Busting some mental health myths
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and SIU Medicine's Farm Family Resource Initiative invites members of the farming community to help us bring awareness to this important topic. We need to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Let's start by debunking four common myths surrounding mental health. How many of these have you heard?
Myth #1: You can tell someone has a mental health problem.
An estimated 1 in 5 Americans has some form of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This means that you probably know several people who are dealing with mental health problems—even if you don't realize it. In fact, plenty of people with mental health problems (including farmers) are still able to maintain a steady job, have a social life and remain productive members of their community. They may “look” perfectly happy even though they are dealing with things like anxiety, depression or substance use disorder.
Unfortunately, some people choose to hide their struggles from others and not seek help. They may fear being judged, worry about being a burden on their loved ones or have the belief that they “should” be able to handle things on their own. This can have harmful consequences, including under treatment and worsening of symptoms like insomnia, fatigue and mood changes.
Remember this quote: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
Myth #2: People with mental health problems are dangerous.
Another myth is that people with mental health problems are somehow more dangerous than others. In the vast majority of cases, this simply isn't true.
According to MentalHealth.gov, only 5% or fewer of violent acts are attributed to people who have serious mental illness. On the other hand, individuals with severe mental illnesses are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general population.
Myth #3: Farmers are tough—they don't have mental health problems.
As a group, farmers are perceived as incredibly resilient, tough and strong. While this may be true, farmers are also human, and they face unique challenges that can strain their mental and emotional wellbeing. These challenges—including economic tariffs, farm debt, weather disasters, increased production costs and falling commodity prices—can cause high levels of stress, which may lead to or worsen mental health problems. Additionally, many farmers live in rural areas where access to mental health care is limited.
For some farmers, mental health challenges can even be life-threatening. Research suggests that people who work in farming, fishing and forestry may have higher rates of suicide than the general population. Farmers dealing with mental health problems may also face an elevated risk of death or serious harm because of the way poor mental health impairs sleep and concentration, which can contribute to farming accidents.
Myth #4: People with mental health problems should be able to just “snap out of it.”
There are no specific rules that determine who experiences mental health problems and who doesn't. Some factors can increase a person's risk, including traumatic life experiences and family history, but mental health problems impact people of all ages and backgrounds, and many individuals need help to get better.
The simple truth is that mental health problems are not signs of weakness or poor character. Asking for help from loved ones or a mental health professional takes a lot of courage and can make a positive difference to you and your loved ones.
Help is closer than you think.
Call or text SIU Medicine’s Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI) at 1-833-FARM-SOS (833-327-6767) to talk with someone today and join a network of farming families throughout Illinois who strive every day to improve their well-being and reduce the stigma of mental health problems.
Karen Leavitt Stallman
Ag Resource Specialist