I was depressed once—with a capital “D”—and I never want to be that sick again. I got professional help, and I’m thankful I did.
At Ag Days in Brandon last month I was privileged to hear my colleague Gerry Friesen share his depression story with a room full of farmers. Gerry is part of the group in Manitoba who, along with the Manitoba Farm Stress Line (1-877-367-3276 and www.ruralstress.ca), are promoting Farmer to Farmer workshops in Brandon on February 16 and 18. Gerry Friesen and I are mediators for the Farm Debt Mediation Service. We also both have experienced depression and aren’t afraid to talk about it. As mediators, we witness the depressing effects of long-term financial strain.
As a farm family coach this winter I have referred clients for counseling. Counseling is about recovery, and coaching is about discovery. My role as a coach is to facilitate tough conversations about new choices, options and scenarios for the farm family’s future communication plan, succession plan, and lifestyle plan. I am not a therapist or psychologist.
Just this morning I worked with a cattle producer who conceded that counseling is what he really needs to be able to cope with his business partner and the lack of courage to stand up for what he needs.
“Counseling is not what I am willing to do!” you say. Fine. Stay stuck where you are. Quit blaming others for your anger, sleeplessness and lack of joy in your life.
When Gerry Friesen was pouring out his insights he thanked his best friend for sticking with him and helping him see that he needed counseling for his depression.
Some of you don’t know who your doctor is because it has been a very long time since you have seen one. Why are you not taking better physical care of yourself? Doctors can diagnose depression quickly with a series of questions. My doctor friend also is a healing counselor, and she counsels patients while she also deals with their physical needs.
Who can you trust for counseling?
Professional counselors follow a code of ethics. As a certified coach, and a member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (www.cafanet.com), I also follow a code of ethics. I would encourage you to talk to your friends and see if they have found success with counselors. You can also go to www.paccc.ca to search for a Christian counselor near you. One of the farmers at Ag Days confessed that he wasn’t “religious” like me, but he felt I still had good things to say! Here’s a list of possibilities to seek out counseling:
- Your clergy or pastor. Our pastor has a Masters in counseling.
- The Mental Health Worker. I visited ours in the fall when I had a grief and loss issue that was affecting my health. My doctor referred me. All this is confidential, and you don’t need to be embarrassed about asking for help. My worker recommended reading Feeling Good… the New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns. This book talks about drug-free ways to treat depression and cope with the stresses and strains of daily living.
- Professional counselors will charge you a flat fee or may have a sliding scale based on your income. My farming friend found a fabulous counselor whom I refer many stressed out folks to. She also has empowered her children to seek out therapy, which has saved the family farm.
- Google “farm family counselor” and you’ll find tons of resources to encourage you online.
- Connect with your best friend who cares enough about your well-being to go with you to your appointments, help contact resources to make a referral or just provide check-ins to follow-up your mental health visits.
Why can’t other people change?
Farmers who are stuck typically can’t admit that they have to take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. If you want ideas on managing stubborn farmers, go to my agri-webinar at www.agriwebinar.com. The cattle producer I chatted with today had a tough time admitting that counseling was probably the best plan of attack on his situation. His spouse was tired of things not changing for the better. He is tired of being treated unfairly and is not sure why he can’t stand up for what he thinks is right.
When folks get some help for depression, loss, and poor self-esteem they can learn new ways to cope and use healthy boundaries to make life better.
Gerry Friesen and I have learned a lot about depression. We both don’t ever want to be that sick again, and we will take steps to stay mentally healthy. I want you to talk to someone about your stress and frustration. If you choose to do nothing, that is your decision. If you choose to get help through counseling, you will have to be willing to do the work of getting better.
I am concerned about hog and cattle producers who have been under chronic financial stress for far too long. As a friend of a livestock producer, can you commit to reaching out to encourage them with practical resources?
I am also concerned about the tired, aging farm women who are in conflict with husbands who can’t see themselves not farming. I am not saying you have to quit farming, I am saying you have to consider your options for changing the roles you have now, and consider moving, finding new hobbies, and learning how to relax and have fun with your wife.
If you are uncomfortable with what I have written, that may not be a bad thing. Workaholics who get queasy when told they need better relationships and more relaxation may be stubborn about seeking counseling. You can blame me. Just say, “Here read this. Elaine Froese says you need to go for counseling. She goes, too.”
Remember, it’s Your farm. Your family. Your choice. Be well.