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It’s time we talk about one of the most serious issues in rural America, mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control released a report that shows farmers have a higher suicide rate than any other occupation. Farmers’ stress levels are rising for a multitude of reasons, and we need to take action now to save lives.

Agriculture is Montana’s No. 1 industry, and mental health professional shortages continue to plague the frontier.

For me, this issue is intensely personal. My father, a farmer, was born on the family farm during the Depression. My father died on the same family farm. We lost him to suicide. Shortly after his death, I decided to do whatever I can to help prevent another farm family from experiencing the same tragedy.

One major step I’ve taken to raise awareness was to reach out to Sen. Jon Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer.

I told him that we need better mental health services for farmers, ranchers and other folks in agriculture-related occupations.

He listened.

Tester sponsored the Farmers First Act to establish a new grant program to provide funding for behavioral health professionals. It’s a bill that will take real steps to give farmers the tools they need to relieve stress and live successful, balanced lives.

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I want to thank Sen. Tester and ask my fellow Montanans to help those around them that are struggling. Together we can make a difference and save lives.

Darla Tyler-McSherry

Shepherd

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