Ashley Machado, MSW PPSC
Ashley Machado Inc
Rosa Storelli Photography
Article originally appeared in our Fall 2022 Issue of Trailblazher Magazine available to purchase here.
Did you know that by industry Agriculture leads the nation in suicide? Sometimes, I find myself thinking, “Wow, how did we get here?” Then I pause and think about it – the uncertainty in the weather, low profit margins, high levels of borrowing, the lack of mental health support and resources in rural North America, the non-stop work of someone in the ag industry, and the shame that is associated with mental health struggles, it makes sense that 1 in 5 people struggle with mental health illness in rural North America. Honestly, it’s probably more than that because the statistic is based on the people who are sharing how they feel, and it doesn’t include everyone who chooses to keep their mental health struggles a secret.
I’ve been asked how we change this statistic and I’m not sure I have the full answer, I think it’s more complex than it is simple. However, I do believe that if we start to show support to the people whom we love, that we know are struggling, we can slowly begin to break the stigma that is associated with mental health in rural areas and normalize talking about things like anxiety, stress, depression, feelings, emotions and behaviors. So, here are 4 tips on how to support your loved ones struggling with their mental health.
Take Care of and Find Support For Yourself
I know, I know it can be hard to find time for ourselves, but in order to show up for our loved ones we have to show up for ourselves. We can’t help unless we’re in a healthy place first. There are a handful of ways you can do this. Here are some ideas: Journaling, taking screen free walks in nature while you process your emotions, breathing exercises, taking a bath, gardening, and meditation. It’s important to remember the goal for self-care isn’t to escape the emotions rather than it is to process them. When we escape the emotions, they end up piling up and then spilling out at a time where it’s rather unhelpful. So, what we want to do is process them, and maybe it would work better for you to talk with someone close to you, or seek out your own therapist yourself, you don’t have to feel alone.
Understand Your Spouse’s Mental Health Struggles
Understanding and learning about what your loved ones’ mental health struggles look and feel like will help you to be aware of what they’re experiencing. Support looks different for someone experiencing depression versus someone experiencing anxiety and this will help you show up in a supportive way. Talking with your loved one, ask them what it feels like, and what triggers them, and what their personal experience is with their mental health. As long as they approve, you can talk with your loved ones’ counselor. You can also research, find resources and support groups to help you learn more about what your loved one is walking through.
Find Joy in Your Relationship Outside of the Mental Health Struggles
Mental health struggles can consume relationships. Understand that this is something your loved one is walking through and instead of matching their emotions and feelings while letting it consume you, stand separately in support of them. In addition, keep checking in on them, inviting them to places, and doing things together that both of you enjoy and have in common. This will help you to continue creating memories together.
Have Open Communication with Your Partner
In my opinion, open communication is going to be one of, if not the most important thing, in this relationship. A lot of people who have a relationship with someone struggling with their mental health often feel like they are walking on eggshells or worried that they might say something to upset their partner. That can be so hard, but it’s important to meet your partner where they are at and communicate how you feel. Two things can be true, you can communicate how you’re feeling and be supportive.
Here’s a communication recipe I like to follow:
**They’ll say yes and feel seen and heard or say no and you’ll get another chance, but they’ll see that you’re trying.
I hope you find some help and value in these suggestions. Stay with it and remember to take care of and find support for yourself as well.
Ashley Machado grew up in the dairy industry and is now the wife to a calf rancher/almond farmer in California. She has a B.A in Human Development and a Masters in Social Work, with an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health. Machado is rethinking the way we support Mental Health in the ag industry and specializes in breaking down big ideas and deep feelings into simple and actionable strategies for ag families and businesses. Her goal is for everyone in the ag industry and rural America to have the tools they need in their mental health toolbox to live life fully.
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