Skip to Main Content

Purdue Farm Stress Team: Helping Hoosiers at Home

Farming can be a very stressful occupation with many uncertainties and uncontrollable factors such as unpredictable weather, equipment breakdowns, time constraints, and financial markets, that cause stress in the lives of farmers and farm families. In 2021, a National American Farm Bureau Poll conducted by Morning Consult found: 52% of rural adults and 61% farmers/farm workers were experiencing more stress and mental health challenges compared to the previous year. When our bodies are stressed, we do not recognize the difference between psychological and physical threats. As a result, our bodies respond in the same way as to something we perceive as negative, overwhelming, and/or threatening. "Each person reacts differently to stress, but some common symptoms of chronic stress include changes in a person’s sleep patterns, fluctuation in a person’s weight, fatigue, restlessness, and physical health conditions such as headaches, ulcers, or high blood pressure. Besides the physical effects, stress can also hinder interpersonal relationships at work and home". ( In addition to stress on the farmers and farm families, those who work directly with farmers through entities such as agribusiness, are often left feeling helpless in how to help farmers and farm families. This leads to a secondary stress for agribusiness workers.

Many steps have to occur in order for a farmer or farm family to recognize their stress is negatively impacting their daily lives and/or relationships. In 2021, the Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team conducted farm focus groups with farmers across the state of Indiana. Impressions from the focus groups are as follows: Participants noted how hard it is to ask for help, the traits typical of farms are being fixers who always know what to do or say, they feel ashamed that they cannot “fix” it themselves, if someone reached out to them first, and noticed their stress, that might be different, would seek help from pastors or others who knew and understood farming such as other farmers, families in 4-H, FFA, Ag teacher, neighbor, and were most concerned with making sure that person understands farming and can be trusted with confidentiality.

Care is most effective and well-received when it is culturally appropriate and meets the needs of the patient. In a policy statement, the National Association for Rural Mental Health notes that, rural mental health service providers have many disadvantages in comparison to their urban counterparts including a “lack of training programs in rural mental health” which contribute to the disparity of care available to farmers and rural communities ( Because of a “fix it” mentality and a lack of training in healthcare settings, the chances of farmers waiting to seek help increases. If a farmer or farm family waits until they are in crisis, the need for culturally competent counselors and crisis call center employees is imminent. Unique considerations must be made when responding to crisis events in rural and farming communities regarding potential lethal means, such as increased access to firearms and access to medications.

Purdue’s Farm Stress team has taken several methods to approach rural care and mental health wellness across Indiana.  In 2023, 345 new Crisis call center employees (988 call centers), mental health care workers, farmers, farm families, and/or agribusiness employees participated in educational programming to help explain the unique qualities of farmers and the stress they undergo.

Tools for Today’s Farmers is a podcast series you can find on your favorite streaming service.  This podcast seeks to share important information, tools, and hope through interview with experts in Agriculture and special guests from Purdue University.  Notable guests have included: Coach Painter, Max Armstrong, Randy Krohn, Ted McKinney, Zippy Duvall, Derrick Josi (TDF Honest Farming) and many others! The podcast has released 47 episodes since its debut in 2020 reaching 4,073 plays.

Lastly, seven billboard campaigns began in June of 2023 that reached over 4.2 million impressions in communities with statistically high farmer suicide rates. DeKalb County was able to host one of these billboards on 327 just south of the Blue Moon restaurant.

If you would like more information about the Purdue Farm Stress Team and services we can provide, please visit:

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity institution.


To Top