Mental Health Month by Jaclyn Wilson


It was another twelve plus hour day of ranch work. Yet, there still seems to be so many things that I ended up putting off till tomorrow or let’s be realistic-even the following day. Office work is piling up, cattle records need to be updated, I’m still not tagged up, pastures need to be gone through, and I did not get through one herd of heavies today which I know will cause me to wake up in the middle of the night. I have one calf that’s lying on the shop floor, bulls to sell, yearlings to truck out to grass, fence to fix, and the tail end of 2500 trees to plant. It’s tempting to just call it a day, grab a handful of caramel M&M’s from the parents’ house and head home as just thinking about it all is stressing me out.

Welcome to mental health month.

I’m not saying anything new when I tell farmers and ranchers that they are under a lot of stress. Input costs are high, markets are all over the place, Mother Nature is being hormonal, family operations are bickering, labor is tough to find, there is a lack of doing things for oneself, environmental exposures, and it seems like quite a few of my ag. acquaintances are either drinking Red Bull or Busch Light out of a John Deere aluminum, which can really hamper one’s diet.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in everything and forget we only have one body, one brain, and one life.

Our mental health is the toughest, most challenging topic to talk about, especially for those of us in agriculture. Throw in the lack of resources in rural Nebraska, and the battle becomes even tougher. So, where do we even start? Something I have learned over the years is that mental health resources, at best, can be muddled and confusing.

The first thing I recommend to people is analyze. Do I notice certain things ‘set’ off rounds of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues? There are a multitude of triggers ranging from hormone imbalances, medication side effects, toxicity, caffeine, blood sugar, negative thinking, social settings, stress, or personal triggers that may cause you to remember a bad memory or traumatic experience in your life. Anxiety and depression are not just a mental issue only but can easily have an underlying cause that could be challenging to fix with just an anti-depressant.

For years, I had anxiety-like symptoms for no reason, after an appointment with a Functional Medicine Doctor it was finally determined that my body was overly sensitive to molds and metals and was not able to ‘detox’ itself without assistance from binders like charcoal or bentonite. Now, it’s just a matter of understanding to prevent those symptoms, I must be extra cautious around the silage pit, or if I’m welding, to make sure and have plenty of air flow or pop a couple charcoal pills when I’m finished. We are exposed to many outside things every single day, and sometimes something so simple can wreak havoc within our body.

Functional Medicine does a great job of trying to determine the ‘root’ of the problem. Is there something in our daily lives we could change without having to fill a prescription? Many times there is, and by utilizing supplements, changing our eating and exercising habits, and doing things like meditation or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), it can be a game changer without prescription intervention.

For those situations we cannot control, there are a multitude of treatments that can be individualized for the patient. Treatments like Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), or ketamine infusions can work above and beyond when an antidepressant just won’t fix the problem, or the side effects of antidepressants are too much for an individual to handle.

If there have been certain traumatic events in life or things that you ‘just can’t get over’, I highly recommend Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Last year, I had a great friend and fellow Nebraska Cattlemen member recommend EMDR to help relieve severe PTSD after a business partner and friend was killed on an ATV while helping me move cattle. I thought I was handling it okay, but as soon as I was out in a pasture with someone else on an ATV or a UTV, I would start dripping sweat, go into panic mood, and couldn’t focus on the job at hand because I was too concerned about their safety. Fortunately, EMDR helped me overcome that, and today I’m constantly sharing our ranch with new interns and visitors where I feel comfortable putting them on an ATV without the gut-wrenching panic and flashbacks. EMDR is successful in helping those that have suffered through traumatic events, including veterans, or even specific fears (such as flying).

So, the point of all of this? There are options. The toughest part of knowing something isn’t right is how to go about ‘fixing it’. Hopefully if you are struggling, this will give you some thought processes on things to investigate or start exploring. If you are experiencing a crisis, reach out! I can guarantee all of us have struggled in a situation at some point in our lives. The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline (1-800-464-0258) can provide no-cost vouchers to help.

I would not be where I am today if there weren’t a couple of individuals throughout the last year and a half that didn’t take the extra effort to go above and beyond in checking in and asking how I was doing. If you need that shoulder or that support system, please don’t hesitate to reach out as mental health should be at the forefront of everything that we do. It has become a personal mission of mine to share what I’ve learned so we can have constructive conversations that people can learn from and hopefully change the future of what mental health awareness looks like in Nebraska.

This is not an easy topic, and many times there may not be an easy solution. By having open and candid conversations not only during Mental Health month, but every month, we can hope the day will come when those in ag will not have one of the highest suicide rates out of all occupations.  I’m just an email away if I can help- you are not in this alone.

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