I recently facilitated a panel discussion that was focused on mental health issues as it relates to agriculture. I was absolutely shocked to see a huge portion of the 400+ audience members that have been affected by suicide… a topic that, let’s be honest, none of us really want to talk about. That said, we know that the only way to allow these conversations to get easier is to start them and not be afraid to share where we are at in our mental health journey.
There is a lack of understanding about issues related to mental health and I do not claim to be an expert by any stretch, but I do know that I am now committed to having more conversations. Our panel discussion was heartfelt and had more open sharing than I think most people in the room were really used to, but they were obviously very appreciative. After the discussion was over, we heard story after story from people that I had absolutely no idea were struggling – they talked about feeling lonely and feeling afraid to say anything to people… which breaks my heart. I want people to know that they are not alone and that there are people in their lives that care and care deeply. I lost my wife to suicide just over two years ago and I know the pain that generates – it has taken me two years to find my voice, but I want us to have more conversations because we are a strong industry and we care for each other, we want to support our friends and our colleagues.
When I left my panel discussion and walked through the hallway outside the conference center, I spotted a 50-ish year old man get out of his chair. As soon as he saw me he made a B-line towards me. I immediately thought, “oh boy, I’m gonna get it now” (terrible thought), but as he got close to me, his hand came out to shake hands and he looked me right in the eyes to say, “thank you for the presentation, and I wanted you to know that you saved my life today.”
All I could manage to come back with was “How?”
His response caught me in my tracks: “I am now going to find a professional to talk to.”
I will admit that helping the seed industry sell seed, grow their businesses and share great information seemed like the furthest thing from my mind when this conversation was done. How can we support each other better? Who could you reach out to in your life that you think may, just may, be struggling and to let them know that you see them… you are there for them and you are willing to help?
If you are struggling, reach out to a professional to help you and keep asking for support until you find what you need. If I can be of any help along the way – please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Editor’s Note: Shawn Brook is the President of Issues Ink – a top-tier seed media and marketing partner for the international seed industry. With three core media properties including European Seed, Seed World and Germination, Issues Ink has a global network of over 25 employees serving the seed industry through its media and consulting divisions.