PA farmers dealing with stress, mental health issues have a new resource for help


TRANSFORMING HEALTH — A new hotline is intended to help Pennsylvania farmers who are experiencing mental health challenges.

Farm workers often find it difficult to clear time to manage stress, while busy managing livestock or crops, said State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

“They live where they work,” he said. “They encounter pressures of markets and weather that are out of their control, and of course farm legacy issues. There are many stressors.”

Meanwhile, farmers have historically been hesitant to admit when they’re stressed out or depressed, said Somerset County Farm Bureau President Dennis Hutchison.

Hutchison noted when his group sent out a survey, farmers described themselves as self-sufficient, strong and stubborn. They said they had a difficult time expressing their feelings or asking for help. Respondents added they felt a huge sense of responsibility over managing farms that, in some cases, have been handed down over centuries.

Republican state Sen. Elder Vogel said he can relate — he is the fourth generation in his family to run a dairy farm in Beaver County. Vogel helped start the project.

He said the new “AgriStress Helpline for Pennsylvania farmers” offers one solution to the many challenges. Those who call are connected with a variety of resources.

Vogel said the decision to sign up for the service, which is free, came out of a February 2020 mental health roundtable he and Redding had with farmers.

The service comes from tge from AgriSafe Network, a non-profit organization that strives to reduce health disparities in agricultural communities.

A $500,000 federal grant funded the initiative.