Take time to evaluate your mental health | Columnists


It was another 12 hour day of ranch work. Yet, there still seems to be so many things that I ended up putting off until tomorrow or – let’s be realistic – even the following day. Office work is piling up, cattle records need to be updated, I’m still not tagged up, pastures need to be gone through and I did not get through one herd of heavies today, which I know will cause me to wake up in the middle of the night. I have one calf that’s lying on the shop floor, bulls to sell, yearlings to truck out to grass, fence to fix and the tail end of 2,500 trees to plant. It’s tempting to just call it a day, grab a handful of caramel M&M’s from the parents’ house and head home as just thinking about it all is stressing me out.

Welcome to mental health month.

I’m not saying anything new when I tell farmers and ranchers that they are under a lot of stress. Input costs are high, markets are all over the place, Mother Nature is being hormonal, family operations are bickering, labor is tough to find, there is a lack of doing things for oneself, environmental exposures and it seems like quite a few of my ag acquaintances are either drinking Red Bull or Busch Light out of a John Deere aluminum, which can really hamper one’s diet.

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It’s so easy to get wrapped up in everything else that we forget that we only have one body, one brain and one life.

Our mental health has been one of the toughest, most challenging things to talk about, especially for those of us that are in agriculture. Then throw in the lack of resources in rural Nebraska, and the battle becomes even tougher. So, where do we even start? One thing I have learned over the years is that mental health is not an easy topic, and the resources at best can be muddled and confusing.

The first thing that I recommend to people is analyze. Do I notice certain things that will ‘set’ off rounds of anxiety, depression or other mental health issues? There are a multitude of triggers ranging from hormone imbalances, medication side effects, toxicity, caffeine, blood sugar, negative thinking, social settings, stress or personal triggers, and many more, that may cause you to remember a bad memory or traumatic experience in your life. Anxiety and depression may not be just a mental issue only but can easily have an underlying cause that will be challenging to fix with just an anti-depressant.

Functional Medicine does a great job of trying to determine the ‘root’ of the problem. Is there something in our daily lives that we could change without having to fill a prescription? A lot of times there is, and by utilizing supplements, changing our eating and exercising habits and doing things like meditation or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), it can be a game changer without prescription intervention.

For those other situations that we cannot control, there are a multitude of treatments that can be individualized for the patient. Treatments like Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or ketamine infusions can work above and beyond when sometimes an antidepressant just won’t fix the problem or the side effects of antidepressants are too much for an individual to handle.

If there have been certain traumatic events in life or things that you ‘just can’t get over’, I highly recommend Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Last year I had a great friend recommend EMDR after I was having severe PTSD after I witnessed a fatal ranch accident. I was thinking I was handling it okay, but as soon as I was out in a pasture and had someone else out there on an ATV or UTV, I would start dripping sweat, go into panic mood and couldn’t focus on the job at hand as I would be too concerned worrying about their safety.

Fortunately, EMDR helped me overcome that, and today I’m constantly sharing our ranch with new interns and visitors where I feel comfortable putting them on an ATV without the gut-wrenching panic and flashbacks that I had. EMDR has had great success in helping those who have suffered through traumatic events, including veterans, or even specific fears, such as flying.

So, the point of all of this is that there are options. The toughest part of knowing that something isn’t right is how to go about ‘fixing it,’ and hopefully if you are struggling this will give you some thought processes on things to look into or start exploring. If you are experiencing a crisis – reach out. I can guarantee all of us have been in a situation at some point in our lives that has been a struggle. The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline (1-800-464-0258) can provide no-cost vouchers to help.

This is not an easy topic, and so many times, there may not be an easy solution. By having open and candid conversations not only during Mental Health month but every month, we can hope that the day will come when those in ag will not have one of the highest suicide rates out of all occupations. I’m just an email away if I can help. You are not in this alone.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agricultural organizations. She can be reached at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com. This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.

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