Local Hawaii Farmers Struggle With Depression, Study Shows

Local farmers age 45 years or younger are welcoming 2023 facing mental stress. According to a recent study, 47% of local Hawaii farmers have experienced depression while 14% struggled with suicidal thoughts.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources conducted the study as part of a broader federal mandate and funding focusing on farmers mental health.

“This study validated a lot of what we’ve already observed in the field, but also bore a bumper crop of details and gems that will really help us serve our local ag workers,” said Thao Le, principal investigator of the study and director of the “Seeds of Wellbeing” (SOW) project.

“One of the biggest surprise was that who reported using professional help to cope faired worst which is contrary to what we expected.”

There are several programs underway including a program that will focus on the relational components and wellbeing of farmers. The Agriculture Mental Health Mentors program hope to educate and provide tools, care and support to make farmers feel confident in “talk stories” about mental health.

“If we want to make sure we have a next generation of farmers and ranchers in Hawaii, we need to be paying close attention to their mental and emotional health,” Le said.

The SOW project has produced a series of video and audio podcasts, and mental health prevention guides for farmers called Coll Mind Main Thing.  There is also a media campaign to increase the public’s respect and appreciation for farmers and ranchers called Malama The Farmer.

For more information, visit manoa.hawaii.edu/sow-well/.

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