Hillsboro area farmer Nathan Brown helped create the “Got Your Back” campaign, which aims to increase mental health awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding mental health in farming communities.
Brown told The Times-Gazette that with the stress from the trade war, weather and decreased commodity prices, he realized that someone had to start trying to break the stigma around mental health in the farming sector, so farmers would feel comfortable talking about the mental hardships they face. He noticed that many of the farmers he spoke with were facing a lot of stress and anxiety, and it was taking a toll on their mental health. When Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda visited Brown County, Brown talked to her about his concerns.
“On the agriculture side, farmers are isolated. [People see them as] the strong type who can handle things themselves,” Brown said. “Guys are starting to realize that there might be a need [to talk] more [about] mental health in this industry.”
Brown helped assemble a team, which included the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio State University Extension Office, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to name a few, in order to talk about how to best approach breaking the stigma and bringing awareness. They met in July. Though the team is still in the early stages of planning events to spread mental health awareness, Brown plans to reach out to mental health providers to educate them on the struggles farmers face, so that the mental health providers can better serve the farming community.
Above all, though, Brown wants to get the message to farmers who may be struggling with mental illness that there’s nothing wrong with getting treatment.
“It’s OK to talk about mental health, it’s OK to seek treatment, it’s OK to hurt, it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to be mad, it’s OK to be sad,” Brown said. “Y0ur mental health is no different than your physical health. If you get broke physically, you go to the doctor and get it fixed. We’ve always said [mental health] is a sign of weakness. [People say,] ‘I don’t want to go talk about it; I don’t want to show that I’m weak because what is everyone else going to think of me?’ Really, that’s not the case. If you got cancer, and you took treatments, and you fought cancer — does that mean will someone look down on you as weak because you got cancer? No. They look at you as being strong. Why can’t we take that from the physical portion of our health to the mental portion of our health?”
To check out the “Got Your Back” campaign or for resources for farmers and their families, go to gotyourbackohio.org.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.