Farm Stress

Wearing out your bootstraps?

You don't have to go it alone.

In North Dakota we expect a lot from our bootstraps.

Farmers and ranchers learn early on how to troubleshoot almost any foreseeable challenge and to take care of our own problems.


But sometimes life throws more at us than even the strongest bootstraps can support. It’s not because we’re weak or whiny. It’s because we are human and life is just plain tough sometimes. 

Everyone – whether they show it or not – can feel sad or frustrated or overwhelmed, and it doesn’t mean they are failures. Those feelings are just information, like a temperature gauge or “check engine” lights. It’s a cue that something needs to be corrected before it can be up and running again.


Sadness vs. Depression

If you experience a disappointment or loss, it’s natural to feel sad. Normal sadness is understandable and usually fades as you learn how to handle the event that caused it, and re-involves yourself in your day-to-day life. Depression is different. It does not improve in the same way as normal sadness does.

Common signs of depression:

• Feeling sad most of the day, nearly every day.

• Becoming irritable about abnormal things. Irritability can apply to everyone; men are more likely to show this sign of depression.

• Unable to stop worrying or overthinking.

• Difficulty concentrating because of worry.

• Disinterest in doing things you usually enjoy.

• Wanting to be alone, isolating yourself.

• Trouble waking up or falling back asleep because of worrying OR sleeping much more than usual.

• Feeling tired, lacking energy.

• Feeling like you can’t control emotions.

• Being asked by others if something is wrong.

• Feeling physically ill (stomach upset, trouble eating, headaches, muscle aches).

• Thinking you would be better off dead.

If a number of these symptoms continue for over two weeks, and aren’t connected with an understandable disappointment or loss, you could be depressed.

It's not weakness. It's called being human.

Sometimes people won’t seek help for depression because they worry what others might think.


The fact is this: Even if you feel alone, you aren’t. An estimated 16.2 million adults have had at least one major depressive episode – and that doesn’t even factor in the many more with a milder form of depression.


Depression is a complex medical condition. Like any medical condition, it requires treatment. Without it, a condition can be fatal.


Untreated depression can be fatal.  From 1999 to 2016, North Dakota experienced a 57% spike in suicide rates – the highest in the nation. Part of this can be attributed to our stoic, independent culture – our belief that we need to hide our struggles or ignore 
it or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. But that doesn’t work. Depression requires intervention.

I'm worried about someone. What can I do?

• Simply ask if they are OK. When a person is depressed, they may not realize it. They could be too close to the situation to assess it objectively or their mood has declined so gradually that they can’t see how their behavior has changed. In these situations, be prepared to share with them, in as non-judgmental and non-shaming way as possible, as to why you’re concerned and what you’ve observed.

• Listen to what they really have to say. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice.

• Let them know you care about them.

• Ask if they have considered harming themselves, even if it feels uncomfortable. Research shows that bringing up the topic of suicide to someone who is suicidal will NOT put them at greater risk for suicide. It usually has the opposite effect, by de-stigmatizing the topic and inviting them to open up.



The good news: It's treatable!

Since we know that not everyone experiences and handles stress in the same way, we recognize there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression, stress and anxiety. There are multiple, evidence-tested treatments that can help, ranging from medications to calibrate your brain chemistry to counseling approaches to help you cope with life’s ups and downs.

Where to get help
• NDSU Extension offers resources for dealing with farm/ranch stress:

• Abound Counseling at LSSND offers in-person and statewide tele-health counseling services. Payment options include sliding fee, health insurance and no-fee options through LSSND’s Abundant Care fund: (701) 223-1510

• In an emergency, call 9-1-1

• For First Link Help Line, call 2-1-1

• National suicide-prevention hotline (available 24 hours/day): (800) 273-8255

For non-emergency situations, speak with your health care professional about mental-health services in your area.

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