About    

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture understands the extreme pressure farmers face today. To ensure farmers have access to adequate help that suits their needs, the Department of Ag. provides subsidized counseling for farms. Ted Matthews is the director of MN Rural Mental Health and is based out of Hutchinson, Minnesota.

Ted Matthews is a mental health practitioner with over 30 years of experience in counseling in rural areas. His focus for the past 2 decades has been farmer mental health support. He has been the director of mental health services during 5 natural disasters. Matthews provides outreach training and public speaking related to farm stressors, nation wide. He also has extensive counseling experience in the areas of PTSD, crisis intervention, family issues, suicidology and domestic abuse.  Featured on the Huffington Post, MPRNews, CNN, AgriNews, Successful Farming, Prairie Farmer and many others, Ted offers his expertise to help the generation population to better understand the farming culture.

 

 



In 1998, Matthews began working with the Mental Health Outreach Program, which is operated through the Farm Business Management program within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The fundamental goal of the Mental Health Outreach Program is to help rural people address the various emotional issues arising from a rural economy experiencing rapid change and the effects of increasing farm consolidation on both farmer and non-farmer alike.

This program is effective because a diagnosis of mental illness is not a prerequisite and no additional reimbursement for services is required. As the demands of farming continue to increase, the necessity for addressing rural mental health needs becomes more acute. Matthews continues to work in a plethora of areas from crisis intervention to helping farmers relate to their families and workers to better utilize their resources.

The Program

  • Ted Matthews
Ted enjoys speaking to groups about farming and mental health issues across the country. He also offers a wide variety of trainings on supporting farmers
in stressful times.
Some of the topics covered are:

He has been invited to speak at colleges, conferences, governmental bodies and local groups such as:

University of Georgia

Illinois Farm Bureau

 

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service 

State Mediators

Minnesota Association of Ag. Educators

National Association  of Agricultural Educators

USDA

University of Minnesota

Farm Business Management Minnesota

Women in Dairy sponsored by University of Minnesota Extension

Down on the Farm by Department of Ag:  Training Series

Farm Bureau Washington DC

Farm Service Agency

    Articles   

Viewpoint: Telemedicine helps closes rural health care gap

Oct 15th 2019

For nearly 60 million Americans living in rural areas of the country, getting access to quality health care can be a significant challenge — and the need is greater than ever. From the disproportionate impact of the opioid crisis in rural communities to the economic, structural and social barriers to mental health care in these areas, it is fair to say that rural America faces significant obstacles in health care. That is certainly the case in the rural Midwest.....

The Last Harvest

Fox Channel 9

According to experts, tracking the number of farmers who take their own lives is difficult. Current numbers are not yet available.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control published a study saying suicides in the farming, fishing and forestry industries were almost five times that of the general population. The CDC retracted the study because the information was inaccurate due to a coding error. The corrected version said the suicide rate for the group was about even with the rest of the general population......

Lake City dairy farmer becomes voice for rural mental health

April 1, 2019

The phone call with counselor Ted Matthews, as brief as it was, did not alter the fundamentals of Mills’ life. It did not alter the economic reality of stagnant milk prices, rising costs and disappearing profit margins; of a bitterly cold winter that cost farmers livestock and calves and collapsed barns; or the fact that Mills and her husband, Kent, are living through the worst dairy farm crisis of the lives.

But it did help restore Mills’ sense of hope.

“Unless you’re a dairy farmer or farmer, you don’t understand what living your life on margin is,” Mills said. “You don’t understand that almost everything you do to try to run this business is completely out of your control, whether it’s prices or weather or regulations.”

TransFARMation: The Ostrich Syndrome

May 20, 2019

Farmers have a lot coming at them right now, including low commodity prices, uncertain trade policies and weather delays during the rush of a busy planting season. None of these issues are things that farmers can control. When overwhelmed, it can be easy to stick our head in the sand and not deal with these problems. 

Preventing Farmer Suicides through Helplines and Farm Visits

MAY 15, 2019

In 2016, dairy farmers Meg Moynihan and her husband lost the buyer for their organic milk. Because she was working for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Organic Program at the time, Moynihan thought it’d be easy to find a new buyer, but “all doors were closed,” she said. “It was the beginning of the milk glut.”

Hope for the Hopeless

May 06 2019

More and more farmers and ranchers struggle with poor mental health. What can be done?

It might be the agricultural industry’s biggest problem nobody talks about. It’s more damaging than any drought, policy or outbreak. It’s farmer/rancher suicide, and it happens more often than you think.

According to recent research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, those who work in farming, shing and forestry occupations are 3.4 times more likely than workers in general to commit workplace suicide....

Jan 11, 2019

If you’re a woman and have roots in country living, United Way of McLeod County has a new opportunity for you: the Rural Women Conference from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Glencoe City City.

The event, which includes dinner and a cash bar, is featuring Rural Mental Health Counselor Ted Matthews as the keynote speaker. He will talk about how to improve communication and relationships.

December 23, 2018

“All of us want to do what we can for our children or our loved ones to help them have a happier Christmas,” Matthews said in an interview. “If you don’t have any money or you’re in the red, it’s going to be hard to focus on Christmas presents.”

He said the families he’s most worried about are dairy farmers. Corn and soybean prices will eventually rise again, he said, and farmers can store grain in hopes prices will rise. The situation for milk producers is more dire.

“With dairy farmers, they’re losing money every day, and with their product, they can’t hold on to it,” Matthews said. “These are people that work 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”

We don't have to be experts. All of us need to have a plan. Who do we call if we think someone is suicidal? If we don't have an answer to that, we will do nothing."

Life expectancy rates in the U.S. are falling. Ted Matthews, a psychologist with Minnesota's Department of Agriculture discusses the stresses on farmers.

All the land between happy and sad by Holly Spangler

Sep 20, 2018

Ted Matthews is supposed to be helping farmers in Minnesota. Trying to convince them there’s hope. That their death isn’t the answer to their problems.

 

“But it’s scary how many calls I get from all over the country,” he says.....

The Surprising Reality Of Depression And Suicide In The Farming Community

July 27, 2018

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has responded by providing mental health services to farmers and their families.

How to Find an Agricultural Behavioral Health Counselor By Dr. Mike Rosmann

October 30, 2017

Some agricultural producers will have a toilsome time reconciling their income and expense bottom-lines this year because market prices for several major farm commodities remain low.  For many, 2017 grain yields and livestock sales also are subpar.  Although the overall agricultural horizon looks brighter for the future than at this time last year, the best hopes of many farmers are to ride out the current difficult era.

USDA farm programs and crop/livestock insurance will help agricultural producers in varying degrees, depending on the level of coverage they elected.  Some hard-pressed farmers chose less costly options at sign-up time, but with lower guaranteed payments on claims.  They gambled on higher crop yields and farm prices which may not materialize.  

The most marginalized farmers are facing tough decisions.  They will have to rely on other income sources for their household needs and they may face recall of farm operating and long-term loans.

Financially stressed families are already reaching out for behavioral health assistance.  Eight persons involved in farming contacted me by email or telephone over the past three weeks about finding counselors who understand farming.  

Their concerns included deteriorating family relationships, anxiety or depression of a family member, and worries about what will happen when they aren’t able to make required loan payments.  All were seriously distressed.

Although I have written previously about how to find agricultural behavioral health providers, an update is necessary.

The first and most important decision for overwhelmed farmers and their families is to seek counseling. It’s a difficult decision because it involves acknowledging that they need external advice rather than relying solely on themselves.  

Self-reliance is a defining psychological trait of successful farmers, along with extraordinary tolerance for adversity.  Recognizing that outside assistance with emotional, financial, and legal issues is needed is a step in the right direction, and a major admission for people who maintain an agrarian livelihood.

What should farmers and their family members take into consideration when seeking an agricultural behavioral health counselor?  Here are recommendations I have offered in the past, and with updated information:

  • Foremost, the counselor should be familiar with agriculture; I learned from Dr. Lynda Haverstock, past Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and a psychologist, that understanding the culture of farming goes a long way toward establishing credibility as a “helper” to farmers

  • To find a counselor who has an agricultural background and/or understands the culture part through training and experience, farmers may approach farm crisis telephone helplines in five states that maintain lists of counselors in their states who have track records of helping farm families: the Iowa Concern Hotline (1-800-447-1985), the Nebraska Rural Response Helpline (1-800-464-0258), New York FarmNet (1-800-547-3276), Vermont Farm First (1-877-493-6216), and the Wisconsin Farm Center (1-800-942-2474)

  • Farmers in other states usually have to launch personal searches, because there is no national directory of agricultural behavioral health therapists; I encourage them to contact their physicians, local professional providers, and community-operated services to ask who in their area best understands agriculture; I also encourage callers to contact their state associations of psychologists, mediators, counselors, social workers, and other professions and to speak with the association director; this person may know association members in the state who work with farm people and farming issues

  • Interested persons can find the websites and telephone numbers of state professional associations online; sometimes the local county or regional Extension office director knows who can be a useful “helper”

  • I also recommend that to maintain confidentiality, callers should only use their first names when visiting with agency representatives and professional association directors

  • If the first selection proves unsuitable, don’t be afraid to try other choices; a “good fit” is more important than the academic degree of the counselor

  • The counselor should be willing to meet at times and places acceptable to the farm family, such as on a rainy day or weekend and at their home if appropriate (home visits by a counselor yield valuable information about the farming enterprise that save time during discussions)

  • Farm family members may want to ask if they can pay for services at a reduced private rate rather than through insurance, because any time an insurance claim by a professional provider is processed it goes through a national databank that keeps track of the diagnoses on the claim form; some diagnoses can make subsequent health and life insurance more costly if a chronic illness is registered on the provider’s claim for reimbursement; bear in mind, the provider cannot alter a diagnosis made in good faith and would be committing fraud if the claim is entered incorrectly

  • Sometimes the best agricultural counselors are not licensed professionals; they may be pastors, farmer coaches, or wise persons who listen well and can give useful advice 

  •  

    The negative stigma about seeking help with behavioral health problems is diminishing among people involved in agriculture.  Obtaining necessary behavioral health assistance is a strength, not a weakness.

    Dr. Mike is a farmer and psychologist who lives near Harlan, Iowa.  Contact him at: mike@agbehavioralhealth.com.

    Practical Ways of Dealing with Stress on the Farm by Ted Matthews

    September 14, 2018

    The high rate of suicide amongst the farming community is alarming but it is not entirely tied to the plummeting commodity prices as most believe. There is no question that low prices for milk, soybeans and corn have increased the stress of farmers throughout the country. What few understand are the ‘other factors’ associated with increased stress farmers face today.

    There is generalized stress year round; first you need to get your books in order to apply for your operating loan. You hope you have everything in order, that interest rates are low, that your equity in the farm will be able to cover the loan and in some cases, that your spouse will sign the note.

    Secondly, after you have secured the loan, you buy what you will need to operate. Then it is time to plant, weather permitting. Will it be too wet, too dry, too hot or cold? Once you get the seed in the ground the anxiety over the need for rain and warmth for the seed to take, sets in. Will it come in time and could there be a rogue cold-snap that will kill-off any vulnerable young growth?

    After getting through the planting season there is little respite from worry and planning. Pests, diseases, natural disasters, weather and mold are all potential threats to the crop but if you can skirt past those issues then it is time to wonder about harvesting.

    At harvest time it is a race against the weather and you do what you can to keep your equipment in good working order, but break-downs every now and then are inevitable. You hope they happen when there is a buffer of time to deal with it but that rarely happens.

    After the harvest it is time to come full-circle once again and take a good hard look at the books so you can begin the dance with the lender all over again.

    Dairy farms have an even harder time if you can believe it! The sinking milk prices mean that many farmers are getting paid less than what it costs to operate. That is why we are seeing so many dairy farms go under this year. These farmers often start their days before the sun comes up and this work schedule is year-round. There is no vacation time for dairy farmers and no days off. Imagine working that hard and getting less than nothing.

    This is a small glimpse into what farmers go through throughout the year. As you can see, it is an extremely stressful profession as it is, without the dropping commodity prices, and there is little that can be done to change that. So the issue becomes, what CAN we do? By putting our energy into what we CAN change instead of being overwhelmed by what we have no control over, we can reduce our stress.

    Farming has always been a very stressful occupation with so many possible negative outcomes and everyone handles stress in different ways. Some people seem to shoulder a great deal of stress while others are unable to do the same. In order to look at ways to lower our stress, we need to identify what our emotional makeup is without judging ourselves harshly. Getting angry with ourselves for not being able to handle all of our stress is not only not going to hep but will be counter productive.

    A lot as been talked and written about farmer suicide. This is because it is the highest rate of suicide of all occupations. Several of the above mentioned stressors cause farmers to take their own lives however, there are more issues to look at.

    · Communication on the farm More and more important as the role of women on the farm has changed. Women often times do the books and work off-farm to help supplement the farm. SO there are far more things to talk about and far less time to talk. As men feel stress they tend to pull back further and further and talk less and less. My dealings with many women in agriculture shows their number one issue on the farm is lack of communication. Men on the other hand when stressed, communicate less.

    · Multigenerational Farm Transition It is a myth that fathers would hand over their farms to their child or children because they wanted to retire. Farmers turn over their farm when they are physically unable to farm any longer. This has created a great deal of stress because in the past several thousand years, bodies wore out in their 40s or early 50s. Thanks to technology and medical advancements, farmers often times can and do farm well into their 80s. This creates a middle generation that will probably never take over the farm and it will be their children that the farm is passed onto.

    · Chores for Our Children For generations as far back as farming, children have been a viable work force on the farm. In this day and age, we see less and less children doing chores for a variety of reasons. We must all remember that work ethic does not come from philosophy, it comes from work.

    What can we do about the stress on the farm?

    Our children doing chores on the farm, is in my opinion, not only often times necessary, but crucial on a family farm. How farmers got to know their mother and father was by doing chores next to them. For generations farm families had a stronger bond due to their constant relationship in all aspects of their lives. I think it is a wonderful thing for families to work together as that creates, what most families want most, a strong family bond.

    Although it is impossible to prevent stress, there are things we can do to lower it. The focus needs to be again, on the family bond and the team approach to our future as farmers. I recommend to all couples that I work with that they spend a minimum of 15 minutes every day to talk about their common daily occurrences and before you think about how easy that would be - do it for 7 days- most of you will see it is more difficult than you thought. The simple reasons for that is that 2 heads are better than one and bonding comes with communication.

    I will conclude this article by saying ‘BE NICE’. When we think of being nice, we need to first look in the mirror. By being kind to ourselves, we have a greater capacity to be kind to others.

    US farm belt tries to head off another surge in suicides

    June 9, 2018

    New York (AFP) - Responding to signs of rising despair in rural America over a farming downturn exacerbated by the current trade war fears, agricultural leaders are mobilizing to try to prevent another suicide crisis.June 9, 2018

    Farmers already at higher risk of suicide face pressure from tariffs

    Jun 8, 2018

    Southwest Minnesota soybean Farmer Bob Worth has lost three friends and fellow farmers to suicide in the last year.

    He believes financial stress had a lot to do with it.

    "I mean this is like the fourth year of depressed commodity prices so it is really starting to eat on people," he said.

    After several tough years of prices near or below break....

    Minnesota works to expand its rural mental health program

    Add Date here

    For the past three decades, one individual has been responsible for responding to calls from Minnesota’s farmers who need help managing stress. Ted Matthews is and has been the only counselor available for farmers to turn to in their times of need. Now, a plan is before the state’s legislature to increase funding and...

    Minnesota psychologist aims to raise mental health awareness for farmers

    May 20 2018 07:36PM

    There's a solitude in farm fields that suits most farmers just fine. It's a proud, dawn until dusk way of life that values less talking, more doing. The work is grueling. There are no sick days, no excuses and these days no cash flow.

    “For many of us in the dairy industry we go everyday knowing that we're not making a profit," said Paul Wright, who runs a small dairy farm near Hutchinson.

    Wright says even when they're doing everything right, farmers are still at the mercy of the weather, family dynamics, the markets and loan officers. Depression is common and so is denial. 

    Mental health on the farm

    Posted on June 16, 2017

    Being a farmer is unlike any other profession, and with that comes unique challenges. As farm operations continue to grow and increase in complexity, mental health is a crucial tool in navigating those daily hurdles, said Ted Matthews, a rural mental health specialist who counsels Minnesota families.

    In his years working with farmers across greater Minnesota, Matthews has found farmers, especially the older generation, are less likely to address mental health with outside help. It is his hope that this stigma changes, as it has with younger...

    In occupation where stress is ample, farmers have few options for mental health care

    Jan 16, 2018

    When the co-op that distributed milk from Meg Moynihan's Le Sueur County farm dropped her abruptly in 2016, it put the farm immediately into crisis.

    Moynihan and her husband were pouring out milk they couldn't sell.

    Moynihan remembers that her husband "kind of snapped." He told her to sell the cows and he went back to driving a truck, where he said he felt more appreciated. Moynihan took leave from her job in the city to work the farm while he was on the road.

    "I know dairy farmers who have decided to sell their herds on a snap decision and have been sad about it later," Moynihan said. "I thought, the worst time to make a big decision like this is in the middle of a crisis, so can we limp...

    Ted Matthews counsels farm families under stress

    Jan 26, 2018

    Since 1993, Ted Matthews, director of mental health outreach for Minnesota Department of Agriculture, has been taking calls and counseling farm families under stress. His free services are needed now more than ever as farmers face the challenges of a difficult farm economy.

    “People are losing their farms. The last thing they need is a bill to talk to me,” said Matthews.

    Matthews’ counseling services are open to all farm families at (320) 266-2390. When farmers call Matthews, there is no diagnosis. “It isn’t about what’s wrong with you. It’s about how do you make this life...

    Mental Health & Farming

    February 1, 2018

    The stress of challenging commodity markets and uncertainty within agriculture can lead to problems for the mental health of farmers. The Director of Mental Health Outreach for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Ted Matthews, joins our podcast to discuss this timely and important topic...

    September 5, 2014

    Farming can create high amounts of stress, anxiety, and depression, especially when commodity prices drop. Ted Matthews (320/266-2390) is a rural mental health therapist who counsels Minnesota farm families. He identifies five topics he hears most often, and gives advice on how to solve the conflicts.

    If you make one New Year's resolution this year, it should be this: Don't suffer in silence. 

     

    With low farm commodity prices and lingering worries from September 11. we could see a record-breaking winter for farm stress, says therapist Ted Matthews. 

     

    Help is available. 

     

    It seems that way some days to Ted Matthews, a rural mental health therapist in Morris, Minnesota. He councils hundreds of farm families about financial stress, depression, divorce, family conflicts and other life issues.

     

    Matthews identifies the five arguments he hears most often from his farm clients, and gives advice on how to solve the conflicts.

    The milk check doesn't stretch nearly as far as it should. Each week you sit down and decide which bills you'll pay this week and which bills will have to wait. When you order feed, the mill's owner asks if you'll be sending a payment. Your equipment dealer sends a letter stating they'll be starting a cash-only policy next month. Sound familiar?

    If so, consider yourself part of the majority. If there's one thing dairy farmers have been hearing since the milk price crashed last January, it's that we're all in this together. 

    Radio interview discussing the roles of children on farms. 

    The farm business management (FBM) program at Riverland Community College received a $50,000 legislative grant from the state of Minnesota to assist southeastern Minnesota farm families. Following the flooding in southeastern Minnesota in the summer of 2007, Riverland FBM instructors saw a need to help farm families in their recovery efforts. The grant they secured will fund a Crisis Outreach program for rural residents of the seven-county area in southeastern Minnesota affected by the flooding. Programming is being offered through June of 2008.Add News Story here

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        Contact    

    • Ted Matthews

    "If you decide not to call, you have every right not to call. Don’t not call because you assume I am too busy or something else. Don’t put it on me."

    Ted Matthews 320.266.2390

    25 2nd Ave SE, Hutchinson, MN 55350

     
    Ted Matthew's Work as a Crisis Interventionist 

     

    Project Hope Project Hope II - Helped people through the fazes of grief when dealing with loss. 

     

    SIREN Wisconsin - Trained disaster responders and outreach workers to deal with the crisis and all it entails. 

     

    Brown County - Training for program officials. 

     Public Speaking

     
     
     

    What is in it for you?

    Developing better communication skills ​with family & the ag professionals you work with.

    © 2014 Ted Matthews  Site by New Story Designs