Tennessee gets serious about preventing suicide among the state's farmers

Jan 11, 2019

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  Suicides are on the rise nationwide and here in Tennessee. A University of Michigan study says suicides have more than doubled since 2000.

The State of Tennessee is responding. It recently agreed to keep a more accurate count of suicides by joining a national violent death reporting system managed by the Centers for Disease Control.

Credit cdc.gov

The State also recently partnered with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network to form a task force focused exclusively on suicide in Tennessee’s farm community.

Middle Tennessee State Ag professor Chaney Mosley is one of the new panel’s 17 members. He notes that farmers can be especially vulnerable to suicide. They spend a lot of time alone, work in a high-stress profession, and live in rural communities where mental health services are scarce.

Then there’s the social stigma surrounding suicide.

“There’s a stereotype associated with suicide. It’s not something that’s fun to talk about, and because of that it’s often not talked about. …so part of the prevention piece is trying to remove that stigma.”

Farm commodity prices have fallen sharply in recent years and ongoing trade disputes are making it difficult to plan ahead, but Dr. Mosely points out that farming has always been a challenge.

“They don’t often always have control over the commodity prices, they don’t have control over the weather, they don’t have control over consumer perspectives…so a lot of the farmer’s livelihood is impacted by factors they have no control over.”

Dr. Mosely was led to join the Tennessee Farmers Suicide Prevention Task Force by bitter experience. He recently had a student attempt to take his own life.