By K.S. Brooks / Silverado Express Newspaper
This is a difficult topic. But if writing and talking about it can save one life, then it’s worth it. Facts are facts: Farmers in the United States die by suicide 1.5 times more often than the national average, according to a study by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). This number may be low, in fact, because it is believed that some of the deaths are staged to look like equipment accidents, and not all self-employed farmers were included in the survey.
I don’t know about you, but to think the people who work the land to keep us fed are feeling the pressures of life so severely that they can no longer take it haunts me and brings tears to my eyes.
The U.S. is not alone with what some are referring to as an epidemic; in India, more than 10 thousand farmers took their own lives during both 2018 and 2019, as reported by multiple sources. According to the Guardian, “an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.”
Here in Stevens County, from 2015 to 2020, there were a total of 66 suicides according to Coroner Lorrie Sampson. Last year, there were 15. Those are not broken down by occupation, however, farming accidents have been the cause of death for five people in the county from 2016 to 2019.
No matter where they live, farmers are generally dealing with large amounts of debt, battling Mother Nature’s bad weather and pests, carrying on the family trade, dealing with higher costs and lower selling prices, and many other stressors, according to Don McMoran, the WSU Skagit County Extension Director who has been heading up a program to help those in agriculture. Don comes from a farming family and says one of the barriers is “How we’re taught at a really young age in agriculture to internalize your feelings and you don’t talk about stuff.”
There are signs, however, to help friends and neighbors recognize if a farmer is considering suicide. “Look for a change in routine, decline in care of farm and or livestock, change in moods, new increased financial pressures, loss of interest in hobbies or interests,” Don said. Another sign is when people start giving…