1st in a Series on Mental Health on the Farm

Part 1 Mental Health on the Farm

Listening for Negative Thoughts

Resources are provided at the end of this post.

California Ag Today Editor Laurie Greene extensively interviewed Karen MarklandDivision Manager for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health’s Planning, Prevention and Supportive Services about the mental health needs of those in the agricultural industry who may be emotionally suffering due to the severe drought and environmental water restrictions impacting their livelihoods.

Editor: I have observed that depressed people may say something that implies they are having suicidal ideation, but it is just so easy in our society to tell them, “Oh you’ll snap out of it.” In other words, we tend to dismiss these statements. What do you want to say to listeners on how to respond to someone who says something hopeless? What opportunity does this present to the person who hears someone utter something desperate?

Markland: It is so easy, I say it to myself sometimes, “I want to die; I don’t want to go on.” Those are really important messages, though, for people to pick up on. I really feel it is always important to respond genuinely and supportively. Our statewide California Stigma & Discrimination Reduction Program suggests we go back and say something like, “Each mind matters, and you matter.”

Each Mind MattersThis is an opportunity to have that dialogue; yet often, people will look at me like, “What?” But we all have those moments and we all feel that way at times. Tell people there are resources and support systems. Become familiar with them—whether they are family, clergy, a neighbor, a teacher, County services, a hotline. Likewise, let someone else know when you are not having the best of days.

Editor: It seems as if the general population believes that these issues are not medical issues, that they are within someone’s control, and that perhaps someone is weak or has a bad attitude and they need to change their thinking. What would you like to say to people who don’t recognize that mental illness is a medical illness?

Markland: So, there is a lot of dialogue about ‘What is mental illness?’ versus ‘What is mental health?’ ‘What is mental wellness?’ Clearly, mental illness is a diagnosable medical condition. There are categories in which an individual may have a serious mental illness and these include diagnoses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder.

These are serious, long-term illnesses, but there is a whole other spectrum of mental illness such as postpartum depression, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders, which show signs and symptoms that people are functioning outside of their wellness. These are also medical conditions—medical conditions that can be treated in a variety of ways.

Editor: Of course medication is one option. Are there other options?

Markland: Sometimes it is medication; sometimes it is holistic healing; sometimes it is having a positive self-attitude and making sure you get the sleep and the nutritious diet, exercise and more that you need. So it is truly a diagnosable medical condition that can be treated in a multitude of ways, and what we are seeing right now in mental health is a strong recovery movement. People live, grow and recover from mental illness.

Mental HealthThe Fresno Department of Behavioral Health is dedicated to supporting the wellness of individuals, families, and communities in Fresno County who are affected by, or at risk of, mental illness and/or substance use disorders through cultivation of strengths toward promoting recovery in the least restrictive environment.County of Fresno Logo

The Fresno Department of Behavioral Health provides mental health and substance abuse services to adults within the County of Fresno. The programs within our department focus on delivering the highest quality of service. There are over 300 professionals and staff dedicated to providing services in both metropolitan and rural areas. The diversity of our staff has helped us create a department that is sensitive to cultural differences and attempts to bridge the language barriers with our consumers. 


2016-05-31T19:27:10-07:00September 22nd, 2015|

Keeping a Watchful Eye on the Family Farmer: Suicide Prevention

By Laurie Greene, Editor


National Mental Health Awareness Month, in May 2014, is an opportune time to focus on eliminating the stigma of mental health in the California Farming Community and providing compassion and support to those who are struggling to cope.

Stress and anxiety that plague the family farmer during this crippling time of zero water allocations can lead to mental stress, which, in some cases, could lead to suicide. Last year, Tulare County had just over forty suicides from all walks of life, and some were from the farming community. In fact over the last few years, several California dairymen, specifically, have committed suicide.

Cheryl Lennon-Armas LMFT

Cheryl Lennon-Armas, LMFT, co-chair, Tulare-Kings County Suicide Prevention Task Force

Cheryl Lennon-Armas, co-chair of the Tulare-Kings County Suicide Prevention Task Force, notes that the subject of mental illness is something we all need to be aware of and talk about. “There’s a whole lot of people who are touched by suicide or attempted suicide or mental health issues. But there are not a lot of people who want to have a conversation about it.”

“So how do we make those topics easy to talk about?” Lennon-Armas wants the public to learn more so they are not afraid. “For example, say a farmer is talking to a lending company, and the lending company says, ‘Oh, I can’t loan you money,’ and the farmer says, ‘well that’s OK, I wont need it anyway.’ How do you get that lending company to say, ‘Whoa, Whoa, Whoa’?”

“’I won’t need it anyway,’ – that should be a red flag statement,” Lennon-Armas pointed out.

“But often, when people hear statements like that, they may become fearful and want to push it away,” Lennon-Armas explained. “We don’t want to have to look at that farmer and say,  ‘Hey, I am worried about you, and I want to make sure you are OK. What can I do to help? Are you thinking of committing suicide?’”

“It needs to roll off the tongue of all of us in order to end the stigma,” she stated.

Pipe without waterDuring the current debilitating water crisis and the possible loss of many farms, it’s more critical than ever to keep an eye on any farmer or farmworker who is grappling with understandably intense anxiety and stress. So, it’s important to know some of the signs that could indicate that someone in the farming community could be contemplating suicide.

 Lennon-Armas, noted, “It’s really important to pay attention to the people around you and not make assumptions that their being quiet or not showing overt signs of being suicidal means they are OK.”National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“Take notice if they are isolating themselves or you see a change in their routine, if they stop attending church, or they drop out of 4-H or FFA or other community organizations they might be involved in. If you start seeing some deterioration on the farm, how they are caring for their animals, an increase in farm accidents, these could all be red flags,” she said.

“An increase in farm accidents might mean that the farmer is depressed and not paying attention to the work they are doing, Lennon-Armas explained. “Maybe they are not sleeping well or they are increasing their use of alcohol or medications. It’s important to note that it is common for people to `self medicate’ themselves when they are depressed.”

????????????????????“The farm worker population has the additional issues of cultural and language barriers and access to services or even awareness of services available,” Lennon-Armas explained. “While the stigma issues are slightly different, they are equally strong for farm owners and farm workers alike.”

“But at the end of the day, it is about providing support and access to information – saving just that one life,” she said. “We are not in the business of being popular when doing suicide prevention. Our job is to keep people alive long enough to where they are feeling more hope than despair.”


Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force:



Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency: 



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Mental Health Crisis Line (WARM LINE) is 1-800-320-1616

In an emergency, you can always call 9-1-1.

In California, you can also call 211 for mental health and financial advice and support.

The American Association of Suicidology

California Crisis Centers

Additional thanks to: Tammie Weyker, Media specialist for Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency

California Suicide Hotlines by County_Page_1

California Suicide Hotlines by County_Page_2

2021-05-12T11:06:01-07:00April 28th, 2014|
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