Some of you have been through the farm crisis of the 1980s and know what kind of stress that can add to your life. For others, the current economic plight is new territory.

The stress and potential depression that an economic crisis can add to agriculture is why Bill Heffernan, a University of Missouri rural sociologist, is on the lookout. He’s instructing extension workers who inter-act daily with farm families to be on the watch for signs of stress and depression.

“You can’t always deal with stress on your own,” says Heffernan. “Crisis requires support of family, friends and neighbors.
Depression requires professional counseling.”

Heffernan is advising everyone in rural communities to be aware and observant.

“Look for behavioral changes, such as withdrawal or mood swings,” says Heffernan. “If a farmer stops coming to the coffee shop or if a family suddenly stops coming to church, do some inquiring. Veterinarians, propane delivery drivers and rural mail carriers were among those who sometimes noticed changes in behavior during the 1980’s farm crisis.”

Heffernan advises people to talk about what’s going on in agriculture, in their own operation and how it all effects the community. He believes everyone in rural areas can be helpful.

In dealing with people in a crisis, it’s important to reach out because people in trouble are more likely to withdraw than to seek help.

“There is strong resistance to asking for help among rural people,” says Heffernan. “Likewise, there’s a strong tradition of not interfering in other people’s business. That independent nature in farming can lead to isolation that feeds depression.”