WSU Tree Fruit

See Something, Say Something

Check-in on farmers’ state of mind – Suicide Resources

Written by Karen Lewis, WSU Extension

These are unprecedented times. Just reading that statement on a frequent basis creates stress. I am not sure that unprecedented is the correct term but our country and the agricultural industry are in a state of unparalleled uncertainty and disruption.

The United States and the agricultural industry has faced serious financial depressions, recessions, financial system collapse and years of low returns for products grown or manufactured. The country and the agricultural industry has had to deal with pandemics and epidemics in modern times. The flu of 1918 and polio both resulted in illness, death and required adjustments to daily lives which included social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both were disruptive to the economy, both put added pressure on the food production system. And to be sure, our republic has experienced days, months and years of social and civil unrest.

Sad. Anger. Weary. Unsettled. Navigating is difficult in a storm. It can be overwhelming when all of these serious, disruptive and unwanted conditions occur at the same time. We are being challenged in ways we have not been in the past. For some, these conditions and associated challenges and the weariness of it all will prove to be too much to handle and will bring people to their knees. And sometimes to their death.

Most people who are facing challenging times and considering suicide show warning signs. While not inclusive, the list below is a good start for checking in with people.

  • Lack of energy/motivation to do usual tasks
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Alcohol and / or substance abuse
  • Withdraw from others
  • Relational tension
  • Thoughts of hurting oneself
  • Care of livestock or property declines
  • Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Increase in farm accidents

Know the signs and take action when you see the signs above or notice that things just don’t feel or seem right with someone. Ask how they are doing and ask if they need help.  See something, say something.

Producers and Ag professionals are great problem solvers and make many decisions each day – some data-based and some not so much. The collective Ag industry considers resilience in hard times a badge of honor (you know …. “Pull yourself up with your bootstraps and get on with it” … or more contemporary, “Put your big boy or big girl pants on and get on with it”).

When you feel like so much is out of (your) control. When the stress becomes just too heavy and unmanageable. When you or a loved one or a neighbor needs help make the call, send the text.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline


Crisis Text LineText HEAL to 741741

You are not alone. Don’t isolate – connect. We are here.

Other resources specific to Ag and rural community:

The WSU Agricultural Suicide Prevention Pilot Program provides education on the farmer health crisis, suicide risk factors, and warning signs, and evidence-based suicide prevention approaches.

The Farm Bureau articles may only be republished with prior author permission © Washington State University. Republished articles with permission must include: “Originally published by Washington State Tree Fruit Extension at” along with author(s) name, and a link to the original article.