Nov 21, 2023

Insight: Spreading caring and kindness

Posted Nov 21, 2023 10:00 AM

Glenn Brunkow, Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher

We are well on our way into the holiday season. Although, if you have been in any retail store or coffee shop, we have been in the holiday season since roughly Aug. 15. I have to admit I am a sucker for this time of the year.  I suspect this is the case for many of us, and the holidays are highly anticipated and much enjoyed.

But not everyone looks forward to the holiday season. This is also a time of the year that can be hard for many from a mental health state. There is a lot of pressure this time of the year. This is especially true for those of us in agriculture. It is also the end of the year and for many of us this has been a difficult year in multiple ways. Drought and financial pressure can take its toll and the hustle, bustle and high expectations of the holiday season can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Couple that with the stiff upper lip, keep-it-all-inside mentality of farmers and ranchers, the holidays can be a very difficult, trying time. I am sure many of us have been there, it is a hard, lonely road to go down, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The other thing about farmers and ranchers is that we are a tight-knit community, and we will go out of our way to help a neighbor. Mental health is no different.

It is simple for us to know what to do but very difficult to actually reach out to someone in trouble. Often neighbors and friends are the first to notice. Someone experiencing a mental health crisis might be withdrawn, quieter than normal and avoid activities and events they normally attend. The signs are not always easy to see but as a friend or neighbor you will know when things aren’t “right.”

It is incredibly difficult to take the next step and urge someone to seek help and even more difficult to intervene on their behalf and get them help. I know it is not comfortable, but the consequences of ignoring signs of distress are even worse. We have to work together to end the stigma of seeking mental health care; it is just as important as taking care of ourselves physically.

I also encourage anyone struggling with added stress during the holidays to type in Rural Minds Matter into any search bar to bring up a list of resources. If you or a loved one is experiencing an acute crisis, dial 988. It’s a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress – whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.

During this time of holiday cheer and the rush of the season, please take time to check in on friends and neighbors, especially if you have not seen them in a few days. Really talk to them and listen to what they are saying. If you are reading this and in mental distress, please seek help; it is not a sign of weakness but rather one of great awareness. I hope everyone will be able to enjoy this season of time with friends and family, just remember, the greatest gift you can give is the one of caring and kindness.

"Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service. 

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