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The Challenges of Farming and Ranching: Identifying the Signs of Depression

August 15, 2016

When weather conditions impact farming and ranching, producers can experience large amounts of stress. A normal amount of stress can be productive; however, abnormal amounts of stress can be harmful both physically and emotionally. With the drought that is currently impacting producers, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression.

Individuals engaged in agricultural careers may have a higher risk of developing mental health illnesses.1 It has been suggested that approximately 20% of farmers may suffer from depression.2 Several signs exist that indicate a farmer or rancher may be suffering from depression. For example, the farmer or rancher may change his or her routine, may experience more colds or chronic physical conditions, may stop taking care of his or her farm and livestock, or may experience more injuries due to fatigue or lack of concentration.3

Symptoms of Depression
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression as family members and community members can help provide support and resources. Symptoms of depression may include: 4

  • Decreased concentration, memory, and ability to make decisions
  • Feelings of sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, and restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Angry outbursts, irritability
  • Issues with sleep – insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Issues with eating – overeating or appetite loss
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as persistent aches and pains (e.g. headaches, cramps, digestive problems, etc.)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities or hobbies, including sex
  • Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts

How can you help?
Family members, friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances can help by being aware of the agencies and resources that are available within the community. Various resources may include crisis counseling (e.g. phone hotlines), visiting with a medical provider or mental health practitioner (e.g. counselor, social worker, psychologist), and visiting with local clergy.

South Dakota has a suicide prevention helpline that has staff on-call 24 hours per day. You can contact the helpline at 605.339.8599. Additional resources in South Dakota can be found at the South Dakota Suicide Prevention website.

Source: Andrea Bjornestad, South Dakota State University 


  1. Weigel, R. R. & Weigel, D. J. (1987). Identifying stressors and coping strategies in two-generation farm families. Family Relations, 36, 379-384.
  2. DeArmond, S. E., Stallones, L., Chen, P. Y., & Sintek, E. E. (2005). Depression and somatic symptoms within the farming community. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, 12(1), 5-15.
  3. Williams, R. (n.d.). Stress and depression in farm or ranch families. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Depression (major depressive disorder): symptoms. Retrieved November 24, 2014.