Controlling the Weather

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day. If you’re not familiar with the opening scenes of this masterpiece, the main character is a weatherman who wants to leave the small town of Punxsutawney and return home immediately, if not faster. His team comes across a road closure, and he hops out of the vehicle to question a state trooper about the delay. The trooper asks, “Don’t you watch the weather? We got a major storm here.” Frustrated and upset, the weatherman shouts, “I MAKE THE WEATHER.”

As most of the state ends another week with minimal or no rainfall, you might be feeling frustrated and upset. What each of us wouldn’t give to “make the weather” and control the rainfall, the temperature, and a million other small details that affect how crops grow and livestock thrive. While we don’t have that ability to control the weather outside our front door, we can control our own personal “weather”- our mindset. Here are some tips to “make the weather” for yourself (adapted from this article shared last year):

  • Make time for laughs: Have you ever heard laughter is the best medicine? Well, it might not be the best, but it can help. Make sure you find time to spend with your funny family member or employee. You know who they are.
  • Stay away from unhealthy coping mechanisms: Coping by stress eating is easy to do, but it can also make you feel lethargic and uncomfortable. Try playing a game, calling a friend, or spending time in nature. An increase in unhealthy habits such as alcohol use can contribute to farm accidents, and could negatively impact you, your family, and your farm business.
  • Take a look at long-term goals and plans: Talk with family and employees about any improvements or goals you have for the future. Making sure everyone is on the same page is crucial, and talking about the future can help us remember that things won’t always be this way, and we can hope for better days ahead.
  • Help yourself and others during stressful times: Make time for check-ins with family and friends. This support not only helps them but you during this stressful time. No one should have to feel alone if they may be feeling any type of anxiety or sadness. While you are waiting for the weather to change, this is a great time to reach out to friends, family, and neighbors- even if it’s just a quick text.
  • Remember that you are more than your farm. We need you to be healthy both physically and mentally. Reach out if you or someone you know may be struggling. There are resources available at and you can reach out to your local Extension office. If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also use the Crisis Textline by sending a message to 741741.


Starting the Conversation

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Many people know common signs that a friend or colleague is struggling with their mental health (click here to read a previous blog on this topic) but feel awkward trying to start a conversation. Oftentimes, the awkwardness stems from not knowing what to say.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel more confident starting a conversation about mental health:

Step 1: Choose the right time and place
The midway of the county fair comes to mind as an example of the “worst” kind of place to start a conversation. It’s a loud space filled with lots of people, many of whom are on their way to a livestock show or special event. If you want to talk to someone about their mental health (or your own), choose a private location when you have plenty of time to chat.

Step 2: Express your concern
Use “I” statements to let people know what you’ve noticed. “I’ve noticed that you seem down lately.” “I haven’t seen you at church the last few weeks. How have you been?” Simple statements like that show the person you care without making them feel defensive.

Step 3: Listen actively and without judgement

Pay attention to your friend while they are talking. Don’t let your phone become a distraction and try to avoid making the conversation about yourself. If your friend shares something that you disagree with (an action or belief), do your best to withhold judgement. At this point, it’s important to keep the conversation going.

Step 4: Offer support and suggest professional help if needed
Let your friend know that you’re there to support them. Offer practical help, like taking a meal or running errands, if possible. If your friend thinks they want to visit a professional, you can encourage them to visit with their doctor or share resources like the Farm Stress Certified provider directory or county mental health resource guide.

Starting a conversation about mental health can be awkward, but it also shows that you care and can help a friend take the first steps to improving their mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

As a farmer, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your crops and livestock. Farming can be a stressful and demanding profession, with long hours, uncertain weather conditions, financial pressures, and heavy physical labor. In May, we observe Mental Health Awareness Month to draw attention to the way these demands can affect us and how we can support good mental health.

Here are some ways you can observe Mental Health Awareness Month:

1. Connect with others: spending time with friends and family. Even if it’s just a short phone conversation or a passing “hey, how are you?” spending time with others helps us feel a sense of belonging and connection.

2. Manage stress: Farming can be stressful, and it’s essential to have strategies to manage stress. Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being. Are you unfamiliar with mindfulness, or not sure if it’s for you? Check out this article written especially for farmers and people working in agriculture!

3. Take care of yourself: Self-care is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Taking care of your physical health, such as eating well and getting enough sleep, can also help improve your mental health.

4. Seek help: If you are experiencing mental health issues, seek help from a mental health professional. If you are in a crisis, dial 911 or 988. If you feel like your mental health is declining but you’re not in crisis, call 988, text 741741, or call the Ohio Careline at 1-800-720-9616. You will be connected with a trained professional who will listen to your concerns and help you find helpful resources. If you feel that talk therapy is an option for you, consider visiting with a Farm Stress Certified counselor or call the Ohio Mental Health Insurance Assistance Office for help finding a provider in your area.

Observing Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for farmers to prioritize their mental health and well-being. By connecting with others, managing stress, prioritizing self-care, and seeking help when needed, farmers can improve their overall mental health and well-being. Remember, taking care of your mental health is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and resilience.

Dinner Theater is a Success

Ohio State Extension – Ashtabula County hosted a successful dinner theater on April 11, which brought together community members to promote awareness and education about mental health. Guests were treated to a delicious dinner from a local barbeque restaurant and then enjoyed a performance that focused on the ways farm stress can impact our mental health. The performers used humor and empathy to convey important messages such as recognizing signs of changing mental health, breaking down stigma and encouraging attendees to seek help when needed. Afterwards, representatives from local mental health agencies spoke about the resources available to residents of Ashtabula County.

The event was well-attended. Attendees were impressed by the performances and the engaging nature of the event, and were glad for the opportunity to learn more about mental health in a fun and non-judgmental environment.

Andrew Holden, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator, spoke about the importance of the dinner theater: “Often times we get together for an event like this after a tragedy has already happened, and I am just glad we can do this in order to hopefully prevent it.”

A special thanks to the Ohio Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, and Centerra Co-op for their support of this event. Thank you to the 4-H and FFA members who offered child care.

Five adults stand in front of a crowd and hold microphones and a script in their hands. They are performing a skit about mental health. Four adults sit at a table and hold microphones and a script in their hands. They are performing a skit about mental health.

Celebrate National Ag Week!


National Ag Week (March 21-27) is a time to celebrate all the farmers and agriculture workers in Ohio and across the United States. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the hardworking farmers and agriculture workers who work tirelessly to raise the crops and livestock we need to survive and thrive. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to their craft is truly inspiring, and we are fortunate to have them as a vital part of our society.

If you are a farmer or agricultural worker- thank you for letting Ohio State University Extension employees serve you!

If you know a farmer or agricultural worker and want to show your appreciation, consider one of these options!

  • Support your local farmers by purchasing local foods such as meat, vegetables, eggs, or household goods.
  • Send a care package to your favorite farmers. Many farmers are about to spend a lot of time in their fields. Put together a small package of snacks (cookies, chips, jerky, water or sports drinks, etc.) for them to enjoy on the job.
  • Give them space. Your local roads may soon be filled with farmers and their families moving equipment from farm to field. Drive carefully and leave plenty of room between you and farm equipment so that everyone can make it safely home.


Attend the Upcoming “Stop the Stigma” Conference

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” While the stigma around mental health and suicide has certainly decreased over the last several years, it is still very prevalent and affects our family, friends, and community.

Attend the upcoming Rural Stigma Conference to learn how stigma affects rural communities and what we can do to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide. The keynote speakers and breakout session leaders are individuals with a true passion and years of expertise in this subject.

Visit the Conference Home Page for more information, including an agenda.

Click here to register for the conference.


What Happens After a Disaster? (Part 2)

This is the second post in our series about mental health after disasters. Click here to read part 1.

No two humans will respond the same way to a disaster or other traumatic event. There are patterns and common reactions to be sure, but we all have unique life experiences that lead us to respond one way or another. After a disaster, many people will be fine and seem to resume their normal lives, but others may struggle. A person’s reactions to a traumatic event might occur immediately after an event, or they may take several months to a year to surface.

Keep an eye out for friends and family by paying attention to certain changes, including:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns. Are they sleeping far more than normal or constantly complaining about fatigue? Are they complaining about not being able to sleep at all?
  • Changes in emotional state. Do they seem to be “on edge” all the time? Do they say they feel powerless or helpless?
  • Changes in habits- Have they stopped their normal routine? (Ex- no longer going to church, no longer attending grange meetings, etc.)
  • Choosing negative coping strategies- Are they drinking more than normal? Are they engaging in risky behaviors?

Changes like these that last four weeks or more may be signs that someone is experiencing increased stress or anxiety after a traumatic event. You can help by letting the person know what you’ve noticed and share that you are concerned. Provide resources for local providers and let them know that crisis lines are available.

988: Call or text the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional about suicidal thoughts or other crisis situations like panic attacks or severe anxiety.

741741: Text any word to this number to start a conversation with a trained professional who will listen and provide confidential support.

1-800-720-9616- The Ohio Careline is available by phone 24/7 and will connect you with a trained local professional who can provide emotional support and resources.

What Happens After a Disaster? (Part 1)

Any given day, we can turn on the television or open a news app and find a story about an environmental disaster happening in some corner of the country. Stories about wildfires in Colorado or derechos in Iowa are sad and compelling, but we don’t always give disasters much of a thought until they happen in our backyard. When a disaster does happen close to our homes and communities, we can be faced with threats to our physical and mental health.

Humans are resilient and can handle a lot of difficult situations. But sometimes we need to take extra steps to protect our mental health, especially when a disaster happens. What can you do to protect mental health in a disaster?

  • Take care of immediate needs- Make sure friends and family have a safe place to shelter, access to food and water, and proper clothing. Make sure they have access to required medications or medical devices.
  • Don’t force a story- It’s human nature to ask, “What happened?!” There’s nothing wrong with being curious, but it can be upsetting to relive the event each time we’re asked to repeat a story. Offer a listening ear if you can, but don’t pressure others into sharing. Don’t feel obligated to repeat your own experiences either.
  • Avoid “doom scrolling.” – Social media and 24/7 news channels make it easy to stay connected and informed. But constant exposure to stories about disasters and other intense events can be detrimental to our mental health. Set a limit on how much time you will spend consuming this information, and get your information from a trusted source .

Most people will be “okay” after a disaster and find healthy ways to cope and adapt to challenges. If you or someone close to you begins to experience severe stress or anxiety, reach out to a local mental health professional or a crisis line. Each of the resources listed below have trained professionals ready to listen to you, provide confidential support, and connect you with resources.

988 Suicide & Crisis Prevention Life Line– call or text 988

Crisis Textline- text any word to 741741

Ohio Careline- dial 1-800-720-9616

Register Today for Mental Health First Aid!

Do you know how to recognize signs of changing mental health in your friends or family members? Would you feel comfortable asking someone about their mental health? Join the Farm Stress team in a Mental Health First Aid class to learn about mental health and how to help in a crisis situation.

These virtual trainings are held on Zoom. You will receive access to self-paced learning modules approximately two weeks before the training, and then join some of OSU Extension’s Mental Health First Aid instructors for an instructor-led session.

Register for an adult Mental Health First Aid class here

Register for a Youth Mental Health First Aid course here (This class is designed for adults who work with young people ages 12-18).

Want to share this information with others? Click here for a copy of our registration flyer!

Can There Be Light When It’s Cloudy?

Living in Ohio can be a little difficult in the winter months, as it is one of the cloudiest states in the country, coming in within the top six. Many people don’t realize how dependent a person becomes until there is a lack of sunshine. It can be even more of a struggle for someone that may have depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read on to learn more about what SAD is and how light therapy may be something that could be helpful.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is recurrent with a seasonal pattern lasting approximately 4-5 months. SAD can be a winter or even summer-related pattern.

The winter pattern symptoms may include:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)

A type of treatment that is becoming more popular for winter SAD is light therapy. It has been proven to be effective for mild to moderate episodes of winter SAD as a form of self-help. When it comes to severe episodes it has been effective in combination with therapy and potential medication.

Are they safe and effective to use?

  • Yes, as long as they are used as directed.
  • Use no more than 30 minutes in the middle of the day.
  • It is not recommended for someone diagnosed with bipolar depression.
  • Use consistently for at least 2 weeks.
  • If there are any pre-existing eye conditions consult an eye doctor.

Other tips:

The most important feature of a light therapy lamp is the strength of the bulbs. The light therapy lamp should be 10,000 lux. It’s also important for the light therapy lamp to be UV-free or filter out UV light so that you’re not exposing yourself to harmful UV rays.

If you experience SAD and have been experiencing side effects like those mentioned above for more than four weeks, reach out to your doctor and talk about treatment options. Never hesitate to call 988 if you struggling with ongoing mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts or feelings.