Staggering Suicide Numbers: Why Farmers in America Are Killing Themselves

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found a disturbing trend in what is generally viewed as a more idyllic and "simpler" life — farmers, fishermen and foresters have been dying off with the highest overall suicide rates, looking at data from 17 states. One reason being considered is the economic struggles facing farmers today.

The suicide rate, when compared across different occupational groups, showed that those engaged in farming, fishing and forestry were more than five times as likely to commit suicide than the general population. In a country that has seen its suicide rates soar by as much as 30 percent since 1999, it's a figure that adds up quickly.

Specifically, about 84.5 per 100,000 of those in agriculture have killed themselves according to reported figures. Although the study left out quite a few of the larger farming states like Iowa, it still supported other studies that suicides in the rural areas were among those that have been the fastest rising causes of deaths in the U.S., as CBS News noted.

Hard times for farmers seem to be one of the root causes. Farm advocates have compared this recent trend with the farming crisis that also resulted in a spike in farmer suicides in the 1980s.

"I think it's actually worse," Jennifer Fahy, communications director with farmer advocate group Farm Aid. "We're hearing from farmers on our hotline that farmer stress is extremely high," she continued.

"Every time there's more uncertainty around issues around the farm economy is another day of phones ringing off the hook," she added, noting that aside from the extreme pressure farmers are experiencing right now, the agriculture economy, in general, is "very precarious," with no improvements to be seen in the near future.

"When there are steps in place to address the root cause, which is usually financial and legal, the stress becomes manageable," Fahy offered.

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