Changing the Narrative on Rural Mental Health
Editorial by Courtney Kibblewhite, Northern Ag Network
We got a call this week from a friend and listener who said, “Maybe you ought to be careful about getting into this mental health stuff. My Mom, used to say, ‘buck up, buttercup.’”
Fair enough. There are days when we do have to buck up and go feed the cows in a foot of snow. And it just takes a little push to get us headed out the door. Sometimes we do have to “buck up” and do the hard stuff.
I’ll tell you from my personal experience that some days, my mind fights negativity that’s a whole lot darker than a bout of laziness. My inner dialogue will start chirping, “I’m no good. They are better off without me. I shouldn’t be here anymore.”
Now, that is hard to write because I know that’s not correct. That may be my mind talking, but I’ve realized that’s not me. I don’t know why my brain gets me headed in that direction, but I know those things are simply not true.
I believe I’m here for a reason. I believe we are all connected. I believe in God’s divine plan, and I know that includes me, even if I don’t know how.
For those of us that fight with our minds now and then, it makes me wonder: Is the problem really that we need to “toughen up”?
I can wrestle calves with the teenagers (though it hurts more than it used to!). I can move a portable panel all on my own (though I’d rather have someone on the other side!). I can get up before the crack of dawn and do whatever needs to be done in whatever elements the day brings.
For those of us born with the stuff of homesteaders and pioneers, we are born with grit in our blood. Imagine the grit it took to trail those cattle thousands of miles north on horseback. Imagine the grit it took to head west in a railcar through untamed country. You don’t have to imagine the grit it took to stay in this country, you can feel it.
So, are we tough enough to get into an actual conversation with our neighbors rather than just sending a text message? Tough enough to get beyond the weather to find out how they are really doing? Tough enough to share how WE are really doing?
I think we are. I think we can change the story for our kids: We are not too tough to need mental health. But, we are tough enough to talk about it.
Shoot, we’ve helped each other through winters, floods and wildfires. Heck yeah. We are tough enough to get “beyond the weather”!
Let’s go there.
*If you know someone who is feeling constantly down and unable to enjoy the things they used to, send them to Beyondtheweather.com to sign up for free, virtual, Counseling Access for Montana Agriculture program. Or have them call 406-200-8471 and press 7.
Courtney Kibblewhite is the Vice President of Northern Ag Network and her family has run cattle in Eastern Montana for five generations.