COVID-19 Fallout Hits Farmers

Stephanie Pappas, American Psychological Association
Publication Date: Oct 02, 2020

COVID-19 Fallout Hits Farmers

September 24, 2020 - Farm life is naturally socially distanced and many farmers didn’t feel the initial impact of COVID-19. However, seven months into the pandemic, supply chains have been disrupted, meat-processing plants have shut down, and restaurants and school cafeterias have closed. As the financial instability and related farm stress that hovers over farm families worsens, the need for mental health services in farming communities increases.

“Rural areas may be lightly populated, but they’re fishbowls for people who live there,” says Maridee Shogren, Ph.D., a certified nurse-midwife at the University of North Dakota. “When everyone knows your truck, it’s hard to hide that you’re visiting a therapist’s office. And values such as stoicism and self-sufficiency make it difficult to admit that you need help.”

Telehealth is one form of treatment that has gained positive attention due to the pandemic.

“The one [positive] thing that COVID has done is expanded telehealth,” says Thomasine Heitkamp, LICSW, a professor in the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines, University of North Dakota. “If a farmer is feeling depressed and discouraged, and maybe using a little more alcohol, someone could be available to see him about that when he goes home from the field to eat lunch.”