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Farmers face barriers for mental health access

St. Joseph News-Press - 5/17/2019

May 17-- May 17--The rural population, particularly farmers, face some challenges when it comes to receiving mental health services.

One barrier is access to services said Janet Luzmoor, therapist and intake clinician for the Family Guidance Center in Maryville.

"Family Guidance is one of the few resources in rural areas to be able to meet those needs so if a farmer or someone in a rural area decides they want to seek resources or seek help that's the first hurdle," Luzmoor said.

Another barrier is insurance coverage Luzmoor added.

If no family members work for an employer outside the home they often have to rely on major medical insurance, which typically doesn't pay for counseling services. Another is finding the time to attend a counseling session.

"Farming is hardly an 8 to 5 job, it's often a 24/7 job, particularly if there's livestock so there literally may not be time to go for a counseling appointment if you have cows that are calving, you're going to be at home waiting and helping. Self-care is way down the priority list," Luzmoor said.

Another barrier is a stigma. There remains some stigma with the rural population, for farmers in particular, in reaching out for mental health services Luzmoor said.

"Because of that sort of ingrained self-reliance and independence that they have that can be a struggle," she said.

Luzmoor said farming itself has lots of challenges that others don't face. Many things are out of their control like weather, grain prices, tariffs and land prices, to name a few.

"I think that part of the issue is farming is sort of an isolated profession by nature and because there's been that multi-generational mindset of self-reliance and independence where you typically don't see people reaching out," Luzmoor said

That brings up concerns about confidentiality.

"If the person goes to church with the therapist or sees the caseworker at the Friday night ball game they may be less inclined to seek out services of fear of confidentiality reasons," Luzmoor said adding that they don't want to be perceived as weak.

Occupational hazards can lead to depression and anxiety for farmers as well with farming being so dependent on weather. Natural disasters can wipe out a crop in minutes and a years' worth of work can be gone in the blink of an eye.

The farming chemicals farmers often work with also can create mental health problems, said Mike Rosmann a nationally known agriculture behavioral health expert.

"Many health care practitioners even those in agricultural areas, are not aware that organophosphate and carbamate insecticide poisoning can lead to depression. There are established links between acute poisoning from organophosphate compounds and increased risk of suicide," Rosmann said from one of his online articles.

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