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.