Last week a young Aussie farmer girl, who was only 19, died by suicide, which caught everyone in a spiral of pain and mourning. Caitlyn Loane was a farmer, livestock manager from Tasmania who shared her daily agricultural work-life on TikTok. Despite the unknown reasons that led Loane to suicide, the first question we should ask ourselves as human beings is: how much emotional responsibility do we have towards another person? How often do we ask, “how are you feeling”?
According to the article from 1999, British Journal of Psychiatry called Suicide in Farmers. Farmers are one of the occupational groups at greatest risk of suicide. As Malmberg, Simkin, and Hawton (1999) found, most suicides in farming “were the endpoint of a series of difficulties developing over time rather than a response to an acute crisis, and in this respect, farmers are no different from other people who commit suicide. The nature of farming, particularly when the farm is a family business, means that many problems are inevitably interconnected, and this may be more important for farmers than those in other occupations.” (p.103)
Sadly there is still a fantasy around farming in which life is perfect. Farmers have their bank accounts full of money because of the tractors, lands, farming machinery. And perhaps the dreaming lifestyle of freedom they tend to portrait. But is this “dreaming” lifestyle of freedom real or a mirage? Does someone ask them how they feel and listen to them with empathy?
Rudolph, Berg and Parsaik (2019), wrote that “agriculture has been identified as a stressful industry and there is evidence that chronic stress may contribute to the development or progression of mental health disorders, specifically anxiety and depression.” (p.1)
Agriculture is affected by multiple factors. Climatic adversity, market prices, or political uncertainties. Farm bankruptcies, demanding workloads, lack of social support from cooperatives, and finally, relational conflicts or sabotaging behaviors based on envy from family members or companies managers that provide support services to farmers. Mental health risks among this population are well-documented. However, protective factors remain somehow unknown. (Liang et al., 2021)
The crux of this reality lies in the fact that we, as a community, quit the responsibility of taking care of others emotionally. Nowadays, the superficial and unapologetic selfish behavior of only liking someone else on social media. Or discard them at the first sign of stress is destroying the purity of human connection. Everyone wants to vomit their lives to somebody else, but few are the ones who possess ears, time, and empathy to listen to you, not to respond but to comprehend.
My question is: What a fuck are we doing?
I know the Agriculture Industry like the palm of my hand. I have worked as a farming manager for the last ten years. Prior generations from both sides of my family worked their entire lives in this business, and yes, not everyone can face the stressful farming peculiarities.
Let’s be honest. The problem isn’t the activity itself. But the lack of responsibility or attunement. And finally, the prevalent cowardice and emotional illiteracy from those around. Many individuals are running companies without the intellectual or scholarly capacity to do so. Add to this stubbornness, inflexibility, and the delusional or fictionary pride of “I know it all or I know more than you”.
Cooperatives are created by and for farmers, but are farmers the ones who run the cooperative? Or are cooperatives being run by people who are literally eating what belongs to farmers?
About Farm bankruptcies, what kind of farm loan programmers are out there? What about the fees to pay? How much will they pay and when? And law? Does the law system protect farmers and farming activities correctly?
Agriculture is a fragile business, and farmers don’t have support.
After ten years of working on lands, I left, not because agriculture was a nightmare. But because I couldn’t handle any longer the system ambiguity, crazy people with constant sabotaging behavior, and my health and emotional safety were under threat.
It is ok to say no and to let it go. It’s ok to stop, regroup and start again somewhere else. It is ok to call people out because of their erratic behavior.
Suicide has an inherent message for all of us, which is: “I lived as long as I could, but my emotional pain and its secrecy was robbing me of the magical joy of living.”
Farmers are resilient, strong, and mature folks. Although my life would be a fantastic “novel”, the lessons I took from it are far greater and can’t remain only on a piece of paper. I’m not sure, either, if folks outside of this business can fully understand what we went through, despite their best efforts. Whether way, resiliency also means the power to leave when things go roughly.
As Samuel Beckett wrote: “Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good.”
For this reason, my final message is: Don’t confuse reality with social media and always ask people around how they are genuinely feeling. Chose carefully and wisely who you want in your life, and be sure that in times of need, they will be there for you entirely. Someone who stays by your side during tough times is someone to keep and nurture forever.
Caitlyn was too young to die. Think about it!
Liang, Y., Wang, K., Janssen, B., Casteel, C., Nonnenmann, M., Rollmann, D. (2021). Examination of Symptoms of depression among cooperative dairy farmers. Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 3657, pp. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073657
Rudolphi, J.M., Berg, R.L. & Parsaik, A. (2020). Depression, Anxiety and Stress Among Young Farmers and Ranchers: A Pilot Study. Community Meant Health J 56, pp. 126–134. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-019-00480-y