Happier, Healthier Holidays

Now that harvest season is wrapping up, many of us are looking ahead to the holiday season. The last several weeks of the year are full of parties, gift-giving, and festive meals. While many eagerly anticipate this time of year, some individuals feel more anxious or depressed during the holidays. A study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in 2021 found that 3 out of 5 people said their mental health worsened during the holiday season. Financial pressures, conflict with family members, loss of loved ones, and busy schedules were common reasons people felt stressed, anxious, or depressed.

If you notice your mental health worsening during the holidays, take hope! You can do many things to boost your mood or reduce stress. Consider these options:

  • Practice self-care. What activities help you feel refreshed or relaxed? Taking a walk around your property, watching a favorite movie, or driving through a Christmas light display in your community are all simple activities that can bring happiness.
  • Avoid negative coping strategies. It is common for people to enjoy alcoholic beverages, but excessive drinking to change your mood can harm your physical and mental health. Click here to learn more.
  • Set healthy boundaries. It is okay to say “no” or “not right now.” If your schedule is too busy, consider limiting the number of invitations you accept. If family gatherings are a little contentious, plan to stay for only an hour or two.
  • Follow your regular routine. Enjoy holiday treats AND remember your veggies and protein. Settle in for a fun movie night AND aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Proper rest and nutrition help your mental health tremendously!
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or family member and tell them how you feel. Sometimes, just saying words out loud can help remove a burden from our minds. Your loved ones may also be able to provide additional support.

Sometimes, our own efforts aren’t quite enough. Don’t hesitate to contact a trained professional if your mental health worsens or you experience a mental health crisis. Here are some important resources:

  • 988 – call or text this number 24/7 to be connected to the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline. A trained counselor will listen to you, support you, and share resources in your area.
  • 741741 – text the Crisis Lifeline 24/7 to connect with a trained counselor.
  • 911 – if you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or a medical emergency, call emergency services immediately.
  • 1-800-720-9616 – The Ohio Careline is a 24/7 service that provides emotional support and connects callers to local resources.

The holidays can be a time of excitement and happiness and can also be challenging or difficult. You can take many steps personally, and many professionals can help. You are not alone. Take the steps you need to protect and improve your mental health today.

Visit the Farm Stress Team at FSR!

Are you planning to visit the Farm Science Review next week?

If you are- stop by the McCormick Building and say “hi” to the Farm Stress team. We’ll have a few activities you can enjoy, some resources to share, or  you can just stop in and chat for a few minutes. We love hearing your stories and finding ways we can support your mental health and wellbeing.

Our team of volunteers is looking forwarding to meeting you next week. Look for our signs at the McCormick Building and come in to see us!


Know the Signs

This is the third in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. You can read part 2 of the series here.

When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with videos about severe storms. I listened carefully as people shared their stories about what they saw and heard in the moments before a storm hit. A few people were caught unaware, but most people recounted that they saw dark clouds on the horizon, noticed that the winds picked up or died down quickly, or even saw animals acting differently than usual. As these were the days before I could view weather radar on demand, I kept these signs in mind as I played and worked outside, ready to take action at a moment’s notice.

In a similar way, knowing the warning signs of suicide can help us be better prepared to help a friend or family member if the need arises. There are some very evident signs:

  • talking about death or dying
  • expressing that they have no hope for the future or feel helpless
  • making plans to die or researching ways to die

There are some more subtle signs that a person is considering suicide or at risk:

  • changes in behavior, such as sleeping much more or less than usual
  • withdrawing from everyday life activities, including spending time with friends or family
  • engaging in risky behaviors, such as excessive drugs/alcohol use, driving too fast, or getting in fights

Then there are signs we might not immediately recognize:

  • giving away prized possessions
  • an extreme change in mood, going from down or depressed to seemingly happy or at peace

Being aware of warning signs of suicide increases the likelihood that you will be able to notice if something is changing with a friend or family member and that you will be able to take appropriate action to help. If you notice any of these signs in a friend or family member, don’t be afraid to start a discussion about what you’ve noticed. You are not putting an idea in their head by asking a question. In fact, you may be offering them a chance to share their feelings and express a need for help.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, dial 911 and request immediate help. You can also call or text 988 and speak to a trained professional about your concerns. They will be able to provide assistance and connect you with appropriate resources.

What Should I Say?

Starting some conversations is easy: “How’s the farm?” “Did you see the game last week?” “Can you believe the weather?!” They’re simple questions, pleasantries really, that start conversations about things most of us are experiencing together.

But how do you start an uncomfortable conversation? How do you tell a friend or family member that you’re concerned about their wellbeing? This is the second in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and today we’ll discuss some of the ways we can start conversations about mental health.

  1. Consider your approach. Choose a place and time where the person won’t feel like they’re being ambushed or put on the spot.
  2. Use “I” statements. Let the person know what why you’re bringing up this subject by saying things like, “I’ve noticed that…” or “I’m concerned about…” This can make the person feel less likely to feel defensive, and more likely to want to address your concerns.
  3. Listen. Now is not the time to dole out advice or pass judgment. Ask questions when appropriate, but simply let the person talk. Pauses in the conversation can be helpful as well, as they may give you or the other person time to collect your thoughts before responding.

What comes after the conversation? There are different ways a conversation can play out, and it’s helpful to think about possible next steps.

  1. Your friend is okay right now. Sometimes people go through rough patches, and while they’re tough to navigate, people can bounce back with a little time and support. If this is the case, maybe offer some help (a meal, run their kids to practice, etc) and give yourself a reminder to check in again in a few days or weeks.
  2. They want help now. Maybe they have been struggling and are grateful for help. In crisis situations, calling 911 (for suicide emergencies) or 988 (for suicidal thoughts or other mental health concerns) is appropriate for immediate help. In non-crisis situations, you can also contact 211, check out the Ohio Mental Health Resource Guide, or the Farm Stress Certified directory for other contacts.
  3. They don’t want your help. Not everyone is ready to accept help or recognize that they need support. Let the person know that you’re there to support them now or in the future, and keep the lines of communication open. You never know when someone might need you down the road!

Starting certain conversations can be difficult, but it’s worth feeling the discomfort if it means reaching out to someone who may need your help!


September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September means a lot of things: schools are in session, football season is getting underway, fairs are wrapping up, and harvest is just around the corner. Since 2008, September has also been a time to reflect on mental health and spend time building awareness of suicide prevention. This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of suicide prevention. In today’s post, we’ll look at the statistics that surround suicide in rural areas and the agriculture community.

According to the CDC, the rate of suicide has increased 46% in rural areas as compared to 27.3% in urban or suburban areas. Imagine a room of 100 people (think of a crowded local restaurant on a Friday night, or a small church on Sunday morning), then imagine adding 46 more people to that room. That visual represents the increase in the rate of suicide in our rural and ag communities. This can be a shocking fact to some people, because there’s a lot of stigma that keeps us from talking about this subject and sharing facts.

There are a lot of reasons this number is going up. Part of it may be that reporting guidelines have changed, and we’re simply seeing a clearer picture of what is happening in our communities. At the same time, it’s more likely that stressors such as economic uncertainty, cultural pressures, and lack of preventative care have contributed to these increased rates.

Suicide is an uncomfortable topic, but having a true picture of the magnitude of the problem is the first step in addressing the issue and helping friends, family, and neighbors who may be considering suicide. Throughout the rest of the month, we’ll look at ways we can build our awareness and share resources with others if needed.

If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 immediately. You can also reach the Suicide and Crisis Prevention lifeline by dialing or texting 988, and a trained professional will help you through the crisis and connect you with resources and other support.


Visit the Farm Stress team at FSR!

Can you believe that the Farm Science Review is only one month away? This yearly event draws over 100,000 people from all across the United States (and a few other countries!) and brings all the latest ag innovations to you in one spot.

The Farm Stress team will be at FSR once again, and we invite you to come visit us! We will have activities for youth and adults and look forward to sharing resources about our various programs.

Save some money and pick up your tickets today at your local Extension office, or visit the website by clicking here. We look forward to seeing you all September 19-21!

Happy Birthday, 988!

It’s been a little over a year since the 988 helpline was launched in July 2022. Also known as the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, this resource connects individuals experiencing a suicide or mental health crisis with a trained professional who can direct the caller to appropriate treatment or resources and provide emotional support.

Since July 2022, over 5.3 million calls, texts, and chats have been directed to 988. An additional 600,000+ calls have been redirected to the Veteran’s Crisis lines. If you have ever wanted someone to talk when you experienced a crisis, or if you have wanted a resource to share with others, 988 is the number to call (or text, or chat)

Not sure when to call 988 or 911? Click here to get a better view of the infographic posted below.



What is Farm Stress Certified?

Long time readers will remember seeing frequent references to the Farm Stress Certified program and directory on this page. Hopefully you are familiar with the program, but if not, check out this article from Ohio State News that highlights the Farm Stress Certified program and quotes from our program specialist, Bridget Britton.

There is a huge team behind the Farm Stress program including farmers, Extension experts, and the College of Social Work. We are so grateful for everyone who has worked together to create an impactful program for social workers, therapists, and other caregivers across the state of Ohio.

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