With eroding prices for farm products, disruptions to daily life and the threat of illness, the coronavirus pandemic is enough to get anyone down.
Fortunately, stress and depression can be overcome.
“It’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety over all the things that are happening right now,” said John Noullet, a mental health care educator at WellSpan Philhaven.
Noullet spoke on a May 7 call with the Center for Dairy Excellence.
Warning signs of stress and other mental health conditions include sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or not enough, having racing thoughts and losing motivation.
Signs can also include increased agitation and anger, nervousness, lost hope or joy, increased use of alcohol, reckless or risky behavior, withdrawal, a feeling of being a burden to others, and thoughts of giving up.
There are lots of simple ways to reduce stress — sticking to a routine, staying in touch with other people by phone or videoconference, eating and drinking enough, staying active and laughing.
Simply acknowledging that you are stressed out can be a relief, Noullet said.
For his part, Noullet has stopped watching the nightly news because the grim virus stories kept him up at night. Now he gets his news in the morning and moves on to other things.
Mental health can be uncomfortable to discuss, but it might be less so if the problem is put in simple terms.
As with any organ, the brain doesn’t work exactly as it should.
“Just like your heart’s an organ, your brain’s an organ,” Noullet said. “Does everybody’s heart function perfectly 365 days a year for their entire lives? No.”
Farmers need to take care of their brains, just as they would their crops and livestock, Noullet said.
And mental health conditions are quite common. Over half of Americans will be diagnosed with one at some point in their lives, Noullet said.
Mental health challenges set in gradually. Other people may notice, but the person who is struggling may resist saying there is a problem.
If you want to encourage someone to get help, emphasize how important the person is to you, approach the subject in a nonjudgmental way, and let the person know they can get well, Noullet said.
All mental health conditions are very treatable. Some 80% of people treated for depression respond positively within three weeks.
“I like those odds,” Noullet said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-8255. Farm Aid also offers a hotline at 1-800-327-6243.