The 105th consecutive American Farm Bureau Convention kicks off this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. While this long-running convention is known for bringing farmers and ranchers together to network and explore new agricultural innovation, this year LivingWorks is a sponsor and is aiming to open the conversation around agribusiness and suicide prevention.
Sam Smith, LivingWorks’ Suicide Prevention Manager, Central USA, is attending the conference and hopes to talk to attendees about ways to help keep each other safer from suicide.
In 2022, the Mental Health Commission of Canada published an Agriculture and Suicide Fact Sheet that listed financial uncertainty, barriers to mental health services, isolation and blurred distinction between work and home life as some of the reasons farmers and ranchers may be at a higher risk for suicide.
Smith says there can be a lot of stigma in the agribusiness industry, but LivingWorks believes in actively working towards breaking that stigma and providing the resources necessary to make all agribusiness communities safer from suicide.
“I think with us being there it could be an eye-opener. Our programs are focused on intervention skills training and helping people learn how to reach out to someone who may be having thoughts of suicide,” says Smith.
Smith says farmers and ranchers are willing to help each other in times of need and will reach out for assistance if they happen to sustain an injury before a job is complete. Currently, that may not always be the case if someone is having trouble with their mental health.
“When it comes to mental health and the stress that comes with it, we don’t reach out like we would in other circumstances,” says Smith. “We’re willing to offer someone help to get the hay put up because they broke their hand. Well, if someone has a lot of stress or may be having thoughts of suicide, offering “a hand” by reaching in to start a conversation can change a life.”
Farm State of Mind
The American Farm Bureau has a campaign titled Farm State of Mind, which aims to “build awareness to reduce stigma and provides access to information and resources that promote farmer and rancher mental health wellness.”
LivingWorks is one of the campaign’s nationally recommended resources, which Smith believes could help open a lot of doors for the agribusiness community.
“We want our communities to talk more about mental health and suicide prevention,” says Smith. “Through what we do at LivingWorks and based on how our programs work, people are going to see that it’s okay to talk about suicide and that anyone can learn the skills to help those around them to keep safe.”
Smith believes now is a great time to engage with the younger generation of farmers and ranchers, whether it be at this year’s convention or beyond.
He says youth today seem more willing to talk about mental health and suicide prevention, something that could lead to great progress towards starting the conversation around mental health and making communities safer from suicide.
“The youth today are a lot more willing to talk about mental health and suicide prevention, but in the agribusiness culture it’s not being talked about. I think it’s a great opportunity for us because being at the conference might open that door.”
The American Farm Bureau Convention runs from January 19-24. LivingWorks staff members Sam Smith and Glen Bloomstrom will be attending, so come say hello and have a meaningful chat about the opportunity to help keep your agribusiness community safer from suicide.