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February 28, 2018

As Milk Prices Continue Their Slow Grind, Discussing Mental Health Is Critical

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

It’s not a discussion anybody wants to have, but the reality is that the slow, grinding milk price has left many farmers feeling desperate, some even considering suicide. Unfortunately in farm country there’s a stigma around depression that more often than not leads to silent suffering and sometimes suicide. That’s why Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative in the Northeast has taken a proactive approach by offering all of their producers information about depression and suicide.

In a letter dated February 1 the cooperative, which supplies milk to Cabot and McCadam, outlined several state specific suicide prevention programs and announced they would be putting together their own program specifically for their members.

Daniel J. Reidenberg, managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention, told NPR “talking about suicide does help more than it hurts.” He says Agri-Mark did the right and brave thing to start the discussion.

“I am so proud of my Co-op and of our farmer Board of Directors for being brave enough to start this conversation with our member owners,” says Maine dairy farmer Jenni Tilton-Flood. “Our staff, our farmers, our entire family and industry is stronger when we speak about the things that take so much from us just to be kept hidden away.”

There has been a host of harsh criticism of the letter. Some say it “isn’t enough” to solve the problem. While she admits it isn’t a silver bullet, Tilton-Flood says knows too well the ramifications of silent suffering and the unbearable sadness that goes on and on, hidden by stigma and fear. She says she completely supports the cooperative’s efforts.

“Not just their efforts towards shining a light on the much too often dark place of mental health and well-being (which is an issue in good times AND bad), but the efforts of our farmer board of directors and our staff as they work towards increasing and ensuring the profitability and sustainability of our farms and our business,” she says.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: The nonprofit suicide prevention hotline is available in all states by calling 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The Lifeline is committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals.