The Grand Island Independent reported last week on the high rate of suicides among farmers--the highest, in fact, among all occupational groups. Brandi Janssen of the University of Iowa Department of Public Health wrote the story, which is based on data released by the Centers for Disease Control. Here's an excerpt from the story:
[S]uicide rates for workers in the agricultural, fishing and forestry industry are the highest of any other occupational group, exceeding rates in other high-risk populations, including veterans.Janssen notes that the National Farm Medicine Center, based in Marshfield, Wisconsin, tracked farm suicides in the Upper Midwest, the area most affected by the farm crisis, back in the 1980s.
Suicide is not typically thought of as an occupational fatality, but the CDC report sheds some light on how occupations might be one contributor to suicide.
The phenomenon is not new in agriculture, and those of us who lived on farms during the 1980s certainly remember how the crashing agricultural economy affected rural communities. High profile acts of violence were often linked to farm foreclosures and financial stress.
They found that 913 male farmers in the region committed suicide during that decade, with rates peaking in 1982 at 58 suicides for every 100,000 male farmers and ranchers.
Rates among the general population were around 31 suicides per 100,000 white males over the age of 20 during that same time period.
Compare that with this year’s CDC report, which found that current national suicide rates for people working in agriculture are 84.5 per 100,000 overall, and 90.5 per 100,000 among males.Janssen points out the obvious from this comparison: suicide rates among male farmers are now more than 50% higher than they were in 1982, when the farm crisis peaked.
Janssen notes the availability of several resources, namely the Iowa Concern Hotline and the Nebraska Farm Crisis Hotline.
Sadly, I have not seen any major news organization pick up this story, even as so-called "deaths of despair"--which include suicides--continue to garner considerable national attention.