Suicide Awareness & Prevention
Topics Discussed in this Video:
- Suicide Numbers
- Farm Culture and Stress
- Signs of Stress in Farmers
- Warning Signs and Risk Factors of Suicide
- Suicidal Help Tips
Dr. Amanda Szarzynski provides a detailed description of the warning signs of people who are at higher risk of suicide and walks the viewer through some of the most useful and impactful responses to support loved ones at risk of suicide.
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Farm Culture and Stress
Farm families and communities are often characterized by their resilience, self-reliance, independence, and relentless hard work. Most are familiar with the demanding hours and unexpected frustrations that are part of farm life, and those conditions may be part of what builds resilience for those who grow up in them. It may not be surprising that farmers are often under large amounts of pressure and stress. Much of what contributes to this stress is out of farmers’ control. This includes poor weather conditions, pests, crop prices, interest rates, and other economic conditions. The nature of farm life also lends itself to geographic and sometimes social isolation. Other parts of farm culture, while sometimes being a source of satisfaction and pride, can contribute to added stress. Independence and self-reliance may lead to farmers being less likely to ask for help, less likely to share their troubles with others, and more likely to put others’ well-being before their own.
Signs of Stress in Farmers
There are many signs you can watch for that can let you know someone is going through increased or high levels of stress. Increases in illness, more frequent accidents, changes in routines, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, lack of confidence, and decreases in care of animals or the farmstead may be warning signs of increased stress. Mood changes like increased depression or uncontrolled anger that leads to violence could also be signs that someone is under too much stress. When stress becomes overwhelming, another significant concern is an increased risk of suicide. Sadly, rural communities often see higher suicide rates than other areas.
Suicide Warning Signs
For farmers and others who are under lots of pressure there are some key warning signs to determine if someone may be at risk for suicide. The acronym IS PATH WARM can help you remember them. Be mindful of people who are experiencing:
Ideation – threatening or thinking about committing suicide.
Substance abuse – using substances at an increased or excessive level.
Purposeless – talking about not having a reason to live.
Anxiety – agitated and can’t sleep (a sign that their mind won’t shut down).
Trapped – feeling there is no way out.
Hopelessness – having increased or prolonged feelings of hopelessness.
Withdrawing – lessening how much they engage with friends, family, and society.
Anger – showing uncontrolled rage or seeking revenge.
Recklessness – engaging in risky acts.
Mood change – a dramatic increase in depression or even a dramatic lifting of depressive symptoms. A sudden lifting of signs of depression may be the result of someone deciding on and committing to a plan of suicide.
A few other things to keep in mind that puts individuals in a higher category of risk for suicide include being older, white, having made previous suicide attempts, being isolated, having a plan for suicide, and having access to lethal means, particularly firearms.
If You are Concerned
When you notice that someone is showing some of the signs of IS PATH WARM, simply asking them if they are thinking about suicide could be the beginning of them getting the help they need. Some people may be worried that asking someone about suicide will make it more likely for them to harm themselves, but this is not the case. If you are concerned about someone you know, there are three steps you can follow to make a difference.
Ask: Directly ask the person you are concerned about if
- they are having suicidal thoughts,
- if they have a specific plan, and
- if they have access to lethal means.
Listen: Pay attention to their responses and listen empathetically. Look for the red flags of IS PATH WARM and other risky aspects of their situation.
Act: If you think the person might harm him or herself, do not leave the person alone and let them know that you are going to get them some help. Some steps you can take include getting in contact with their close family or friends who can support them and keep them safe, asking them if there are okay with you removing lethal means from their home, calling 911 or the local police, contact the national suicide preventions lifeline (1-800-273-8225), or text HOME to 741741 to get in touch with a crisis counselor. Taking these steps may make the difference in helping someone through a crisis of suicidality and connect them to the help they need.
- Farm Aid. (2018). Why farmers face unique threats from stress [Fact sheet]. https://www.farmaid.org/blog/fact-sheet/why-farmers-face-unique-threats-from-stress
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n.d.). National suicide prevention lifeline. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- NY FarmNet. (n.d.). Farm stress management. https://www.nyfarmnet.org/farm-stress