Teens & Farmers: Encouraging Mental Health News

Each month, I receive a newsletter from the American Counseling Association filled with industry headlines, opportunities for continuing education, etc. While reading one recently, I noticed some encouraging mental health news for two of my favorite groups, farmers and teenagers. As a therapist and high school coach’s wife in a rural community, these definitely have a piece of my heart.

Texting Your Teen Can Actually Help Them

Teenagers, phones, and texting. Sometimes frustrating, right? But, let’s back up and consider a few things developmentally. A generation ago, when people had trouble talking with teens, they were encouraged to try less “socially intense” options. Counselors suggested talking with teens in the car, over an activity, at night when the lights were lower, etc. The idea was it was easier for teens to talk sometimes when the environment was less intense.

As strange as that may sound, it makes sense developmentally. In the teen years, a young person’s not-yet-fully-developed brain is in “gas-on-pedal” mode, navigating a huge amount of growth, learning, and emotion. It can help us, and them, to remember they think differently than adults. Therefore, alternate modes of communication can be helpful and effective.

Anne Rulo Teens & Farmers Encouraging Mental Health News

So, what does this have to do with texting? Think of it as the digital version of talking while not looking directly at each other. As much as we would love face-to-face conversations, we have to remember that these kids are “digital natives.” Their entire existence has been shaped by technology and their brains are literally wired to receive digital communication as real and authentic. So, when you text a supportive message to your teen it feels real, it matters, and this research shows it can decrease the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation for young people at risk. Telehealth, virtual counseling, and texts from good ol’ Mom and Dad can all be effective ways to help our teens in the digital age. (See below for more resources.)

Farmers: More Willing to Talk About Mental Health

As we jump from teens to farmers, I could not be more excited about the trends in a recent survey by the American Farm Bureau. Farmers have some unique risk factors for mental health issues and, specifically, suicide. The reasons for this are many. Farmers are part of a cultural narrative that promotes self-sufficiency, masculinity, and “just work harder.” Of course, those ideals are not negative in and of themselves. However, if they are held above reaching out or getting help when needed, it works against them. By nature of their jobs, many farmers are isolated, often working under difficult circumstances that impact their livelihood. Additionally, many also check several high-risk boxes associated with suicide as middle-aged white men with access to firearms.*

*Please note, the point about firearms is not against ownership. But, no matter how you slice it, statistics hold that firearms are how half of all suicides are completed. One of the primary ways to prevent suicide is to create space and time between the suicidal person and access to the means of death. Put simply, farmers are at increased risk simply because, if they find themselves in a mental health crisis, a gun is probably familiar, accessible, and nearby.

Anne Rulo Teens & Farmers Encouraging Mental Health News

Well, gee lady, that all sounded pretty tough. What’s good news? I’m glad you asked. Read this excerpt from this December 2021 American Farm Bureau’s survey:

“Nearly half of rural adults and two in five farmers/farm workers say they are more comfortable talking to their doctor about personal experiences with stress and mental health compared to a year ago. Four in five rural adults (83%) and 92% of farmers/farm workers say they would be comfortable talking about solutions with a friend or family member who is dealing with stress or a mental health condition. And, significantly, the percentage of farmers/farm workers who say they would be comfortable talking to friends and family members has increased 22% since April 2019.”

Here are a couple takeaway points: 1) These incredible, hard-working people are becoming more and more likely to seek help with stress or a mental health condition when needed and 2) they are still usually going to friends and family first. Farmers (and most other populations) are more likely to end up on your doorstep or phone line than mine. Remember how important you are and offer a listening ear if the time comes. Your help is more important than you know.

For farmers, teens, or anyone else who may need help, here is a list of resources you can check out for support:

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash, used with permission
Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash, used with permission

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