Susan Greene talks mental health during drought in today’s The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Week after rainless week throughout the growing season has wounded not just local farmland, but also on the emotional landscape
Here in Kiowa County, farmers have always relied on whatever moisture happens to fall from the sky rather than on irrigation. In August, this 1,300-person community bordering on Kansas was the first part of Colorado where drought conditions surpassed “extreme” to a level meteorologists call “exceptional.”
That designation – which since has hit wide swaths of the West Slope – stands out on the drought map as a big brown pock.
Week after rainless week throughout this year’s growing season, it festered like a wound not just on local farmland, but also on the emotional landscape.
“It’s horrible, just horrible, the ways drought can affect the human mind,” says Jimmy Brown, a third-generation farmer in Eads whose wheat and grain sorghum crops withered this year, just like those of his neighbors. “I doubt there’s a person here whose mental health hasn’t been affected by it.”
The Eastern Plains have had dry spells. Some old-timers remember Dust Bowl conditions in the 1930s. Their children weathered extreme drought in the mid-1950s, and their children’s children endured acute dryness in 2002 and 2012. Each generation has taught the next to take the long view because they have learned that wishing – or praying – for rain doesn’t make it happen.
Yet nobody here can remember a year so parched that little grew higher than their work boots. No one recalls ground so dry that even the bindweed stopped growing. Nobody had seen so many rain clouds roll in late afternoons during monsoon season, only to watch them keep rolling eastward without bursting…
Brown, in addition to farming, serves as Kiowa County’s elected coroner and lone funeral director. He’s not a mental health expert, but is more tuned in than most to how locals are feeling. With drought, he says, comes uncertainty, even among majority of growers who carry insurance compensating them for the losses. With uncertainty come powerlessness, irritability and dread.