Wis. farmers join state, federal leaders to discuss mental health care needs

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D - WI) joined a roundtable discussion with Wisconsin farmers to see what their needs are in accessing mental health care.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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ARLINGTON, Wis. (WMTV) - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D - WI) joined a roundtable discussion with Wisconsin farmers to see what their needs are in accessing mental health care.

USDA Deputy Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh was also at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station Friday, alongside experts in the agriculture community.

“There’s that stigma. The combination of their own ideas of independence, self-reliance and the portrayal of stoic farmers, that they’ll get through,” Joy Kirkpatrick, a farm succession outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin Extension, said.

She continued, other barriers for mental health support among farmers include a “disconnect” with healthcare providers. “They need to ask the questions differently,” she said. “They need to listen differently because farmers aren’t going to say they’re suicidal. [Farmers] are not going to say they’re stressed. The phrasing that they say will be about the farm.”

Since 2018, Wisconsin has gotten $900,000 for farmer mental health-related resources, according to Jayne Krull, who works for the Wis. Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. They were received under the umbrella of the Farmers First Act, which Baldwin authored and was a part of the 2018 Farm Bill signed into law.

It was written to create helplines and websites, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), her office stated.

Staffers say Baldwin will be working on a farm bill for next year, which would authorize funds for mental health support and resources.

“There’s still need,” Baldwin said. “While having access to greater funds through NIFA [The National Institute of Food and Agriculture] has allowed some expansion and more training for folks who’ll be interacting with farmers and farm workers to be able to see the signs of depression or perhaps ask probing questions to see whether there can be a referral to appropriate help, there’s a need to expand all of that.”

Rick Adamski, a third-generation farmer from the Green Bay area, told NBC15 he is “deliberate” about sharing his own journey with depression. He shared it with the panel on Friday.

“I have had practice saying that,” he said. “I share my information to help others and hopefully help myself by helping others.”

He talked about the need for “self-help” in farmers’ mental health care. “The health care system is greatly helpful, but it’s also limited,” he said. “There’s only so much that mental health professionals can do. We as farmers and as citizens, we need to raise up and become more resilient to help each other.”

Adamski also shared why barriers should be tackled for farmers’ mental health.

“We can diligently work extended hours for several days,” he said. “But if we do that repeatedly, over and over, every day, we’re compromising our health and the quality of life for those around us.”

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