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Skagit County launches campaign to prevent farmer suicides

A recent CDC report placed farming in the top 10 occupations at risk for suicide.

MOUNT VERNON, Washington — A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed farming in the top 10 occupations for suicide risk.

The reasons are vast, since so much of the agriculture industry is out of a farmer's control. Livelihoods are at the whim of weather, government, finances and commodities brokers.

"I think farming is something you are, it isn't something that you do," said Chris Sybrandy, of Legacy Dairy in Mount Vernon. "When you lose that, you lose a piece of you."

The statistics are surprising to many, but not to Jay Gordon who lost a close friend and fellow farmer to suicide.

He talked to that friend on a Saturday and by Monday he was gone.

"It's like, man all you had to do was just tell me you're not in a good place right now or that you could use some help," Gordon said. "It just makes me mad."

A Skagit County and Washington State University campaign is reaching a hand out to farmer's in need, hoping to prevent suicides. 

The campaign targets farmworkers and their families, providing training for how to best get someone help while removing the stigma of seeking it.

"Being able to tell those stories and make sure we can help those farmers out as we go through those troubling times is critical," said WSU Extension's Don McMoran. "Conversation can save lives."

Some wonder whether the suicide rate for farmers might be even higher than reported because some deaths may be disguised as farm accidents. 

For Sybrandy, he simply hopes the new project will help life on the farm go on for all those still struggling.

"History shows that farmers can control what they can control and everything else is at the mercy of God," Sybrandy said. 

If you’re thinking about suicide, or you're worried about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24/7. 

You can also text "HEAL" to 741741 to be connected with a text crisis line.