Over the past few years, mental health has become a growing topic in medical fields all over America. Why is it so important? How prevalent are mental health issues in the average person? Why is mental health such a big focus in a world where there are so many physical illnesses that need curing? Can’t people just push their problems to the side and move forward?
The answer to that last question is — not always.
According to mentalhealthfoundation.org, one in five adults live with a mental illness. Mental health has become a national phenomenon that impacts people of all demographics, whether it’s a professional athlete or someone’s neighbor that lives across the street. Mental health issues do not discriminate. They can affect any and everyone who may not take the positive steps needed to recuperate and push through tough times.
In its most recent Lunch & Learn event, the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation invited guest speaker Trenton Schmidt, APRN of Memorial Health Systems to talk about Mental Health in our community, especially for those in the rural demographic of our society. He specializes in mental health and the stresses involved with agricultural work. He has been with Memorial Health Systems for about four years while working in the psychiatric world for ten more.
He started with an overview of some stresses that are common in the rural community that is the main factors in mental health issues for farmers.
“The number one stress is financial stress, according to ruralhealth.org, there has been a 50% decrease in net income for farmers since 2013, so it’s been trending downward for a better part of a decade. The last report was more than half of all farming households in the united states have had a net decrease or lost money in recent years overall, you couple that with commodity pricing increasing, inflation, and of course the ever-increasing price of the equipment, you can see where financial stress is hitting them a lot,” Schmidt said.
He also stated that isolation from farming can also trigger mental health issues for farmers.
“Often farmers work long days by themselves, so isolation is a mental health battle,” Schmidt said.
In the aspect of geography, farmers are often separated, living on a farm, which plays into the isolation factor.
“Farm life is conducive to an isolated life, which for many people is a positive, but for others who struggle it could be negative. Human beings need one another at times, but some people are more introverted,” Schmidt said.
The concept of failure is also a stress that can lead to mental health issues for farmers. The thought of losing something that has been handed down the family bloodline for many years is a stressful idea.
“Farmer’s identity their whole lives has been farming, and right now with as many family farms that are failing there is a fear of failure that is crippling the mental health of a lot of farmers, because their farms have been in the family for generations, and the fact you might lose it or struggle, that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety,” he said.
Family complexities are also a common reason for added stress.
“While families are beautiful and a blessed thing, we all know that there are also some complexities, whether it be children, marriage arrangements, extended families, and all that stuff can be stressful. Families can be great and a blessing but it can also be stressful for some people,” Schmidt said.
Common signs of mental health problems include insomnia, headaches, fatigue, being disengaged socially, and being irritable. “The psychological affects the biological, and the biological affects the psychological,” said Schmidt. If someone has high anxiety, they will often also have stomach issues. Issues like constipation, diarrhea, and irritability are common among people who struggle mentally. “Oftentimes, when I treat people with depression, they also have chronic pain, or those who come in with chronic pain will also have depression. The biological state of someone affects their psychological in many ways,” said Schmidt.
There is a certain stigma in the mental health world. Oftentimes people are seen as having a weakness or failing for having to seek treatment.
“I think that has come a long way, people used to never talk about their feelings, or it was frowned upon to feel things, especially back in the day,” Michelle Johnson of the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation said.