Proposed Bill Aims to Reduce Rural Suicides

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Farmers are more likely to commit suicide than people in the general workforce and a new bill introduced in Congress aims at helping to prevent that. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Montana Senator Jon Tester say the Seeding Rural Resilience Act will help curb a rising rate of rural suicides. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45% higher in rural America.

The act, would implement a voluntary stress management training program to major agriculture as well as devote $3 million to create a public service announcement campaign.

Corinne Peek-Asa with the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center says, "Working on reducing the stigma of seeking help, recognizing farming is a stressful occupation you are not performing poorly if you feel anxious about it so helping change the culture about recognizing the stress of farming."

Peek-Asa says there are a host of other concerns facing farmers: isolation, distance from health care, stigma against receiving counseling, and financial burdens. She studies suicide with a focus on prevention and wants to think about how to use systems and communities in place that prevent farmer stress.

Peek-Asa hopes the bill passes Congress, Senator Grassley says it should, "This is a simple, non-controversial, bipartisan measure. That is much needed. I see no reason why the agriculture committee and the full Senate couldn't approve this bill expeditiously."

The Seeding Rural Resilience Act has been applauded by farming and mental health organizations across the country, including the American Psychological Association, the National Farmers Union, and the American Farm Bureau.

Peek-Asa says when they look at trends among people who work, they found farmers have a three-times higher rate of suicide than among the general workforce.

She says a key aspect of that is uncontrollable business factors, "The farmer is really the complete picture of an entrepreneur, but so much of what they do, the weather to the new stresses of farm financing and tariffs, create a lot of things that farmers can't control and that kind of uncontrollable stress is much more damaging biologically to the system."

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