Farm-related depression: Signs and symptoms

During times of economic stress, family and community members can offer one another a great amount of support. Be attentive to signs of depression and suicidal behavior in farming individuals and families.

The greater the number of signs or symptoms a farm family is experiencing, the greater your concern should be. In addition, if family members are exhibiting the following signs of depression or suicidal intent, it is important that you connect them with professional help as soon as possible. All cries for help should be taken seriously.

Signs of depression

  • Appearance: Sad face; slow movements; unkempt look.
  • Unhappy feelings: Feeling sad, hopeless, discouraged and listless.
  • Negative thoughts: “I’m a failure;” “I’m no good;” “No one cares.”
  • Reduced activity and pleasure in usual activities: “Doing anything is just too much of an effort.”
  • People problems: “I don’t want anyone to see me;” “I feel so lonely.”
  • Physical problems: Trouble sleeping; decreased sexual interest; headaches.
  • Guilt and low self- esteem: “It’s my entire fault;” “I should be punished.”

Signs of suicidal intent

  • Anxiety or depression:  Severe, intense feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Withdrawal or isolation: Withdrawn; alone; lack of friends and supports.
  • Helpless and hopeless: Sense of complete powerlessness; a hopeless feeling.
  • Alcohol abuse: There is often a link between alcoholism and suicide.
  • Previous suicidal attempts: May have been previous attempts of low to high lethality.
  • Suicidal plan: Frequent or constant thoughts with a specific plan in mind.
  • Cries for help: Making a will; giving possessions away; making statements such as “I’m calling it quits,” or “Maybe my family would be better off without me.”

How to refer a person for help

  • Be aware of the agencies and resources available in your community – what services they offer and what their limitations are.
  • Listen for signs and symptoms that the person or family needs help which you can’t provide, i.e., financial, legal or personal counseling.
  • Assess what agency or community resource would be most appropriate to address the person’s (or family’s) needs.
  • Discuss the referral with the person or family: “It sounds/looks like you are feeling _____. I think _____ could help you deal with your situation.”
  • Explore the individual’s or family’s willingness to initiate contact with the community resource: “How do you feel about seeking help from this person/agency?”
  • When the person or family is unwilling to take the initiative or when there is the threat of danger if action is not taken, you should take the initiative to

                              - Call the agency and ask to speak to the intake worker, if there is one.

                              - Identify yourself and your relationship with the person or family.

                              - State what you think the person’s or family’s needs are. For example, they need immediate protection from suicidal acts, an appointment for counseling, financial or legal advice, etc.

                              - State what you think the person’s or family’s needs are. For example, they need immediate protection from suicidal acts, an appointment for counseling, financial or legal advice, etc.

                              - Provide the agency with background information

                                (name, address and phone; age and gender; nature of current problem or crisis; any past history you’re aware of; further information as called   for).

                              - Ask the agency what follow-up action they will take: When will they act on the referral? Who will be the person for you to contact later if necessary?

                              -  What will be the cost of the service (flat fee/sliding scale)? Do you need to do anything else to complete the referral?

Make sure the person or family and referral agency connect and get together. Make one or more follow-up contacts with the agency if called for by the situation.

The Social-Emotional work team offers RELAX-Alternative to Anger classes around the state check out the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension website for a class near you.

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