State officials announced a mental-health awareness campaign Tuesday aimed at rallying Ohio farmers, who are dealing with one of the worst planting seasons on record as well as tariffs levied by China on certain crops in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products.

“Earlier this year, I sat down to talk to farmers who are faced with the most devastating economic losses they have ever faced from the weather. Many of them told me they felt as though they had the weight of the world on their shoulders,” Dorothy Pelanda, director of Ohio Department of Agriculture, said at a news conference at a Brown Township farm.

Northwestern Ohio is one of the worst affected areas in the country. Record-breaking rainfall there left many fields too muddy to plant. Planting dates have run late because of the recent increased rainfall and higher temperatures.

The suicide rate of men in the farming, fishing and forestry industry is under 23 per 100,000 members of that group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the suicide rate among all males nationally is 21 per 100,000 population.

“Farmers, we want you to know you are not alone. There is help available,” Pelanda said, urging those with feelings of depression to seek help.

The campaign #gotyourback was initiated in response to visits to Ohio farms by state officials, said Jamie Carmichael, public affairs director for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“There’s really nobody insulated from (mental health issues) and it’s part of our role to make sure that we’re making resources accessible and reducing stigma,” Carmichael said. “We can’t do that just on a big broad scale, right? For a farmer, it’s not the same message that might work, you know. In my personal inner city neighborhood, it’s different."

“Life is hard sometimes. We need to be there for one another and connect people to services,” she said. “I think this is really an attempt at a hyper-local strategy.”

Neall Weber, 46, who farms 2,300 acres with his father, hosted the event at his Brown Township farm.

"I just feel that it’s something that’s not discussed,” he said. “It’s one of those things ... people don’t think about how much stress is in our line of work.”

The pressure farmers are facing continues, he said.

“We could get a really, really heavy rain here next week. Hail. And that’ll set that moisture right into the husk of the corn and rot it from the inside out,” he said. “I mean, my heart’s pounding, just talking about it.”

The Franklin County Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 614-221-5445; the Teen Suicide Prevention Hotline at 614-294-3300; or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255/TALK (or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers). To reach someone at Ohio’s 24/7 Crisis Text Line, send 4HOPE to 741741. Farmers can find resources at https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/gotyourback/.

 

bburger@dispatch.com

@ByBethBurger