Farmers twice as likely to suicide

Farming is an addiction for many. Once you’re in it, you can hardly imagine another life. Sadly, it seems that is quite literally true for some. According to research reported in The Weekly Times, farmers are twice as likely to commit suicide than other Australians.

Research in 2010 showed farmers are among three occupations with significantly higher risk of male suicide, alongside transport and construction workers.

Between 1997 and 2002, suicide rates among Australian farmers were between 1.5 and 2.2 times higher than among the general population.

The researchers want to know why and so do I. My suspicion is that part of the cause may lie in one of the legendary strengths of the farmer psyche: resilience. We deal with drought, floods, price collapses and huge workloads by just getting on with it. I’ve often heard people refer to these stressful events by saying, “Ah, but that’s just part of farming”.

But what happens when they all happen at once, coincide with a tragedy or simply become too much? Does that mean we’re “not made of the right stuff to cut it”? Absolutely not. The flip side of the resilient farmer is the whinger. Maybe we ought to value those “whinges” more than we do. They might just save lives.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Farmers twice as likely to suicide

  1. I didn’t realise how resilient a person I was until I married a farmer, and he’s 10x’s more resilient than me.
    My guess is that those farmers who in their youth got a decent education, worked off the farm for a while and who take a calculated and measured approach to farming, will be okay. Those farmers who grew into the role and have no experience off farm and just get ahead by shear grunt and hard work may struggle a bit when tragedy strikes.
    When I chat to other farmers about what they would do if they left their farm, they have no idea and honestly believe they wouldn’t be qualified to be a janitor. They seem to lack a clear understanding of their skills and the value of those skills in society. And perhaps they fear not being “in charge” anymore if they went to work for someone else.
    It is a very difficult issue.

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  2. Having experienced this way too close to home I would offer one insight, Yes, farmers are incredibly resilient and they face daily challenges that would crush lesser people. But sometimes the most dangerous time is after the ‘tragedy’, when the adrenaline fades and the media isn’t interested in the drought/flood/mice plague anymore. Yet we know that even though the rains have come or the water receded things don’t turn around overnight. And sometimes its then that the thought of getting up and doing it all over again becomes too much. So, look after one another, in the bad times and the good. Listen to the whinges and make sure to take time to appreciate the good things, no matter how little.

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