Nathan Brown is a first-generation farmer in Highland County, Ohio, where he raises corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and sheep and has a cow-calf operation. He got involved in agriculture around age 12 by working for a neighbor. Through the efforts of several neighbors, he started his own farm in 2002.”We have been able to grow the operation from its small start to an operation that is sustainable and supports our family and allows us to support our community.”He has been involved with many organizations in the agricultural sector over the years and currently serves on the Ohio Farm Bureau Board and the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Board. He also serves as a township trustee for Union Township in Highland County.
“As a person who is always striving to better his community, mental health and mental health in agriculture have become areas that need more attention. Agriculture has some of the greatest and most caring individuals I have ever met involved in it and to me is one of the most rewarding careers that a person could have.”
Nathan remembers noticing the demeanor in agriculture changing in the past five to eight years.
“Guys were starting to struggle again after the big runup in commodity prices in the early 2010s. It was alarming to me to hear that in agriculture, even with its great people and great way of life, people were harming themselves and being successful at suicide at an alarming rate. As the conversations started to focus on mental health more, the need to push those conversations and break the stigma became even more obvious. Our friends and neighbor are hurting and the stigma around mental health is holding us all back from getting the help we desperately need.”
We want to share some additional thoughts from our April Champion:
Take care of yourself
“It’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to have off days but we can’t just continue to try to fix the problems by working more and ignoring what our body is telling us. People in agriculture love their land, they love their animals, and they love what they do, but we sometimes forget to love ourselves and that is very important to do.”
If you are struggling, reach out to someone
“Reach out for help. It could be to a friend or family member, one of the many ag organizations like Farm Bureau who have resources available, or just make an appointment with the family doctor for a ‘cold’ and be honest with them during the visit about what is happening with yourself. They can refer and help you find the help you need. We see the doctor for broken bones or aches and pains, mental health is a part of physical health!”
Start a conversation by being honest about your own struggles
“Being honest about my own struggles has opened many doors to the mental health conversation. Once the topic is brought up and the vulnerability is seen, people feel more comfortable sharing their stories. There also seems to be a community being built around farmer mental health in our state and on social media. Having people that are willing to share and have a person’s back is critical to the continuation of the conversation.”
“Be open to the tough conversations. Do it in private but ask those tough questions and listen to understand, not just to respond. Have empathy but remember you aren’t in their shoes and may not know what they are feeling and that is okay. Have resources available to share and be willing to support that person and go those extra steps that they may need. Follow up with them regularly, healing takes time, and continued support will be needed.”