October 2020

Mental Health… oh come on, are we really going to talk about this?!

I understand this isn’t what you expected to read during this month’s President’s Message.  You might be saying, “Why are we talking about mental health, it has nothing to do with agriculture.”  I agree with you, but hear me out.

I follow a few farmers on social media talking about their mental health and bringing awareness to a rather taboo conversation topic.  I’ve never talked about my mental health to anyone, not even my wife.  What would I say to her, “Hey honey, I’m mentally struggling with something,” or “I’m not in a good headspace right now.”  Even though both have been true at some point in my lifetime, I’ve never thought about sharing them or burdening others with such information.  Look, please don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m only bringing attention to the fact many people are struggling with stress and anxiety, some worse than others.  Think about it, how is a person supposed to cope with social distancing from family and friends for what has been the case now for six months, or missing opportunities to celebrate the arrival of a new grandchild, delaying your wedding until next year, coping with the significant price drop in ag commodities, inability to sell your wine grapes because of smoke-taint, I mean come on… there are a gazillion things to worry about.  What if a person is experiencing all the above and more?!  No doubt there is a big dark cloud hovering over many of us this year.  Some having darker clouds than others, I’m sure of it.

Mental health is important in agriculture because people are the fabric of our Ag businesses.  The state-of-mind our employees are in while in the workplace affect their ability to cope with work-related challenges, collaborate with co-workers, make decisions, share ideas and communicate.  These are all things we pay our employees to do, this is exactly how they add value to our operations.  My old self would likely dismiss mental health and suggest it is a construct, rather now I recognize it as part the my overall health and the health of others.  Of course, I would prefer every employee bring their “A” game to work each day, but I would ridiculous to expect such a thing.  Somedays I operate at “C” level, where I’m just trying to get through the day.  Rather, knowing each day is different from the next helps me understand people are the same.  I understand each person is sitting in the front seat of their own rollercoaster, I would only suggest open your eyes, reach for the sky and enjoy the ride.  Lastly, check-in with others from time to time, there is a good chance they’ve been waiting to hear from you.

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