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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What Is The Emotional Health Of Your Family, Friends, And Neighbors?


Survivors of the financial and emotional stress in the early 1980’s may think this is déjà vu “all over again.” However, an increase in reported suicides on dairy farms certainly signals that it is time for neighbors to watch out for the health and welfare of their friends. The livestock industry has been awash in red ink for too long. Equity may have been depleted. And some operators may see their life insurance as the way out of debt for the surviving members of their family. If you are a member of that family, a friend, or a neighbor, it is time to take action.

In the past decade it has become popular to learn the Heimlich maneuver to help someone choking, or CPR to help someone suffering heart failure. Within the agricultural community it may be time to recognize the symptoms of financial stress and know what to do. That is the contention of Ohio State University Specialist Chris Zoller, whose contribution to the April Edition of the Ag Manager newsletter provides an overview of what a good neighbor should do. Zoller cites first hand knowledge of farm fed depression and what goes through someone’s thought process. And he says the current margins on dairy farms feed that depressed mental state. Zollar urges anyone in farm community to be on the lookout for signs of difficulty. Some of those include:
1) A change in family routine, such as no longer attending church, dropping out of any community activities, no longer engaging in social encounters, and otherwise withdrawing.
2) If the family or farmer has livestock, depression can manifest itself in a neglect of the animals.
3) Depression can also foster more illness, aches, pains, and cases of flu.
4) The incidence of accidents also increases as fatigue sets in or minds wander when they should be paying attention to the task at hand. Small children in the family may become victims with lack of adequate care.
5) Farmsteads begin to look junky, as buildings and fences decline from lack of pride in the way the home looks.
6) Parental depression can easily be reflected in children, who suffer resulting behavior problems and begin to fail in school.

A prolonged period of financial difficulty can result in a prolonged period of emotional stress. Zoller says when that happens the individual or the family will have physical problems that include pains and lack of sleep. Emotional issues involve depressed feelings, anger, or anxiety. Irritability and withdrawal are types of behavioral issues. Another symptom includes memory loss, lack of concentration, and indecision. Self-esteem has declined when the individual starts blaming himself for problems.

Indicators of potential suicide include anxiety, becoming withdrawn, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, abuse of drugs or alcohol, making a suicidal plan, and cries for help.

Those signs along with indicators of depression should be the launching pad for action by friends, neighbors or other family members. A positive response begins with a knowledge of what services are available in a community to help with depression and potential suicide, and be prepared to recommend an appropriate service. A potential victim may have many problems that only specialists can help solve, such as financial or legal issues, and may be in need of professional counseling. A visit with the individual or family and sharing your observation that something may be troubling, is the place to start, followed by a recommendation for a person or agency that might help with the issue.

A critical determination is whether the person is a threat to himself, herself, or others, and if so, then the initiative needs to be taken to call an appropriate agency for help and seek their immediate advice. Zoller says, “Many people are reluctant to get involved in these family situations because they are very personal issues. However, it is better to be proactive in getting help for the person/family than watching something tragic happen and wishing you had done something.” He recommends more information found here.

The time is ripe for financial stress on many farms that can quickly deteriorate into states of depression and potential suicide. There are numerous signs that emotional challenges have gotten the best of someone and they are in a declining state of physical and mental health. Friends, neighbors, and other family members need to be aware of the dynamics involved and familiar with professional services that can be called up for help, particularly if the situation is deteriorating toward a life threatening crisis.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 04/08 at 01:02 AM | Permalink

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