistant, drought tolerant type crops to help our farmers and ranchers out.”

At the end of the day, agriculture producers are resilient, but the losses and disasters are a weight that is hard to keep a head above water.

“You just got to have resources. You can go and get folks to talk about what next year is going to be like. Montana is always next to year country,” added Tester.

If you or someone you know is experiencing the thought of suicide, dial 988 for the anonymous suicide crisis lifeline.