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.

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.

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.

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.

Recognizing Changes in Mental Health

How do you know when someone close to you is experiencing a mental health challenge? You may not recognize a friend is experiencing a challenge until they show noticeable symptoms like crying excessively or having a panic attack. A co-worker’s worsening mental health may go unnoticed for a long time. We may not recognize signs of worsening mental health because the person hides them. Still, we are more likely to miss signs because we do not recognize subtle signs of changing mental health.

We can become more aware of these subtle signs of mental health changes by sharpening our noticing skills. Here are some signs to notice:

  • Changes in appearance– seeming unusually tired, beginning to wear wrinkled clothes, or having unkempt hair
  • Changes in attendance– showing up to work later than normal, skipping meetings or lunch/coffee breaks. Canceling or skipping social outings.
  • Changes in thoughts- expressing more worry, fear, or anger than is normal for them. Saying things “don’t matter” or feeling hopeless.
  • Changes in concentration- unable to focus on work, very forgetful at home, extremely indecisive.

If you notice any of these signs in a co-worker or friend, think about when the changes began. Being tired for one day is not unusual, but appearing tired for three or more days might indicate difficulty sleeping because of anxiety or stress. A friend who skips one get-together might have had a simple change of plans, but repeatedly skipping (especially if they enjoyed them in the past) might be a sign that they are experiencing depression. When you notice a pattern, it is time to speak up!

Find the time and place to have a private conversation so the person doesn’t feel overwhelmed or embarrassed. Be tactful as you tell them what you’ve noticed, using “I” statements (“I have noticed,” “I am worried,” etc.) and open-ended questions to encourage them to share. Finally, don’t pressure your friend or co-worker to share information they don’t want to share. Let them know you will be available to listen or help in the future.

Pay attention to small signs of changing mental health and tell the person what you’ve noticed. Your actions just might be the help and support they need to address their mental health.

Mental Health and the 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.