Nav: Home

Stoic, resourceful -- and at risk for suicide

May 15, 2019

Georgia farmers are champions at tackling challenges they can see - bad weather, insects and livestock disease, to name a few. Their higher-than-average suicide rate, however, indicates they may need some support in addressing stress and depression.

A new study led by a University of Georgia researcher, in collaboration with epidemiologists from the Georgia Department of Public Health, has identified some common factors associated with farmer suicide that may help health providers develop strategies to reduce suicide risk.

"We have heard about rural stress anecdotally but haven't really taken a close look at what is happening with our farmers," said Anna Scheyett, dean and professor at the UGA School of Social Work and lead author of the study.

The study looked at 106 suicides among farmers and agricultural workers that occurred in Georgia from 2008 to 2015, as reported in the Georgia Violent Death Reporting System.

It found that relationship difficulties and endings, health problems and financial problems were most commonly associated with farmer suicides. Farmers who died by suicide were predominantly white males over 50 years of age - a figure that reflects the demographics of the farming profession in Georgia.

In 21% of cases, the victim had made prior suicidal threats, and there was little evidence that any victims had sought or received mental health services.

"The findings suggest that there is a need for more education about suicide prevention, as well as greater access to mental health services in rural areas," said Scheyett.

Until now, no suicide study has specifically looked at Georgia farmers, nor has there been a national study of suicide risk focused on farmers and agricultural workers. A 2016 study led by the Georgia Department of Public Health found that from 2006 to 2009 Georgia workers in the occupational group Farming, Fishing, and Forestry had a suicide rate more than three times the rate for the overall population.

In addition to verbal threats of suicide, researchers found that in a few cases the individual's behavior suggested suicidal intention that went unrecognized.

"In one case it was reported that the victim had called a friend and left a recorded message," said Scheyett. "It simply said, 'My wallet is on the mantel and will you please take care of my cows.'"

The study suggested that rural health care providers who treat farmers and farm workers who are experiencing illness, pain or disability should get additional training in self-harm risk detection and in giving referrals for counseling. Service providers who may be aware of relationship problems or loss - clergy, funeral home directors, lawyers - also could be trained, the researchers added.
-end-
The study, "Characteristics and contextual stressors in farmer and agricultural worker suicides in Georgia from 2008-2015," received advance online publication in the Journal of Rural Mental Health at http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rmh0000114.

Epidemiologists Rana Bayakly and Michael Whitaker of the Georgia Department of Public Health contributed to the research.

University of Georgia

Related Public Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.