HONOLULU (KHON2) — Depression is a prevalent issue, particularly since so many suffered from its symptoms during the pandemic. While the pandemic is becoming invisible to us each day, many are suffering more and more from depression.

Statistics from 2021 from the Centers for Disease Control show that on average 4.7 percent of U.S. residents experience regular feelings of depression. CDC stats also show that based on patient medical records 10.6 percent of U.S. residents visit a physician with symptoms of depression.

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The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources has released a new study that significantly elevates the statistics of depression amongst farmers in Hawai’i.

According to the study, Hawai’i farmers aged 45 years and younger are reporting that 48 percent are experiencing depression. CATAHR’s study claims that this is 17 percent higher than the national average.

On top of this troubling statistic is that Hawai’i farmers are experiencing higher rates of suicidal thoughts as well. Farmers are reporting that 14 percent are struggling with suicidal ideation.

“This study validated a lot of what we’ve already observed in the field but also bore a bumper crop of details and gems that will really help us serve our local ag workers,” said Thao Le, principal investigator of the study and director of the Seeds of Wellbeing (SOW) project. “One of the biggest surprises was that of who reported using professional help to cope faired worst which is contrary to what we expected.”

There are currently several programs that CTAHR are offering farmers to address their emotional and psychological needs. These programs include ways to focus on relational components of health and wellbeing.

The Ag Mental Health Mentors program also works to educate and provide concrete tools for peers, family, friends and neighbors to provide needed care and support as well as to feel confident and comfortable enough to seek out those with depression to talk story about what they are experiencing.

“Even though the younger generation are more willing to talk about mental health issues, we also did not expect that 44 ag producers would sign up to be ag mentors within a span of less than a month,” Le added.

The positive side of this research has shown that more than ever, people are seeing the importance of farming in Hawai’i. Out of 400 local residents, CTAHR found that 83 percent understand how important farming is for the state. This led to the discovery that 56 percent of residents would pay more for local produce.

CTAHR pointed out that although residents value local food production, the state only spends one percent of its budget on agriculture while 85-90 percent of food continues to be imported to the islands.

Race, finances, age and industry are all factors in the developing depression amongst local farmers.

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“If we want to make sure we have a next generation of farmers and ranchers in Hawai’i, we need to be paying close attention to their mental and emotional health,” Le expressed.