This story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
LOGANVILLE, Wis. — Randy Roecker has found the best way to help farmers struggling with a mental health crisis is to open up about his own struggles.
Roecker runs Roecker’s Rolling Hills, LLC., in Loganville. He said he’d been farming since the early 1980s.
In 2006, he decided to invest in expanding the farm. Then the recession of 2008 hit, leaving Roecker concerned he’d lose it all.
“I never thought I would have depression, but that’s when it hit me and it was something I struggled with and I couldn’t pull out of it,” Roecker said.
He said he fell into a deep depression and needed intensive mental health treatment to get better. After all that pain and suffering, Roecker found the strength to help others.
“I think this is my calling,” he said. “Some things happen in life and for some reason, I went through this struggle myself, and I’m just there now to help other people deal with this.”
Roecker helped establish the Farmer Angel Network. The organization acts as a safe place for farmers to feel comfortable opening up about their mental health.
“Farmers are tough and they’re very independent, and that’s why it’s a struggle to get them to open up about their problems and we’re making it okay to talk about this,” he said. “There’s such a stigma around mental health that we just want to let people know that it’s okay to talk about this and that we’re there for each other, we’re there listening to you, we can help you.”
Roecker said farmers today face many challenges with input costs skyrocketing and market volatility all weighing heavily on their minds. He said farmers struggling to stay afloat can easily fall into a deep, dangerous depression.
“You feel you’re letting your family down and that’s what farmers struggle with so much is this legacy that they have,” Roacker said.
He said his number one goal is to prevent farmer suicide. Roecker said his hope is that by sharing his story, he’ll encourage farmers throughout the world to speak up and get help.
“The Farmer Angel Network, we can connect you with the resources. We work with the farm crisis center in Madison. There’s vouchers available for some free counseling,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. We’re always there for you.”
Farmers struggling with mental health issues can visit https://www.facebook.com/FarmerAngelNetwork/. They can also call the 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline at 1-888-901-2558.