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The documentary "On the Farm," produced by MSU Films, is shown during a screening at USDA headquarters during a farm stress and suicide prevention briefing. (Photo submitted)

Mississippi State University Film Ignites Farm Stress Conversation

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

Stress-related mental health issues present a very real risk among the nation’s farming and ranching families. The challenges of the industry are often amplified by the economy and multiple factors that producers have no control over.

According to the National Rural Health Association, farm owners, managers and workers have the highest rates of death due to stress-related diseases. The profession also has the 4th highest rate of suicide of any profession in the U.S. Supported by funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Mississippi State University (MSU) has produced a film illustrating the stress associated with farming through the personal stories of four farmers. 

The film was shown as part of a recent farm stress and suicide prevention briefing held at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

“Storytelling through film can be a very useful tool for public health education. It grabs people’s minds and hearts, and that can lead to change,” said Dr. David Buys, Mississippi State Extension Health Specialist.

The film’s production was funded in part through NIFA’s Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). Dr. Edwin Lewis, NIFA’s national program leader for FRSAN, said innovative projects like the Mississippi film are crucial to connecting farmers, ranchers and others in the industry to stress assistance programs. 

“Hearing fellow farmers talk honestly about the challenges of stress on their mental and overall health can be an important catalyst for other farmers to reach out for support,” said Lewis.

Dr. Mary Nelson Robertson, an MSU assistant professor who is actively involved in the project, said the FRSAN network is vital to farmers. 

“This network allows us to check in with farmers and connect them to stress assistance—in other words, taking care of the farmers who take care of us,” she said.

MSU, Alcorn State University and the University of Tennessee are working together to learn directly from farmers about how the current farming situation is impacting them directly and to connect them with resources and other assistance.

Read more about this project and one of the farmers featured.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture economics and rural communities
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