Brandi Janssen, director of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, says a federal study shows the suicide rates among farmers exceed rates in other high-risk populations, including veterans.
“They compared workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries with all other occupations and they found suicides among agricultural populations were higher than any other occupational group,” Janssen says. “This was a big surprise to many people.”
Janssen says most people think the 1980s had the highest rates of farmer suicide. However, using the numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, she found a 50% higher rate of suicides today than those tracked by the National Farm Medicine Center several decades ago.
“Rates were about 58 suicides for every 100,000 male farmers, that was in the 1980s,” Janssen says. “The rates that the CDC reported just this year among men in farming were 90 per 100,000. So they’re significantly higher than they were even at the time that we associate with the most economic stress and challenge in agriculture.”
Janssen says there is no single cause for suicide, but it most typically occurs when there are stressors like economic challenges. There are things to watch for in your loved ones.
“Certainly, a change in behavior is sometimes a sign something is going on,” Janssen says. “People may become more emotional, maybe they are quicker or more irritable or they seem to look traditionally depressed, they seem down and sad or stop doing activities they like. There are often warning signs.”
Janssen says there is more help available now than in the ’80s, and people should not be reluctant to seek it. One place is the Iowa Concern Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton