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ODA kicks off #gotyourback campaign for farmer mental health

With the kickoff of the #gotyourback campaign, the Ohio Department of Agriculture is moving the topic of mental health on the farm forward. The initiative, of which Ohio Farm Bureau is a proud partner, was created to let farmers know they are not alone in their struggles and to give them resources to seek professional, confidential help when stresses on the farm become overwhelming.

Dorothy Pelanda
ODA Director Dorothy Pelanda

“So many factors in farming are out of the farmer’s control,” said Dorothy Pelanda, ODA director.

“Wondering if the weather will cooperate and working long hours alone can all affect a farmer’s mental health and well-being.”

Earlier this year, Director Pelanda visited with farmers across the state who were faced with the most devastating economic losses they have ever experienced due to the excessive wet weather during the planting season.

“Many of them told me they felt as if they had the weight of the world on their shoulders,” Pelanda said. “Imagine working for an entire year and not being paid. That is exactly what some farmers will face this year.”

At a news conference to introduce the #gotyourback campaign and the website GotYourBackOhio.org, Pelanda wanted farmers to know that they are not alone and that help is available to those dealing with the stresses of farming.

Highland County farmer Nathan Brown, who represents District 20 as an Ohio Farm Bureau trustee, was also a part of the news conference. He shared that even before he began his farming career, mental health and mental wellness had been a part of his life. Many members of his family struggled with depression and he has dealt with anxiety.

“For all of us, it can be a challenge to navigate life from time to time and agriculture can magnify those moments,” Brown said. “Farmers sometimes feel that they only have themselves to blame if things don’t go right. It is completely on them if their crops fail or if their farm goes bankrupt and they will very rarely talk with others about what might be going wrong on the farm.”

Brown looks forward to working with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to bring this statewide initiative to the local level as well. He believes having mental health professionals on the ready in farm communities will be crucial in helping people in rural Ohio that find themselves in a crisis situation.

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