Legislation aimed at making mental health treatment more available to farmers, ranchers and agriculture workers has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by lawmakers from Minnesota and Arizona.
Called the Stemming the Tide Of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide Act, or STRESS Act, the bill would reauthorize a program that gives states resources to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers – the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). Though FRSAN was first authorized in 2008, it did not receive funding and lapsed.
Introduced to the House of Representatives by Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), the STRESS Act would coordinate stress assistance programs for farmers and ranchers, including crisis hotlines, educational and outreach services, and training for farmer advocates.
Due to the nature of their work and the lack of mental health treatment available, these individuals suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide. The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control found rates of suicide among farmers are the highest of any occupation in the United States.
The National Young Farmers Coalition applauded the bill, saying it sends a powerful message of support to the nation’s ranchers and farmers.
“We must ensure that the farm safety net includes resources for those facing stress and emotional crisis. The introduction of the STRESS Act sends an important message to farm families: you’re not alone,” said Andrew Bahrenburg, National Policy Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition. “When these challenges are left unspoken, swept under the rug, or stigmatized, our entire community is impacted. Young farmers everywhere can experience the social isolation, financial stress, and emotional fatigue that comes from pouring everything they have into their farms. We need to do a better job of ensuring they have the resources and support to get through it.”
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