In honor of Mental Health Month, we talk with a former grower who uses his past struggles with suicide to help others today.
The suicide rate among farmers is three and a half times higher than the general population. It’s a shocking statistic.
We’re losing good people, but we don’t have to.
From weather to markets, to prices, to the issues that come with a family business, farmers face a number of stressors that are unique to their occupation. And in rural America, suicide rates increased 46% from 2000-2020, compared to 27.3% in metro areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So one of the National Corn Growers Association action teams is working with partners across the industry to spread the message that saying something could mean everything. In this episode, two of those partners share their stories and their expertise.
Jeff Ditzenberger is a former grower from southern Wisconsin who uses his past struggles with suicide to help other people today. He travels around the country delivering his outspoken message that, “It’s okay to not be okay.”
And Dr. Josie Rudolphi is an Associate Professor in the University of Illinois School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering with expertise in not only mental health, but its specific impacts in agricultural populations.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please share one of these important resources we discuss in this episode:
- 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- 1-800-447-1985, The Iowa Concern Hotline, a resource serving the agricultural community nationwide
- FarmStress.org, a central clearinghouse for mental health and financial resources for American farmers
- TugsGroup.com, Jeff Ditzenberger’s Wisconsin-based support group
I will tell you, as someone who tried to take his own life, if somebody would've just asked me when I was giving them every sign that I possibly could if I was suicidal, if I wanted to talk, the course of my life would've gone in a completely different direction all the way around. We need to make it not taboo.
Hello, and welcome to the Cobcast: Inside the Grind with the National Corn Growers Association. This is where leaders, growers, and stakeholders in the corn industry can turn for big-picture conversations about the state of the industry and its future. From the fields of the Corn Belt to the DC Beltway, we're making sure that the growers who feed America have a say in the issues that are important to them with key leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture. So make sure you're following this show in your favorite podcast app and sign up for the National Corn Growers Association newsletter at ncga.com.
I'm Dusty Weis. And in this episode, since May is Mental Health Month, we're making space for an important discussion that really matters for farmers and those who care for them, because the suicide rate among farmers is 3 and a half times higher than the general population.
From 2000-2020, suicide rates increased 46% in rural areas compared to 27.3% in metro areas according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We're losing good people, and we don't have to.
From weather, to the markets, to prices, to the issues that come with a family business, farmers face many unique stressors every day.
So one of the National Corn Growers' action teams is working with partners across the industry right now to spread the message that saying something could mean everything. Joining us today are two unique and important perspectives working on this issue. And the first is Jeff Ditzenberger, a grower from southern Wisconsin. Jeff, thank you for joining us on the Cobcast.
Thanks, Dusty, for having me. Appreciate what you're doing. I'm not actually a grower anymore, I work for an online auction company and have the entire state of Wisconsin now, that's my responsibility. So trust me, there's still a lot of corncob and soybean conversations that are happening out there and a lot of conversations with people that are struggling with the things they can't control, like weather and prices and inputs and that kind of stuff.
I'm always glad to be able to welcome another Wisconsinite onto the show here, Jeff. That's the heart of cheese, corn, and soybean country out there, and we know that you're going to bring some great expertise to the table here. But Jeff, one of the reasons that we wanted to talk to you today is because I understand that you have a personal story that ties in with the topic at hand here.
Yeah, actually I do. So back in the early nineties, it was not real cool for guys to talk about their emotional state. I'm a veteran, I was over in Iraq. The ship that I was on carried a lot of ammunition and oil and fuel, so a big floating time bomb, and so kind of a lot of stress there. Got married young. I mean, I went in the military at 17 and a half right after I graduated. When I got out of the service, I was really having a lot of PTSD. And you just... Back in '91, '92, in that era, you just didn't talk about mental health at all, and especially amongst guys. I can remember asking some of my guy friends, "I'm having a rough day. I'd kind of like to just have a chitchat with ya." It was the, "Suck it up buttercup or pull up your bootstraps or men don't cry." That whole gamut of things that follows that.
And late '91, early '92, I tried to take my own life. I actually put myself in an old abandoned house and lit it on fire and failed miserably, thankfully, but back then when they asked me about it, I was less embarrassed to be a veteran and a volunteer firefighter with a felony on my record, than I was to admit that I'd actually tried to end my life and kept it a secret for a long, long time, Dusty.
Well, and it's something that you've incorporated into your day-to-day now is since you had that experience, it seems like you've really made helping other people cope with their mental health a part of your life going forward. Even down to your email signature. I noticed when we were corresponding running up to this that you end every email with a little quote, "It's okay to not be okay." Is it safe to say that this experience changed your life and refocused you on things outside of your own experience in helping other people, yeah?
It did. So in 2014, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation asked me to write a blog. I was currently Green County Farm Bureau president at the time, and I wrote about men, farmers, and mental health. And at the time I was married to Marie, and she had watched her first husband die by suicide in front of her. And to hear that a 22-year-old lady had to take her husband off of life support, that was one of the first turning point triggers with me, and then I just got tired of burying my own friends. Let's be honest, some of the top risk groups are veterans, farmers, and men.
And Farm Bureau was like, "Absolutely not. We are not printing this." And it was the first time that I had actually admitted that I had tried to end my life. And I said to them, I'm like, "If you're not going to print this, then I don't know that I want to be a member of your association anymore." And they're like, "Well, we'll do it, but the ramifications are on you."
And so I did it and the response was kind of overwhelming, to be quite honest. And shortly after that, Casey Langen had gotten ahold of me, and Casey Langen at that time was the director of communications within Farm Bureau, and he says, "Hey Ditz, my wife wants to talk to you." And at that time then they asked me to be the keynote speaker at Madison Dane County Safe Communities guys night out. Now I'll tell you what, when I first heard guys night out, I was like, pizza, beer, we talk about football. But on the way up there, I took my uncle who had mental challenges as well, and his own suicide attempt, but became one of my best friends and then my best friend Scott. And then my uncle took one of his friends.
And on the way up there, I wasn't feeling the best. And I thought, "Well, maybe I'm kind of hungry." And I was reading my speech and I hate writing speeches. And so we stopped at McDonald's, bad idea if you're not feeling well already, and ripped up my speech and threw it away. And my buddy Scott was like, "Isn't that your speech?" He's like, "What are you going to talk about?" And I says, "I don't really know, but that's not it." And walked into the venue and it was fairly full When they introduced me, they did a little bit about my military career, and that's when it kind of hit me. The ship that I was on, as I told you guys earlier here already, was the second largest displacement ship in the US Navy next to an aircraft carrier. So think Camp Randall is about the size of it.
And in order to get into port, we would have to call it tugboat. And that tugboat would come out and you can't hear him and you can't really see him. Might see a little smoke and a little chukchuk. You don't see the physical, because it's just a little fella. And when I was down below deck and when we were going into port, everything would go super quiet and you just get this sense of calm about you, and then you'd feel this little bump and you knew you were moving, but it was magical, Dusty. You're like, "How are we doing this?" And once we got into port, then you'd hear this magical voice come across the speaker that basically said, "You're safe at home. If you don't have to work, go see your loved ones." And I thought to myself, I'm like, why can't life be like that?
If you're a big ship in troubled waters, why couldn't you call it tugboat to come help you out? And on the way home, then I said to my buddy Scott, I'm like, "Dude, I want to start a non-profit." And basically stayed awake that night, super excited and came up with the acronym TUGS, talking, understanding, growing and supporting, because even big ships need little ships sometimes. And the core ideology behind my group is to get rid of a lot of the stigmas, to let guys know that it's okay to cry in front of their guy friends, to let veterans know that, "Hey, you defended this country and now we're here for you." To let farmers know that, "Hey, we understand that you're isolated and that you have a lot of situations that you can't control, but we get it." And especially in the agricultural community and farmers specifically, there's a whole different language that they speak.
So that's what I've been very careful about is to make sure that I've got members of my board that know how to talk to farmers, know how to talk to veterans, everybody's kind of got their own little niche that they do. And people will ask me, "What's your ultimate goal?" And I'm like, I would love to have the day where we could look in the dictionary and the word suicide wouldn't be in there, would be in the history books.
The other biggest thing that I want to see, and we need to do more of it now as it's going along, is we need to just have those conversations. We need to have those tough conversations and ask people how they're doing and bring them out of their struggles and bring them out of that darkness, and I always tell everybody which conversation is harder? The conversation of asking somebody if they're struggling and suicidal, or the conversation with their loved ones when you're at their funeral after they make a permanent decision to a temporary problem? And I usually get the same answer all the time. So that's the nuts and bolts of it, Dusty.
Jeff, it's really heartening to me that you're in a position now where you're able to share this story, because there might be somebody listening right now who's dealing with similar struggles and certainly could take away some lessons or even maybe even a little bit of hope, just from hearing that you've been there. And so when you talk about the stigma about talking about mental health, and it sounds like it was part of your experience when you were going through your struggles as well, that you were looking for people to talk to, but you just couldn't find anybody who was willing to push through that stigma.
And so our other guest today, I want to talk to about just how common that problem is in the farm community, in rural communities. Dr. Josie Rudolphi is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois School of Agriculture and Biological Engineering with expertise not only in mental health, but its specific impacts, especially on safety and overall health and in agricultural population. So Dr. Rudolphi, thank you for joining us as well today.
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Thank you so much for having me and making this a priority for the podcast. We really appreciate it.
So first of all, as you listen to Jeff's story there is what you're hearing that sort of reluctance among one's peers, one's friends, to talk about mental health issues, is that something that is still common in farm and rural culture, and how has that been changing, would you say?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Yeah, I really appreciate Jeff's story and his willingness to share. I think hearing what happens and what happened to people is really important if we do want to move the needle and think about how we're going to make real change. And we have statistics, we can tell you what we see as terms of anxiety and depression in the population, but there's not a story behind that. And unfortunately that's just a number and not a person. So Jeff, thank you so much for being willing to share your story.
And unfortunately, we still see stigma as something that's really precluding a lot of these conversations from being had, people are still somewhat reluctant, I should say, to disclose what they might be going through, especially among older populations and older farmers. I think we're starting to see the tide change a little bit. We're starting to see younger farmers be much more willing to have these conversations. I feel hopeful in podcasts like this, and when farm bureaus and other commodity groups and ag organizations invite people like Jeff, people like me, to have a presence and a space at their national conferences and state conferences, it really, I think, suggests that they acknowledge what a lot of our farmers are going through and realize that if we continue to build a wall around farm stress and mental health, we're going to continue to lose farmers.
And so I'm hopeful, I guess, and that the stigma is starting to change. This average age of a farmer is still 58, a majority of farmers are male. These things don't help the stigma situation. And we live in more conservative communities, smaller communities, rural communities, all of which are really good at hiding and encouraging people maybe not to speak out or let them know how they're doing.
So certainly loneliness and feeling like you don't have an outlet, don't have somebody to talk to about these issues. These are contributing factors, stressors if you will. But agriculture is a profession unlike any other, and so the stressors that affect farmers are also unique to our industry in a lot of ways. And they can be really complex and really personal. How do we see the profession and the culture around the farm contributing to this mental health epidemic, beyond just the stigma?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Absolutely. So we have data to suggest that a number of the unique agricultural stressors are associated with both anxiety and depression, and we see anxiety and depression in the ag population at prevalences that far exceed that of the general population. I did a survey of young farmers, 60% met the criteria for at least mild depression and mild anxiety. And we see similar estimates or statistics when we consider more experienced farmers. And the stressors that we see most associated with anxiety and depression are things like personal finances. Farmers live in a world where we don't get to set the price for our product, and we're also not guaranteed a paycheck. A lot of people enjoy a paycheck every month, every two weeks. It's something you can count on and it's reliable, and farmers we know don't experience that.
We see stressors around the weather. It's spring. We see a lot of people who are either planting or want to be planting, and we're refreshing the weather app constantly. Very few other occupations are so dependent on the weather. Very few other occupations are so concerned about soil temperatures. So there's a lot of these things that are totally out of control of the farmer, which make it a really challenging type of stress to manage. When we think about maybe stress that is more manageable, but still unique to agriculture, we talk a lot about the family farm and we have really romanticized the family farm as this idyllic place to be, but we know that there is a lot of stress in family farm operations, and as beautiful as maybe three generations working together might look, we know that there are people in that system who don't appreciate a lot of support, or report more stress than say other generations. And so these are the sorts of things that are more manageable but still contribute, we know, to anxiety and depression.
And not to mention sometimes there's just the completely out of left field wacky stuff that completely disrupts your farming operation. We can look back at 2012, and the huge nationwide drought that we suffered then, or some of the recent disruptive derecho storms that have swept through entire swaths of farm country and flattened entire corn crops. Besides just these disruptive things, have you noticed any trends in the amount of stress that's being felt on the farm recently?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
So that's a really good question, and we think we know that agriculture's very cyclical. So there's periods of peak activity, especially in the Midwest where we're crop focused, planting and harvest we have a ton of activity, summers and winters less activity. So we expect to see the cyclical nature of agriculture to stress and mental health. We don't have that good data yet, we haven't done longitudinal studies yet to be able to say with any certainty that that's what somebody experiences, but we also know that we may not expect a lot of stress in February in the Midwest, but then something happens worldwide and it totally disrupts everything we once knew. I was at the commodity classic early March of 2022-
Right after the Russian evasion of Ukraine.
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Right. Absolutely. So here we're going in, a lot of us are mostly thinking about planting. We're going to see how much we can learn at Commodity Classic, and the entire conversation was around Russia and Ukraine and every-
And inputs. How are we going to get our inputs, how we going to get our fertilizer?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Absolutely. And every economist there said, "My slides are already out of date. We're living in these unprecedented times." And so that just speaks to there is almost no period of normal anymore, and we are just constantly trying to respond to today's stress and it just creates an incredibly unhealthy environment for us physically and mentally.
Jeff, as you listen to Dr. Rudolphi, do any of these stressors, any of these situations that we've discussed so far here jump out at you as things that you yourself have seen or experienced and grappled with on the farm?
Well, you talk about, and I love the way you said it, that we've romanticized the family farm. 95% of the farms are family owned, but not what we traditionally think of as family farm either. And I appreciate your comment, because that's very important to make sure that that's understood, that you got three generations there. From the aspect of that fourth or fifth generation that all of a sudden they've had a whole bunch of things that have happened. They've had storm come through, they've had some kind of a disease come through that wipes out their animals, or wipes out their crops. It's nothing of their faults, but now they're having to get out of the business and they feel like that epic failure because of it. There's so many layers to this, and honestly, I think Dr. Josie and I could sit here for hours and hours and hours and go over the things that are happening out there, but any of us that have been in agriculture for any amount of time, especially on the production side of it, this is a lifestyle and it's a pride lifestyle.
We're very proud of what we do, but let's be honest, pride doesn't pay the bills. And I've said it many, many a time and I kind of feel a little bad saying it in a way, but it's something that I think everybody has to hear that truly the only thing we can control in this industry is our attitudes. We've got to take a step back when we're struggling with the crop doesn't look good because we're not getting any rain. We don't have any control over that. You spent four hours working on a mama cow to try to save her and the calf and you don't save either one of them. The emotional roller coaster that farmers go through, and I've spoke in front of groups that are an average age of 75, one of the most amazing ones that I got to do was at the University of Wisconsin Platteville, and the day of the presentation, they had 22 RSVPs, they had that few of RSVPs, and they called me and they said, "Hey, we've only got these 23, 24 RSVPs and most of them are staff." I'm like, "I don't care. This is a message that has to get out, whether it matches one person or 200 people or 2000 people, I don't care. If we can make a difference with one person, I'm good with that."
So a beautiful day and 80 degrees, Platteville's football field was covered with people in the band and playing football catch and that kind of stuff. And when I got in there, we had a group of about 20 more join the original 20, and then we had another group of about 50 come in, but we ended up having to switch rooms three times and there was over 200 people in that auditorium of all ages. And the response afterwards, the number of those kids that were like, "I need to go home and talk to my brother, I think this is what he's going through." Or, "I need to go home and talk to my dad. I think this is what he's going through." And on the flip side of that, when I've done stuff that like Wisconsin, Corn, Soy and those kind of conventions, the number of 75 year old men that'll come up to me in tears and say, "I wish my son could have heard this before he took his life."
You know, Josie you make such a good point. This is something that we can change the needle on this. And I think we've changed it some. But the simplest thing is to have that conversation and a struggle in our industry because like I said earlier, it's a special language. I had some farm bankruptcy attorneys and we were going through all those bankruptcies back, what was that, '18 or '19? I had psychiatrists and psychologists that were calling me and I had farm bankruptcy attorneys that were calling me and they're like, "We need to know how to talk to these people. I don't understand this whole return on investment and hundred weights of milk and bushels for acre and all this other stuff."
If you can't relate on that aspect, that's not going to help you. But the other thing that we have gotten away from in my opinion, is just that ability to be nice to people, to be kind to people, to ask people how they're doing and be willing to have those tough conversations. Some of them that I've had over the years, Dusty, I've heard guns click on the end of the phone line. I've been sent pictures with people holding a handful of pills. Some of the conversations that I've had at 2:00, 2:30 in the morning will just tear your heart out. And it's something that doesn't have to happen. I mean, we need to get that connect back to where we're letting people know, and it's why it's on every signature, on every single email account that I have, it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to have bad days. It's okay to feel bad. We need to validate that at the same time when people are telling us that.
There are conversations that need to happen. And when you tell me about that thing at the University of Wisconsin Platteville, where you got 200 people in a room, it tells me that there's an appetite out there to have that conversation. It's just that people don't know where to go for it, and they're afraid that they're going to be mocked, that they're going to told to, to use your words, Jeff, buck up buttercup, when they try to have that conversation with people. So how do we create intentionally a space for people to have those feelings and have those conversations with the people who they know and love and care about, without coming off as heavy-handed, preachy? I don't know. These are all adjectives, I'm sure that you've heard before.
There's a misconception out there that if you talk to somebody who's suicidal and you ask them directly if they're suicidal, that that's going to make them more suicidal. And I will tell you, as someone who tried to take his own life, if somebody would've just asked me when I was giving them every sign that I possibly could, if I was suicidal, if I wanted to talk, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
The course of my life would've gone in a completely different direction all the way around, we need to make it not taboo. We talk about COVID, we talk about all these other things that happened, but we still don't seem to want to really have that open candid conversation about mental health. And you don't have to have any fancy letters behind the back of your name. You can be just a normal everyday person and just be like, "Hey, are you okay?"
And be willing to sit down and talk to that person if they're not, and validate that. This thing of, Josie and I, we see each other in the office and I say to Josie, "What's going on Josie?" And she's like, "Oh, my dog died and I'm really sad." "Well, bill lost his wife last night. He's got it worse than you do." Stop that stuff. Why can't we just say, "Hey, Josie, I'm really sorry. I remember when I lost my dog was sick and whatnot. That was terrible. Is there anything I can do for you?" Sometimes people just want you to listen for five minutes. Sometimes they might want a little bit of advice back or whatever, but why is it so wrong for us to not validate people's bad days or people's emotions that are messing with them, and just say, "Hey, I'm here. I'm going to create a space for you right now."
Jeff, just to kind of add onto that, and I grew up around farm culture too, and one thing that always really impressed me about my grandfather who ran a tree farm in Northern Wisconsin, my other grandfather who grew up in dairy and Central Wisconsin, that they were tough guys. There was nothing that they were afraid of. There was nothing that they couldn't do if they put their mind to it. And I wonder sometimes if there's not a way to take that attitude and turn it toward mental health, because if toughness is something that we value in farm country and it is, why not do the toughest thing that there is and have a conversation that's uncomfortable with somebody who needs to hear from you?
I think it takes more guts to admit that you're struggling. Anybody can tell you that you're having a good day. Anybody can tell you that everything's just freaking peachy, it takes a lot of guts to come out and say, "Hey, I'm having a rough day." How many of us on this call have heard the words, "Quit crying or I'll give you something to cry about."
Yeah, right there. Yeah.
Stop. Emotions are there, whether we like it or not. I mean, God gave them to us. If you're struggling for that day that everything is kind of overwhelming you or whatever, speak out about it. And for those of us that are being spoken to, create that space. We talk about creating safe spaces, and I know some people make fun of it. I think it's great. I think it's the greatest thing ever.
I can remember when I was in the detective's office and they told me that they were pretty sure that I had lit that fire and that they were going to charge me with arson, I had two choices, I could either go to jail, I could go to the mental institution, and I went to the mental institution. I haven't made a lot of really, really, really, really, really good decisions. That was a really, really, really, really good decision. I got in there where I didn't get judged, where people were like-minded, where the doctors and nurses were like, "We get it. We understand you're going through some stuff." They didn't call me crazy, they didn't call me weird. They didn't call me any of those things. And it's a conversation that was created there. Well, you know what? We can do that conversation on the outside before we lose any more people.
Right. Yeah. Dr. Rudolphi, please go ahead.
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
I really connected with Jeff's comment about the toughest thing we can do is reach out and ask for help. And I hate to lean into that tough guy language, but I really do think it's true. And one thing we try to communicate with farmers is that you would not let a pest infest your field to the point where you had no yield. You would enlist the help of a professional, you would bring in a veterinarian, you would talk to your agronomist. You would do something about that. In that same way, why don't we get you help? If you need it, there are resources out there, you deserve it.
And I think there's a lot of people who don't feel like they deserve to feel good sometimes. And I think to Jeff's other point about the toxic positivity that we often bring into conversations if we're trying to offer support, it's easy for us to say, if someone says they're having a bad day, "You don't have it nearly as bad as some other people. Someone else has it a lot worse than you do." I think some of us offer that sort of response as a way to try to make Jeff, for example, feel better. And then we feel like, oh, we've helped. And the reality is that you don't have to help.
A lot of times somebody just needs someone to listen. Don't expect resolution right away. You're not going to snap somebody out of their depressive episode. You're not going to bring somebody out of anxiety. But you can show that you're there to be supportive. And then I start a lot of conversations by mentioning why I'm concerned about somebody. So coming from a place of love and saying, "I'm really worried about you because X, Y, and Z." We can really normalize a situation by using language like, "Hey, it's been a really crappy spring." Acknowledging that it's been bad for everybody.
"How are you holding up?" Or, "Man, it won't dry up. Are we ever going to get in the field? How are you managing?" And what that does is it really gives people a space. You've sort of laid out the carpet for somebody to really complain for a while. You've said, "I'm inviting you into this space. We've had a tough time." And people might balk at you and people say, "Oh, so what? You're a therapist now?" I say, "No, I'm just a friend, but I'm here to talk to you and let you know that you are not alone." And I think that's really the most important message that you are absolutely not alone.
Now, Dr. Rudolphi, we've all been around someone who's struggling before, and so certainly saying something is the first step there, but what do you do if they don't want to talk about it? What do you do if they make it uncomfortable, or they tell you to go away? Is it something that you should bring up again? Is there outside intervention that you should seek? What do you do there?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Some people are not going to be comfortable talking to everybody. There's a couple of things you can do. So there's a lot of really great farm specific telephone helplines and hotlines and websites for resources. And so what I might do is if somebody's really uninterested in engaging with me, I might say, "You know what? I acknowledge that maybe you don't want to talk to me about this, but let me offer you a couple of resources." I'll text them the Iowa Concern hotline or what's been rebranded as the Concern Hotline, or I'll send them some resources that I think might be helpful. And it's a really passive way of trying to offer some resources and hopefully some support.
Another thing you can do is if, in family structures, especially I have siblings, I can tell they're stressed. They may not be super interested in talking to me, but I know they're having a bad day. So what I might do is I might call the spouse and say, "Hey, when he gets home, will you just talk to him a little bit. Something's really bothering him, but he didn't really want to open up to me." So we can engage other people in the family or in their unit, somebody they might be more comfortable with. And we can see this in small communities where we have church leaders or clergy or other types of people in the community that somebody might really connect with.
Can you tell us what some of those resources are that you can really just send someone toward like a website, a phone number, something like that? We'll also put a link to all of these, and put them in the episode description as well, so if anybody wants to click in there, copy and paste them, anything like that?
Dr. Josie Rudolphi:
Absolutely. So in the North Central region, which is kind of the 12 states in the Midwest, we have a website, it's farmstress.org, and it's about 110 farm and ranch specific resources that we've amassed from the 12 states that are in this region. They're state specific websites with what states would consider to be their sort of cream of the crop resources and services. And then there's a clearinghouse space there of, like I said, over 110 different resources for various audiences. So we have some for farm families, for farmers, ranchers, farm workers, and even farm youth.
Oh, hotline that I really like and I really recommend is the Iowa Concern Hotline. It was established in the mid-eighties in response to the farm crisis. It is staffed 24/7. It will respond to calls from anybody. It's actually just recently been rebranded from the Iowa Concern Hotline to the Concern Hotline, because a telephone knows no state boundary. And so that number is 1800 447 1985. It's staffed by people who know agriculture. So like Jeff mentioned, it's really important we've learned that farmers have an opportunity to talk to people who understand agriculture. So this line is staffed by professionals who can talk you through not only stress and crisis type issues, but also answer legal questions and financial questions, and then also connect you to local resources, like in the event of a natural disaster. So we really like that hotline. It's been around for a very long time. Answers thousands of calls a year and has really stood the test of time.
Real quick, I want to add onto Dr. Josie's list of resources is the new National Suicide Hotline, which is simply 988, and you can call or text that. Now, I know they're not necessarily farmer specific all the time, but it's a great resource. We talk about stigmas. None of these resources that you call are going to send people out to your farm and drag you into town and put you into a hospital, or anything like that too. And I think we need to clarify that, because there's been many a times that I've been having a conversation and I'm like, "Hey, you know what? I'm going to call the National Suicide Hotline while I'm standing here with you, and I will stay in your space with you." And, "Oh, no, no, no, I don't want those people coming here." They're not going to do that. So please remember that one's out there too.
And one that we have locally that's now nationwide for the kids is the Got Your Back app, which is available on Apple and Android, both. You can get a squad together and you can do that kind of stuff.
Awesome. And we will again put links to that in the episode description here. But I wanted to end on this note, Jeff, certainly as someone who has struggled with this for a long time and has taken a very active role in helping other people with their struggles, you've seen the way that attitudes have shifted over the years, but you even mentioned that 10 years ago you tried to write a blog post about this and we're told, "You sure you want to do that." And now we're sitting here, we're having an open discussion about it on the National Corn Growers Association podcast. Feels like there's a change in the air about how the farm community faces mental health issues. What would you say, Jeff, is driving that change?
I think part of the shift is we're having these conversations on a broader scale, and I was involved in a full length documentary that is now hitting all the film festivals, that has been picked up by PBS for next year. And it's interesting after going to the screenings to see the general public start asking questions. And I think you've got guys like myself, you've got guys like Jason Meadows, who's got a great podcast out there, what you guys are doing from an agricultural podcast standpoint, I think when we can put real faces to this and have those conversations, that's what's going to give us the shift, Dusty. Like what Dr. Josie said, too, create that space. Or if you can't talk to the person who's struggling, get their core group to help them out. And if you don't think that words have value, you're just going to really quick tell my cat guy story for us in the Midwest.
You know, walk into your local QuikTrip or your local Casey's or whatever, you're like, "Hey, how's it going?" [inaudible 00:31:00] and everybody, what's their common answer, "Doing good." Or, "Living the dream." Or whatever. And I did this one morning and this gentleman said to me, he goes, "What do you care?" And I said, "Well, I asked you." And he says, "Yeah, but what do you care?" And I said, "Well, I do." I said, "Now, I'm really curious, is everything all right?" and he says, "Well, if you really want to know," he says, "I think my cat's dying." And I go, "Why do you think your cat's dying?" And he goes, "Well, I feed her and I water, and she makes this really disgusting sound." And I says, "Sounds to me like your cat's got a hairball." And he goes, "What? Are you a veterinarian?"
And I'm like, "No, but I've had a lot of cats." And he goes, "What do I do?" And I says, "Go to Walmart or Walgreens or wherever. Get yourself some hairball remedy. Give it to your cat. It's going to be disgusting. I'm just going to warn you now the [inaudible 00:31:39] she's doing right now is nothing compared to what it's going to be with this. But if she doesn't get better, take her to the veterinarian." Parted ways. Six weeks later, I'm back in QuikTrip again, just about ready to pay for my breakfast. This hand slams down next to me and says, "I'm paying for this man's breakfast." And I turned around and here it's cat guy, still don't know his name to this day. And he says, "Do you remember me?" And I says, "Yeah." I said, "You're the guy with the cat." And he goes, "We need to talk outside."
And I was like, oh, I hope they have cameras out there, because this doesn't sound like it's going to end well. Anyways, we get outside and he goes, "You were right. He says, I gave it that hairball medicine. It was fine. Everything's good. You were also right. It was really disgusting." I go, "Yeah, I know." I said, "Well, I'm glad to hear everything turned out right." I said, "Have a good day." And he goes, "No." He says, "What I need to let you know." He says, "I had just moved here from the east-coast and I had nobody here except for me and my cat." And he goes, "When I moved here, I moved here for a job that the first day I showed up for work, they hadn't told me they weren't going to need me anymore." And he says, "I told myself that morning when I walked out of my apartment that if my cat died, I was going to die with my cat."
And I tell you what, folks, if you don't think I don't think about that every single morning when I wake up, and one of the first things I say to myself every single morning when I look in the mirror is, "What are your chances of running into a cat guy today?" We have such a responsibility to not only the farmers and ranchers and corn growers and soybean growers and everybody else out there that's feeding the nation, but we have a responsibility to our fellow man, our fellow woman, our fellow children, to ask them if they're okay, to tell them that it's okay to not be okay. And I will end my part of this the way that I end all my speeches. We live in a world where we can be anything we want, the most important thing to be is kind.
Jeff, it's a remarkable story. And what's most incredible to me about it is all you did was give a darn. It's not like you gave the guy 20 bucks. It's not like you drove him to the veterinarians. All you did was listen to him and you saved his life.
So thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Dr. Rudolphi, for the work that you do to lead on this issue for your courage, your compassion that you show in speaking out. I'd like to close just by urging farm families, industry partners, anybody who cares for a farmer to just help look for the science, to just give a darn. It could seem intimidating, it could seem scary, but it is vital because saying something can truly mean everything. And thank you for listening. We hope you'll join us again next month for another episode of Cobcast: Inside the Grind with the National Corn Growers Association. If you're on Twitter, you can follow at National Corn for more news and updates from the NCGA, visit ncga.com to sign up for the association's email newsletter. Make sure you're following this show on your favorite podcast app as well.
The Cobcast is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association with Sound Engineering by Will Henry, editing by Emily Kasinger, and it's produced by PodCamp Media. Branded podcast production for businesses PodCampmedia.com. For the National Corn Growers Association, I'm Dusty Weis.