Resources available to farmers for stress management, mental health in Southwest Virginia

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:21 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s often said that farmers are the backbone of the nation, which is an expectation that carries tremendous weight.

“We like to say it’s a 365-plus days a year, 24 hours a day. They’re always on call. The general public sees them as this strong character,” describes Cynthia Martel with the Virginia Cooperative Extension in Franklin County. “It’s always that strong demeanor and don’t show much of their emotions. People don’t realize that farmers, too, just like everybody else, have things that go on in their life and don’t always show it the way other people do.”

From pesticides to feed, current inflation can stress an already bracing backbone.

“Everything is rising in cost,” she explains. “Yes, it costs us more to get gas, but it costs them more to put fuel in their equipment, feed their animals, run anything on their farm. People don’t understand, if they can’t purchase that stuff, they can’t make food for us to eat.”

Or milk for us to drink. Martel says when she started working in Franklin County 10 years ago, there were around 70 dairy farms. Now, there are 35.

“For the last five years, milk prices have just been horrible. If they’re not getting paid enough for their milk and everything else is going up, then they’re not making any money.”

That’s why, Martel says, it’s important for these farmers to know they can get support when they need it.

She says Piedmont Community Services in Franklin County is full of resources, as well as her own organization.

“We offer what’s called a farm stress program. We go in and talk to farmers and also anyone working in the ag community. Also that teaches the farmer to deal with stress, and also those working with farmers how to see the signs and symptoms of stress and also how to help them. An just last year, I was trained in mental health first aid, so I can go out and teach about mental health and the signs and symptoms and how we are working to break the stigmatisms behind mental challenges and mental illness.”

Martel says some of these resources are free and covered by grants.

“There’s a number of different routes you can take; It’s just a matter of finding the one you feel comfortable doing.”

For more information on farm stress resources, contact Cynthia Martel at cmartel@vt.edu

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