Depression does not discriminate. It can affect any of us, but it hits the rural farming community especially hard. Suicide rates are higher among farmers than other professions. The work can be isolating and stressful so the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Voorheesville and NY FarmNet is offering mental health training to a rural community.
“Crying was no longer part of watching a sad movie, crying was having to get out of bed and go to the kitchen and just pour a cup of coffee,” said retired Troy Police Captain John Cooney.
He’s sharing his story of overcoming PTSD – not with law enforcement or military members, but with farmers.
“The challenges faced by our rural community are many,” said Cooney.
Participants pointed to barn fires that destroy years of work and leave livestock dead and Schoharie flooding that decimated crops as examples of trauma in local agriculture.
“Many farmers think ‘well it’s just me that’s having trouble right now,’ but a lot of farm families are,” said Dan Welch.
He grew up working on farms and is now with NY FarmNet. He said agriculturists are hit hardest by stressors outside of their control like the weather and commodity prices.
“As you bring about these financial issues it starts to take a toll on the family,” said Welch.
Making matters worse, rural areas have less access to mental health services, farmers can’t afford to take time off to get help, or they just refuse to.
“They are strong people who take care of their own problems and make it all work and dealing with mental health awareness is all about reaching out,” said Cooney.
The class focused on the physical and behavioral signs of depression like aches and pains, excessive crying, fatigue and mood swings. Cooney says any symptoms should be reported to a family doctor. He did and it saved his life.
“It’s just made me want to tell the message as loud and clear as I can,” said Cooney.