Stigma still surrounds mental health, say Iowa farmers

Seeking help with mental illness has always been associated with stigma, especially in small towns and rural areas where everyone knows each other’s affairs. Those who might benefit from therapy or other treatment may be reluctant to get it if others might find out.

Although there have been many efforts in the media to de-stigmatize mental health problems and their treatment, more than 40 percent of Iowa farmers polled in a recent survey said they would hesitate to ask for it. ‘help and would consider themselves weak if they thought they had a mental illness.

Bank Iowa recently released the results of its 2021 Mental Health Outlook Survey, which surveyed more than 3,000 Iowa residents, including 461 farmers. The questions were developed in conjunction with the non-profit, non-partisan Healthiest State Initiative and its “Make it OK” campaign.

While the survey’s mental health questions were optional, about 90 percent of the farmers responded. The main findings include:

  • 42% of farmers surveyed either strongly agree or agree with the statement: “If I thought I had a mental illness, I would hesitate to seek help.

  • 44% of farmers surveyed either strongly agree or agree with the statement: “If I thought I had a mental illness, I would consider myself weak.

  • 49% of farmers surveyed either strongly agree or agree with the statement: “There are negative impressions, stereotypes or stigmas about mental health in my community. ”

  • 77% of farmers surveyed answered yes to the question: “Have you or a loved one ever had a mental illness?

According to a press release, members of the Bank Iowa team began to see an increasing number of clients who appeared to have mental health issues in 2020. Farmers, in particular, were confiding in Bank Iowa lenders. and to other front-line staff for their sense of hopelessness.

“Lenders were sharing more stories of clients who were feeling depressed and hopeless, sometimes openly crying in our offices,” said Jim Plagge, president and CEO of Bank Iowa. “We wanted to see if we could get some data to support our hunch that Iowa farmers needed help. As the survey results indicate, the stigma associated with mental health is real and the challenges facing our farming community persist.

Plagge said Bank Iowa would register as a Make it OK workplace and encourage its staff to join the Make it OK Ambassador program. Ambassadors receive training to promote mental health awareness and positively navigate mental health conversations.

Learn more about the program at iowahealthieststate.com.

About Keneth T. Graves

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