COVID-19 may be the hot topic of 2020, but there is another pandemic that isn’t talked about often enough in our society today — suicide.
There have been many consequences to the shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus sweeping the nation — increased drug and alcohol abuse; greater instances of hunger, neglect and abuse in children; loss of jobs and financial security; a decrease in social activity and interactions with friends and family; and the constant fears of getting sick, going into an economic depression, being a victim of the polarization of a heated election season and the list goes on and on.
With so much uncertainty, anxiety and loss, suicide is an unfortunate result that needs to be addressed effective immediately.
Before we dive into this heavy topic, I want to note that if you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide — also known as suicidal ideation — can begin small like, ‘I wish I wasn’t here’ or ‘Nothing matters.’ But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.”
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and I realize this is a heavy topic, but it’s critical to know the warning signs and resources for help to prevent the tragic loss of life in our communities and in our families.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great place to start. The organization offers a list of warning signs, risk factors and support resources that we should all review and be aware of.
You can access this information here.
If you are a veteran or know of someone who has served this country and may be struggling, check out Code of Vets, an organization that seeks to help its own, one veteran at a time.
According to Code of Vets, “Roughly every 70 minutes a veteran commits suicide. There are approximately 40,000 homeless veterans on any given night. In the past year alone, the number of diagnosed PTSD cases in the military jumped 50% (this is only reported and diagnosed cases).”
For those of us in the agricultural community, the Farm Aid Hotline is a resource to have on hand. If you need to talk to someone directly, Farm Aid’s Farm Advocate, Joe Schroeder, and other Farm Aid staff are on hand to answer the phone Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time. The number to call is 800-327-6243.
Additionally, my friend, Zachary Ducheneaux, a rancher from South Dakota, recently tackled this topic in an open letter titled, “An open letter to dang near everyone. Suicide prevention for farm policy?”
In the op-ed, Ducheneaux writes, “We have a system of Ag Finance centered around mitigating risk for ‘lenders’ and piling it on the backs of producers creating in some cases more stress than they can bear. The system must change if we want a different result.”
On the topic of mental health, you may also enjoy a podcast called, Ag State of Mind, produced and hosted by Jason Medows. I’m a guest in Episode 26. You can listen to that episode here.
We are facing unprecedented times in the United States this year, and farmers and ranchers are not immune to the stress. Combine these unknowns with the typical challenges and risks of being in production agriculture, and it could be a recipe for a tragic loss.
Please, reach out for help if you are having suicidal thoughts. Know you are valuable, loved and needed, no matter what your balance sheet says or what obstacles you face in life.
Keep an eye on your loved ones, too, and reach out if you become aware of some of these warning signs of suicide risk.
Help spread awareness of this critical issue by sharing today’s blog post on social media. I appreciate the help. Stay well and stay healthy, my friends.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.