Suicide rates amongst farmers on the rise

Local News

Iowa (KCAU) – These days, the phone rings more often, but Mike Rosmann remains ready to listen. On the other line is the troubled and the desperate, talking about their problems is often the last thing they want to do.

Clinical psychologist, Michael Rosmann says, “Just this week, I have dealt with two persons already who have been struggling with suicide. In both cases, they have plans that they would carry out if they don’t find some kind of assistance or relief.”

Providing that relief is what Rosmann believes is his calling in life. Rosmann is one of the nation’s leading clinical psychologist specializing in the behavioral health of farmers. He receives calls and emails from farmers daily. 

“The number of people reaching out has been increasing. Practically all aspects of Iowa agriculture have been negatively impacted over the last four years,” says Rosmann.

Rosmann says low prices, tariffs, and a prolonged agricultural recession are taking a toll. 

“All of these pressures are mounting in the agricultural community,” said Rosmann.

Last March, Rosmann says, things went from bad to worse. The livelihoods of families farming along the Missouri River drowned in historic floods. Increasing concerns for the mental well-being of farmers.  

Events such as that and climbing farmer suicide rates have rural advocates, like Rosmann, gearing up for another disaster.

Rosmann says, “It’s a repeat of the farm crisis. The problem of financial well being is probably the greatest now that it has been since the farm crisis of the 1980’s.”

A time and a struggle Rosmann himself knows all too well. After years of plowing through privation, Rosmann’s family lost their farm during the farm crisis. It was a devastating loss that gave him a deeper understanding of the work he does today.

Rosmann says, “Being a farmer has made me a better psychologist because I understand from my own experiences what other farmers are going through. An immediate bond is established and there is trust.”

Since the 1980’s farm crisis, Rosmann says mental health experts have learned much more about how to support farmers. Implementing confidential crisis hotlines, training for advocates, and outreach services and activities. 

But, Rosmann says, even with all that’s been accomplished, sometimes it’s not enough. 

Rosmann says, “One circumstance where a person did end up undertaking suicide and I couldn’t help this person. I wish I could have.”

It’s moments like those when Rosmann’s own mental health is tested.

“Sometimes it is too much and I have to take care of myself. I have to practice what I encourage other people to do and that is to take breaks. To refresh my own emotional fuel tanks,” says Rosmann.

But no matter how emotionally draining the days can be, Rosmann says he will continue to fight, because if he doesn’t, then who will?

“Someone has to take care of farm people. They’re an endangered species and tend to not reach out for help well,” says Rosmann.

And while he can’t fix all of their problems, Rosmann says he’ll continue to work toward improving their vision. He is on a mission to help farmers see more clearly, recognizing their importance in this world far beyond the fields and pastures, devoting his life to helping struggling farmers continue to live theirs.

“I often hear from people that say you made the difference. I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for the help that you provided to me or my spouse. That’s very gratifying, but more importantly, it’s a teaching experience that we need to understand so we can duplicate it in other situations,” says Rosmann.

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