Help for farmers, Georgia agriculture department shares mental health resources

As a fifth generation farmer, Drew Echols understands firsthand the stress on those in the agriculture industry.

"There's a lot of pressure out here to be able to keep that farm in the family for a next generation," Echols explained.

Echols is the general manager of Jaemor Farms in Alto, which includes 550 acres of everything from pumpkins to peaches to you-pick flowers.

He said growers and producers not only have to worry about the rising costs of fertilizer and other materials, but also, the long list of things that can go wrong between planting and harvesting.

"You know there's hurricanes, freezes, hailstorms, all different things like that, and you can have a perfect crop one afternoon at 5 p.m., but tomorrow morning, you can have a total disaster," said Echols.

Those concerns are what Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said can lead to mental health issues for farmers.

According to a 2022 study by Mercer University and the Georgia Foundation for Agriculture, 60% of Georgia farmers do not have access to healthcare and 42% thought about dying by suicide in the 12 months prior to the study.

"We found some pretty alarming statistics that I don't think we had ever taken an opportunity to realize," said Commissioner Harper.

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Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia make up just some of the hundreds of thousands of acres in Georgia devoted to agricultural industry. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is highlighting mental health resources for growers, producers and others in the state during Mental Health Awareness Month. (FOX 5)

To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, the Georgia Department of Agriculture added information about mental health resources on its homepage.

"We're just wanting to shine a light on that to ensure individuals know that we're here, that our team is here, that there are resources here to help them through those situations," Commissioner Harper explained.

Echols said it's important for people to talk about mental health in agriculture and society at large.

"I think that may be the biggest problem is you know, people don't feel comfortable going and having conversations or even a Google search," said Echols.

Commissioner Harper said while they launched the effort this month, it will continue into the future.