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Published September 14, 2012, 12:00 AM

Mike Rosmann: Tips for addressing drought-related stress

Harvest is already taking place in many locations, or is not happening because drought left little to harvest.

Harvest is already taking place in many locations, or is not happening because drought left little to harvest.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) August 2012 Bulletin listed four articles about coping with drought-related stress. Interested persons can subscribe to the SAMHSA DTAC Bulletin at their website, www.samhsa.gov/dtac/resources.asp.

I commend the SAMHSA DTAC for their timely listing of resources for dealing with drought-related stress, as I drew upon these publications for this article.

Two of the four resources were authored by Dr. Bob Fetsch of the Colorado State University Extension Service. Bob and I have known each other for many years and have worked together on several projects.

Besides having similar professional interests, Bob and I both have Germanic and farming backgrounds – his at Muenster, Texas, and mine near the western Iowa community of Westphalia. Our two communities share some of the same family names, extended kin and traditions.

The founders of Westphalia, Iowa, Emil and Carl Flusche, also founded Muenster and the towns of Westphalia, Kansas, Michigan and Missouri, plus four more towns in North Texas.

Here are tips from Managing Stress during Tough Times by Fetsch, which is available at http://tinyurl.com/bvse4r6.

- Resilient people re-frame and adjust their thinking and reactions away from a sense of lack and toward a sense of options.

- There is always more than one option to solve any problem.

- Stress and depression cause farmers and rural residents to have an increased risk for substance abuse problems, farm accidents, injuries and suicide.

- Depression and stress during tough times, like drought, often result in conflicts with spouses and poor parenting practices that may cause problems for youth in school achievement, peer relations, antisocial behavior, self-confidence, depression and substance misuse.

- As more people reach out for support, usually more self-help groups, support groups and crisis services such as hot lines are created.

- Depression, substance misuse, lack of social support, and access to a fire-arm are among the top predictors of suicide.

Fetsch offers additional tips in Making Decisions and Coping Well with Drought, which is available at http://tinyurl.com/8t39en3.

- There are at least three ways families can make decisions in their family meetings – autocratically, democratically and by consensus.

- Reaching consensus is useful with major family decisions. However, it may be too time-consuming to use with smaller decisions where an autocratic or democratic decision-making strategy can suffice.

- When one person has all the power in decision-making, others may feel discounted or disenfranchised.

- Intergenerational families that use a consensus decision-making strategy show improved family functioning, family satisfaction, self-esteem and family coping

Farmers and ranchers are in an unpredictable era. We are uncertain when to sell livestock and crops. We don’t usually know yet what insurance will pay for and what forms of assistance will become available.

It is important to stay up-to-date with federal and state pronouncements concerning the drought. Disaster declarations and provisions sometimes change on a daily basis. Usually these announcements are available in letters and publications from the federal Farm Service Agency office for the county where the farm/ranch resides. Farm news broadcasts are a good source of information.

In some particularly hard-hit locales, community education and support programs may be initiated through the Extension Service, churches, and sometimes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency when a disaster rises to the level that individual assistance, including crisis counseling.

Disasters that rise to the level that FEMA assistance becomes available usually entail fires or other causes that seriously damage people’s lives and property. FEMA assistance does not accompany public assistance declarations, such as might be needed to repair public roads, power lines and infrastructure.

Crisis counseling only accompanies declarations that provide individual assistance. Radio, television, newspapers reports and local Extension offices are a good source of current information about drought counseling and other forms of individual assistance.

It’s easy to be self-critical, especially over decisions made earlier to sell crops ahead, when now the price has increased or the producer doesn’t have the grain to fulfill a contract. Talking now about the situation with family and those involved in the contract is a better coping strategy than putting it off.


Rosmann is a psychologist and farmer. He can be contacted through the website, www.agbehavioralhealth.com.

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