Blue Dogs Endorse Bipartisan Bill to Address Farmer Suicide Crisis
The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition has endorsed H.R. 5259, Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act, which makes mental health treatment more available for farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers. Due to the nature of their work and the lack of mental health treatment available, these individuals suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide. The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control found rates of suicide among farmers are the highest of any occupation in the United States.
Specifically, the STRESS Act will reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) to give states needed resources to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers. Though the program was first authorized in 2008, it did not receive funding and therefore lapsed. The STRESS Act will renew FRSAN, restoring our nation's attention to Americans in farming who are disproportionately affected by high rates of suicide. The bipartisan STRESS Act was introduced last month by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), Rep. David Young (R-IA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. John Faso (R-NY) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME).
“Our farmers, ranchers, and agriculture producers are some of the hardest working men and women in the nation, and they wear that badge with pride,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Chair of the Blue Dog Special Task Force on Rural America. “We have a responsibility to support the folks who put food on our table and clothes on our back. As farmers across America are in the midst of a suicide crisis, we have to recognize the stresses that are unique to their livelihood: from social isolation to dependence on factors, like the weather, that are outside of their control and affect their harvest. Those factors combined with the lack of access to mental health treatment have only compounded the suicide crisis. By investing in comprehensive behavioral and mental health services for our farmers, the STRESS Act is a good first step to curb this alarming trend in our rural communities.”
“The STRESS Act is a bipartisan, commonsense solution that will deliver real results to our country’s farmers,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications. “Every single American depends on American farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers for the necessary resources to live. We ought to support them just as much as they support the rest of us. That’s why Rep. O’Halleran and the Blue Dog Special Task Force on Rural America are backing the bipartisan STRESS Act: to address the shortage of mental health services available in rural communities and provide the necessary support for the farmers facing these grave problems.”