There is a need to address suicide among farmers in the United States and understand what contributes to suicide among American farmers. The purpose of this qualitative study is to analyze narrative data to uncover circumstances that were present in the lives of farmers who died by suicide.
This study leverages data available in the National Violent Death Reporting System. For this study, we examined all suicides that occurred in Wisconsin between the years 2012 and 2016 and were extracted from the Wisconsin Violent Death Reporting System. Decedents were manually sorted by the “usual occupation” variable in order to identify farmers.
During the study period, 73 farmers died, most of whom were White, non-Hispanic males. Four themes were identified in the thematic analysis: stymied by physical health issues, grief from loss of relationships, ready access to firearms in rural Wisconsin, and the burden of farming and the farm.
The findings from this study demonstrate how unique contextual factors lead to suicide among farmers. This study has implications for suicide prevention among farmers. Primarily, there is a need to address the accessibility of firearms, as their availability in a time of crisis has lethal consequences. However, suicide prevention programming that addresses access to lethal means must take the sociocultural context of rural America into consideration. These findings should also be considered as applied to health care providers that serve rural communities. Suicide risk assessment and management should consider stressors unique to farmers.