I was scrolling through Twitter recently and the tweet at the top happened to be from a farmer in southwest Kansas. To the effect it said, "No farm or land is worth your family. Get a job, file bankruptcy if you have to. Don't do this to your loved ones. There IS life after farming." He shared a link to a Washington Post article about calls to suicide hotlines around the country are rising.
Take the time to read about Amber and Chris Dykshorn of South Dakota, and how she's picking up the pieces after her husband took his own life. It's heartbreaking but worth to read to the end.
Bankruptcy and mental health aren't something people openly talk about. Together or separate they are topics people don't often willingly share. It's almost like they're dirty words. But they're not.
In my mind, bankruptcy is used to describe someone who’s failed financially or when the world's failed them. In the case of the article, someone who's tried and not succeeded in this game we call farming. But now after all Mother Nature has dealt farmers and ranchers, bankruptcy could be a fresh start for some.
Farming was all I'd ever known. My parents and paternal grand parents were farmers. My maternal grandparents had a dairy farm at some point. I was raised on the family farm, and thankfully my Mom still lives there.
In my immediate family, there was a dark time we never really talked about. A time when we gathered around the kitchen table and my parents told us the news and what was going to happen. I thought it was the end of the world. It wasn't, but for a teenaged girl, it sure felt like it. There were hushed conversations and loud, blowout fights. We all knew something was bad.
My parents eventually did sell out in 2003 and it was hard as hell for me to say my Dad was no longer a farmer. For the man who practically lived outdoors from sunup to sundown, most of the time covered in dirt and grease, it was an adjustment. It was an adjustment for us to see him leave the house at 7:30 and be home by 5:30. It was an adjustment for him too I’m sure.
Even though he wasn't a bonafide farmer any longer, he'd still watch the weather religiously and record rains in his little black book. He'd still read the Journal and look at tractors and pickups on Saturday mornings.
When he had heart surgery in 2006, we were thankful he had a "town" job because it meant he had health insurance. It meant he could get the care he needed and could get better. If he were still farming, he probably would have died on the tractor or in the field. I honestly think he wouldn't have managed to live to 70 if it hadn't been for his job in town.
My family somehow managed to survive the dark time. We survived Dad leaving us in 2017. We survived the Starbuck fire. We survived the upheaval of the Scott side of the family too.
Through all the tribulations of my family and farming, I do know one thing. Nothing is worth taking your life over. No situation is the same and I'm no expert, but I've had my share of heartache and grief. I've been in debt up to my eyeballs and slowly dug my way out. Where there is a will there's a way.
And so what if bankruptcy is an option? Get out; get out from under that mountain of debt and stress. Get a different job and get a fresh perspective. There's ways to get back into farming if that's really, truly where your heart and passion lie.
I know the land may have been in the family for generations. I've teetered on the brink of feeling like it was going to slip out of our grip. But those generations ahead of us worked tirelessly for every thing they had in a totally different world than the one we currently live in. In recent years farmers and ranchers have relied on banks, loans or even credit cards just to make it work. It's pretty darn easy to get in way over your head.
It's easy to think you can do it all without any help. It's easy to stuff your head in the sand and try to hide from the problems because "what will the neighbors think," or "what if someone finds out." I struggle with these things because I've been there. We were the family the neighbors talked about (or probably still do).
But what I do know is those people who are truly your friends will love you no matter what the balance on your bank account is or the status of your business. They will love you no matter your occupation.
If you're struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide, talk. Talk to your spouse, your pastor or a trusted confidant. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
There's no shame in asking for help.