‘Good Roots’ continues conversation of mental health

CONWAY — Wendy Blackwood, a licensed professional counselor with Healing Path Counseling, is working to spread the word and normalize the conversation of mental health among farmers and ranchers. She discusses recognizing signs of depression in an all new “Good Roots” segment premiering on Arkansas PBS at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, during “Arkansas Week” and livestreaming at myarpbs.org/watch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farming is considered one of the most stressful occupations in the United States with a suicide rate reaching about 50% higher than the national average. “There’s several reasons why farmers won’t reach out for help on their own,” Blackwood said. “There’s a lot of ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ kind of attitudes.

“There’s a stigma that it’s not OK to reach out because they think they should be able to manage on their own.”

Dr. Cy Shurtleff of Morrilton Veterinary Clinic said sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the conversation started. “We’re dealing with the health of the animal, but it spills over into the economic issues and just everything that relates to that farm,” Shurtleff said.

While recognizing signs of depression might not always be easy, Blackwood said things to look for include anxiety, irritability, fatigue or a hopeless outlook. She added that normalizing mental health issues and making them a part of everyday conversation – especially at the places where farmers and ranchers frequent, like coffee shops, equipment stores, barber shops, etc. – has the potential to save lives.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with mental health issues should dial 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Farmers can also call 1-800-Farm-Aid or visit farmaid.org for access to a network of support services.

Segments and bonus footage of “Good Roots” are also featured on all Arkansas PBS digital platforms, including YouTubeFacebook and the PBS Video app. A blog series accompanies the segments at myarkansaspbs.org.

About the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network

The purpose of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) Program is to establish a network that connects individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs. The establishment of a network that assists farmers and ranchers in time of stress can offer a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers and their families.