Listening key to helping farmers weather drought stress
Farm families may have to cope with the drought’s emotional toll for some time, so neighbors, friends, and ag professionals should be aware and supportive, according to a rural health specialist.
Published: Oct 8, 2012
“The stress (from drought) can go on for months and the impact be felt for years afterward,” said Roberta Schweitzer, former Purdue University nursing professor and an expert in coping with rural stress.
Recently, Schweitzer, a nationally certified trainer for mental health first aid, offered advice to help farmers and their families deal with drought-related stress.
Her early warning signs of a farmer who may be in trouble included changes in normal routine and behavior, declined care for the farmstead or livestock, and more frequent illnesses or accidents.
“When we’re stressed, the ability to think slows down; there is a lack of concentration,” she said.
Schweitzer said now is “an important time for assessing farmers’ emotional state ... They may not say they need help, especially not say it directly.”
If an individual indicates he or she is having trouble, Schweitzer’s advice is to be supportive and let the person know he or she doesn’t have to handle the situation alone. She cautioned not to tell stressed people that everything will be all right.
Schweitzer encouraged “active listening” that focuses on the individual and what is being said. Nodding and repeating information back to the person signals the listener is engaged.
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