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WQAD.com

Friends, family trained on how to spot signs of depression, suicide in farmers

What do you do when stress lasts more than a season? Friends and family from within our very own agricultural community joined together to answer just that.

MOLINE, Illinois -- What do you do when stress lasts more than a season? Friends and family from within our very own agricultural community joined together to answer just that.

The Rock Island County Farm Bureau's held a new training program called "When Stress is More Than a Season." Speakers presented the room with warning signs to look out for as farmers continue to struggle with the losses in last year's farming season.

A late start to planting season, flooded fields and even a dry spell plagued area farms in 2019.

"Then harvest came and the weather still wasn't real cooperative," said attendee Julie Derrer. She is the wife of a fourth-generation farmer. Together, they own and operate Derrer Farms.

"That’s why I think it’s important to know and to recognize the symptoms of stress and depression and anxiety," Derrer said. "Because I think most farmers – if they say they’re not experiencing any of those things – would probably not be telling the truth."

Derrer said farmers, like her husband, are driven and optimistic that things will work out in the end.

"They're afraid to admit when something's not maybe going right," said Derrer.

And guest speaker, Adrianne DeSutter agrees.

"Farmers have that control over their entire business, over their livelihood. And if something’s going on where they could potentially lose that?" DeSutter said.

DeSutter, too, is the wife of a fourth-generation farmer. She currently works from the farm as a Behavioral Health Consultant in Agriculture Wellness. She often partners with farm agencies to combat farmer suicide and provide education on behavioral health in agriculture.

"People are relying on you, as friends and family members, to help and reach out and provide resources," DeSutter said addressing the crowd.

Farmers are now ranked as one of the highest occupations at risk for depression and suicide. And Derrer warns that the problems plaguing her husband's fourth-generation farm should be a cause for concern for everyone.

"What you don't realize is that it's not just Deere deciding to lay off people. It's the fact that farmers aren't making as much money as they once did," Derrer said. "Therefore they can't buy the equipment, they're going to buy replacement parts instead of buying new. So those things all trickle down to different aspects of our community."

Now, with this new training, she's learning how to intervene early on. Guest speakers showing the group how to spot things like a lack of drive, declining farm conditions or even isolation.

"You're by yourself a lot and that can mess with your head," said Derrer.