Come Rain or Shine

Drought Impacts on Mental Health

April 07, 2021 USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Season 2 Episode 5
Drought Impacts on Mental Health
Come Rain or Shine
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Come Rain or Shine
Drought Impacts on Mental Health
Apr 07, 2021 Season 2 Episode 5
USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center

Drought impacts more than our physical world - the psychological impacts of drought are also very real. Crop damage or failure, running out of forage for livestock, the loss of culturally important natural resources, and many other drought-related effects can lead to stress, anxiety, and a deep sense of loss. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to or what resources are available. In this episode, we talk to three experts on this topic and discuss some strategies for coping and what you can do to help support others in your community.

Co-presented by the Southwest Drought Learning Network. Email Emile Elias for more information about the network.

Resources mentioned in the podcast:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) dial 988 (or 1-800-273-8255). Available 24/7

Crisis Text Line: text 'HOME' to 741741 in the USA & Canada; UK: text 85258; Ireland: text 50808. Available 24/7

Farm Aid: 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). Available Monday through Friday, 6am-7pm Pacific Standard Time.

Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Project (WRASASP):

Washington State University Water Irrigation Systems Efficiency Program: 

Tribal Climate Health Project: 

When Every Drop Counts, a guidance document for public health officials.

Preparing for the Health Effects of Drought: A Resource Guide for Public Health Professionals

If you liked this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser Thanks!

Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod
Never miss an episode!
Sign up to get an email alert whenever a new episode publishes
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Affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project (NIFA Grant #2019-69012-29853): 

Show Notes Transcript

Drought impacts more than our physical world - the psychological impacts of drought are also very real. Crop damage or failure, running out of forage for livestock, the loss of culturally important natural resources, and many other drought-related effects can lead to stress, anxiety, and a deep sense of loss. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to or what resources are available. In this episode, we talk to three experts on this topic and discuss some strategies for coping and what you can do to help support others in your community.

Co-presented by the Southwest Drought Learning Network. Email Emile Elias for more information about the network.

Resources mentioned in the podcast:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) dial 988 (or 1-800-273-8255). Available 24/7

Crisis Text Line: text 'HOME' to 741741 in the USA & Canada; UK: text 85258; Ireland: text 50808. Available 24/7

Farm Aid: 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). Available Monday through Friday, 6am-7pm Pacific Standard Time.

Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Project (WRASASP):

Washington State University Water Irrigation Systems Efficiency Program: 

Tribal Climate Health Project: 

When Every Drop Counts, a guidance document for public health officials.

Preparing for the Health Effects of Drought: A Resource Guide for Public Health Professionals

If you liked this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser Thanks!

Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod
Never miss an episode!
Sign up to get an email alert whenever a new episode publishes
Have a suggestion for a future episode? Please tell us!

Affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project (NIFA Grant #2019-69012-29853): 

Emile: [00:00:00] Welcome to the second in a series of episodes focused on the impacts of drought, co-presented by the Southwest Drought Learning Network. In this episode, we delve into the impacts of drought on mental health and stress. Please be advised that while the nature of this episode is educational, the conversation does touch on subjects that may be upsetting or triggering to some.

The topics include anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm, loss of culturally important natural resources, and loss of the cultural practices they support. Links to some mental health resources are included in the episode description. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 'HOME', H-O-M-E to 741741.

Welcome to Come Rain or Shine, podcast of the Southwest Climate Hub and the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center or CASC. I'm Emile Elias, director of the Southwest Climate Hub.

Sarah: [00:01:22] And I'm Sarah LeRoy. Science Communications Coordinator for the Southwest CASC. Here, we share recent advances in climate science, weather and climate adaptation and innovative practices to support resilient landscapes and communities.

Emile: [00:01:38] We believe sharing this information will strengthen our collective ability to respond to impacts of climate change in one of the hottest and driest regions of the world.

Often when we think of drought, we think of the physical and environmental effects, such as crop loss, lack of water for livestock and wildlife, and streams running dry. Lately we've also been hearing from farmers and ranchers about the effects that drought can have on their psychological well-being. Today to learn more about this important issue we're joined by three experts in drought and stress. Shasta Gaughen is a cultural anthropologist who works as the Environmental Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Her work focuses on climate change and health adaptation in Native American communities, and she is the founding director of the Tribal Climate Health project. 

Jesse Bell is a researcher from the University of Nebraska exploring the relationships between extreme weather, climate variability, and climate change on natural and human processes. Don McMoran is the Washington State University Skagit County Extension Director, and an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Educator with a background in working with mental health topics in agricultural communities.

So the first question I have is for all of you, but we'll start with Shasta. How did you become aware of the relationship between drought, stress, and psychological well-being? 

Shasta: [00:03:19] That is a really great question. And I was thinking about what my own experience has been with drought. And I am born and raised in Southern California, so I guess you could say that from the moment I was born, I was aware of the connection between drought and anxiety and stress. And not for myself because I was just a child, but seeing my father in particular, who just loves plants and gardening and growing things and being outside in the earth, he was really stressed out about it when California was going through these really extreme droughts. 

And of course we still are, but I have memories as a child of my father standing outside of the bathroom door, when my sister, when I would be taking a shower and he had an egg timer and he would have that timer on and he would say, okay, you know, you get three minutes. And we're like three minutes, you know, by the time we were teenagers, my sister is two and a half years older than me, we're going Dad, three minutes, three minutes is not enough. So we were able to negotiate with him to get the five minute drought shower. But even that was, was stressful. Uh, you know, my poor sister, a couple of times, he actually did go outside and turn off the water main to the house while she's in the midst of, you know, rinsing her hair from shampoo. Because to him, it was that important, that we be protecting ourselves from the effects of drought. 

And, you know, even to this day, the old man, 79 years old now, and he has, I want to say 20, 50 gallon rain barrels that he fills and then he covers and that's his, his drought water. It's not for us. It's not to keep his family alive. It's to keep his plants alive, to water his plants, because that means so much to him.

So my entire life I've had a connection with drought and stress. And then of course, working in a tribal community where water is life, that connection becomes evident pretty much the moment you start talking to tribal folks about what their concerns are about, not just drought, but climate change in general.

Emile: [00:05:31] Yeah, sounds like you've been aware of this issue and really keyed into it for your whole life growing up with your dad. I feel like most of us in the West are, but it's really great to hear about people being that aware of water scarcity and the needs of the community, the broader community. So Don-

Shasta: [00:05:52] I'll tell my dad, you said so.

Emile: [00:05:54] Yeah. Yeah. Let your dad know that I approve, even though your sister might not. So Don the same question to you, how did you become aware of the relationship between drought and stress and psychological well-being? 

Don: [00:06:08] Yeah. I grew up in Western Washington right here in Skagit County. I'm fourth generation farm kid. And I also have these deep memories from childhood and drought. So one would think western Washington, we’re, we're more known for our rain than our droughts, but going back as early as 1980, growing up on a family farm, I remember my dad when he first bought his first irrigation equipment and brought it to the farm.

And of course it was late and his green pea crop was being devastated in the drought and he was out trying to irrigate and just really difficult times. I mean, when you think about agriculture, you think about, think a lot about, you know, how the weather impacts livelihoods and the stress that that, that can bring to farmers is, is very impactful.

And so through my work, and it's amazing to me how my childhood really prepared me for my career, our hired man ended up taking his life. This is back in 1998. And at the time, that really hit hard on me. And I didn't realize that I would get involved in the subject matter later on. And it wasn't until 2019 when we had three agricultural suicides in Skagit County that I said, it's enough.

I, we can't have this happen in our community anymore. So I came to my office the next day after the third one. And it was a gentleman that I had known and worked with when I was at the Conservation District. And he had a niece that I went to school with and the niece had twins that are the same age as my twins.

And I had to look into the young girl's eyes and, and ask her about her, her great uncle that had taken his own life. And that was, that was enough. And so I came in the next day and I sat my staff down and I said, we have to do something about this. And luckily they agreed and, I'll get in more in detail about the program, but I think we're doing some fabulous work trying to reduce stigma around agricultural suicide.

And we've done a really great job about getting awareness about the subject matter and how our farmers are at two to three times higher risk of taking their own lives than the general population. 

Emile: [00:08:43] So yeah, Don, thank you for that story. I'm glad that you're here with us to share this information today and Jesse, the same question for you. How did you become aware of the relationship between drought stress and psychological well-being? 

Jesse: [00:09:02] Yeah, that's, you know, similar to the other panelists today. It's, it's kind of a similar story. I grew up in a small rural community in northeast Nebraska.  In a small agricultural community. My mom is a, or she was a nurse in the local hospital and she would talk about, you know, when we saw more economic stress or downturn of low crop prices or whatever it may be.

That they were starting to see more patients come into the hospital associated with substance abuse, spousal abuse and self-harm. And so I think that was probably the earliest time that I really saw some of those relationships or heard about some of those relationships. And then when I moved forward and into my career, I started working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and then also a joint position with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And while I was working in this joint position, I was working on the impacts of drought on human health, just broadly. And we were partnering with, uh, NIDIS the National Integrated Drought Information System. And I'm still partnering with them today on trying to develop a drought and health strategy document to understand some of these linkages between drought and health and how we could potentially integrate some of this into their work in the future as well.

And so while working on some of this work based off of drought and health, it became very apparent that drought has a lot of ways that it's impacting human health. And definitely one of those, those impacts is mental health and mental health outcomes.

Sarah: [00:10:42] Thank you, Jesse. And thank you all for really speaking to the importance of the topic that we're here to discuss today.  So Jesse, you've done some formal research on the linkages between drought and mental health outcomes. So would you be able to tell us a little bit more about what you've found in your research?

Jesse: [00:11:01] Sure, sure. And this, this research actually came about because I was working on the US Global Change Research Programs Climate and Health assessment that came out in 2016 and from the White House. And I was one of the lead authors on that report, and as being a lead author on the report, I was responsible for the Extreme Weather and Climate chapter and originally the Extreme Weather and Climate chapter was actually linked with the Mental and Behavioral Health chapter. At that time, I didn't feel comfortable with that topic area. So I said we should definitely, and I realized that that topic area was a big enough topic area by itself, that it should be separated and that mental and behavioral health should be its own chapter and have its own recognition.

But through that and through some of my work that I was doing on drought at that time, I became interested in trying to figure out more of those linkages between drought and mental health. And so we started a project with colleagues at CDC and Emory University, and we did a systematic review of the linkages between mental health outcomes and drought.

And by mental health outcomes, we looked at anxiety, depression, and suicide. And so through this systematic review, we had all this cited, all this cited literature, identifying all these different pathways and we created a Causal Process diagram. It's a diagram that shows linkages between different public health outcomes and a better understanding of public health outcomes.

And so we realized that this is a pretty complex pathway. There's a lot of linkages and a lot of different pathways to get from a drought event to anxiety, depression, and even potentially suicide. But even though there are a lot of different linkages and a lot of different pathways, it's still important for us to understand and important for us to know because, um, we were hoping that this would serve as a resource guide to public health professionals and other professionals that are working in the field to to help identify what are some of the possible interventions to reducing the potential health impacts? 

And so, and then we actually, we're working on some work right now as well. And this is preliminary work that actually just got submitted this last week, I believe, to a scientific journal looking at mental health impacts or, uh yeah, mental health and stress impacts from drought events. And so we did a survey or there was a survey that was already conducted for agricultural workers in the Midwestern part of the United States. This survey was originally intended for understanding muscle-skeletal issues in agricultural workers.

And so I've been partnering with the University of Minnesota, researchers at the University of Minnesota and from Iowa as well to reevaluate that survey because stress was one of the indicators in there and it just happened to be when they were implementing the survey, it fell right over the 2012 drought.

Which was one of the very large impactful droughts that had far reaching impacts across the United States. And through our initial analysis, we were actually able to see that there was an increase in indicated stress in agricultural workers during that 2012 drought. And so I think that just helps us understand and better understand some of those linkages between drought and potential mental health impacts.

And so, that's some of the work that we've been working on and some of the work that's been going on. 

Sarah: [00:14:42] Thanks Jesse. I'll be interested  to see the findings when they come out and are published. Shasta, being the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pala Band of Mission Indians, you see firsthand the impacts of drought and climate change on tribal communities and their well-being.

And so I'm curious what you've learned about drought and well-being through your work with tribal communities. 

Shasta: [00:15:12] It's really a fascinating topic to look at these links from a tribal perspective. And one thing you have to consider is that there are well over 500, in fact I, as of this date, think 574 tribal nations, federally recognized by the United States. And there's also, you know, multiple non-federally recognized tribal groups. And when you're talking about the impacts on well-being in those communities, whether they're environmental impacts or other impacts, you have to consider what the specific cultural backgrounds are for those communities.

So, I can talk about some of the impacts in Pala, but I can also talk about what I've learned from some of my tribal colleagues throughout the nation about their own experiences. And so for Pala, being in Southern California, a lack of water, just like it was for me growing up in Southern California is something that people are accustomed to.

So the drought has not necessarily hit people in a way that is coming out of nowhere. It's something that communities and whether they're tribal nations or other communities that are living in low water regions, they find ways to adapt to that lack of water. But, kind of linked to that is that when you are already living in a situation of water scarcity, when a drought does come, what little water you have, there's even less.

So what we find when it comes to tribal folks is that it means in an arid region like this, that those few water sources that you've come to rely on, whether they're small creeks or streams, you know what we would call a river in San Diego County or in Southern California is what people in other places like the Pacific Northwest are going to call a rivulet.

You know, our rivers are not very impressive from a global standpoint, but when that little river dries up and it means that the source of life has disappeared in front of your eyes. And you know that you're having to dig down into places that you normally wouldn't have to, to access that water, whether it's the water for your own life, for your own survival and the survival of your, your family, your children, your community, your plants that you're growing.

It's also the survival of a lot of cultural traditions and cultural beliefs because you see the impact of the drought, not just on a sacred river or a spring that's dried up or not producing as much as it might have before, but it's also impacting the plants and the animals that are a really important part of tribal values, culture and tradition. And so when I think about some of my colleagues in places outside of San Diego and outside of California, you start to hear about things like a lack of water, um, making it so that certain traditional plants no longer grow. And if those plants are connected to ceremonies, you can't do the ceremonies without the plants, or you can't have the cultural practice without the water from that spring.

The amount of mental impacts that that creates is it's, I mean, it's really impossible to quantify. Because what are you doing to a community that is unable to essentially show its identity, practice its identity and reaffirm that identity, if those things that they have to have to be a part of that, to reinforce that are no longer available. And so that coupled with a lot of the other issues that tribal nations are dealing with, which is a lack of resources in general, all sorts of other mental health impacts, that just exacerbates already existing mental health problems in those communities. So it, it really just kind of snowballs.

Sarah: [00:19:36] Thanks, Shasta. Yeah. It's interesting to think about this idea of drought in arid regions. And we just talked about this on our last episode, actually as well, when we talked about drought and natural resources in arid lands. And how, you know, we may not think of these areas as vulnerable to drought since we're so accustomed to drought.

But in fact, they might be more vulnerable because they're closer to these thresholds, right. So it's all tied together. So Don, moving over to you, could you tell us about some of the unique challenges that people in agricultural professions face in terms of stressors and how drought might add to that?

Don: [00:20:18] So I think, you know in agriculture, we have a lot of opportunities and that's what I really like about Extension is we have the opportunity to bring science to our stakeholders. And so one program that I've been able to help develop in Washington State is the Water Irrigation Systems Efficiency program, otherwise known as WSU WISE.

So this is a program where we work with scientists like Dr. Troy R. Peters out of Prosser. And  we use technology that's been developed by him and other scientists coming out of places like Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where we can go to farms and we can evaluate their irrigation systems and help them utilize their water better. Bring higher efficiencies to what they're doing. So how I like to equate that is, you know, we have farmers that are driving their three quarter ton, 1980s pickup truck with a Chevy 350, that gets eight miles to the gallon. And there's nothing wrong with that. Right?

It does the job, but we could also put that same producer into something that's newer, something that gets better fuel economy and does a better job, has more bells and whistles, to get the same job accomplished. So through that program, we're able to help farmers utilize new technologies.

There's things like boom cart, boom type carts, instead of using a single reel irrigation systems. There's lots of new technology that is spreading out all across the country, like micro sprinklers and underground drip, and what have you. So, I would encourage producers that are out there to look into opportunities through your land grant university. WSU in Washington state has some great programs, but I'm sure in your states there's some wonderful programs as well.

But that really switched me to the next gear, which is farm stress and suicide prevention. And so, as I mentioned in my intro, uh, we realized that farm stress is as high as it's ever been in history. And we can think about the pandemic and the research that's surrounding the pandemic says that once we get through the pandemic, that's when we're really going to see the most stress in agriculture.

And the reason behind that is typically during stress is when farmers are locked in and they're going to do everything in their power to keep the farm afloat, to keep things going. And then after the fact is when the banks come in and they start foreclosing and all, all sorts of really negative impacts occur.

So we're really ramping up our program. We received a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, and we titled that the Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Project, otherwise known as WRASASP and that's offered through the FRSAN program, the Farm Ranch Stress Assistance Network through USDA.

And they've been very gracious in funding our program to outreach to all the states in the West, 13 states, as well as four territories for this particular subject matter. So I do have a pretty fabulous staff that has helped me ramp up a whole lot of programming in this particular area, and I would encourage your listeners to go to our website. Our website is Once again, that web address is, and it has a great deal of information on it, as well as small grants programming so that if anybody is interested in this particular area, we certainly encourage them to sign up, to help us prevent agricultural suicides in the West.

Emile: [00:24:37] Yeah, Don, thank you so much for sharing that. And that leads really nicely into the next question that we had for you. So all of you, Don and Shasta and Jesse, thank you for sharing your deep knowledge about the impacts of drought on people, because that's really what we're talking about today. And as we were planning this episode, our production team discussed how important it is, especially around this topic, to provide resources and share strategies that can be helpful, and that you've seen that you might recommend. 

And so it sounds like WRASAP, farmstress, even the solutions that you were suggesting around irrigation or some of those that you might share with everyone listening to this. And of course we do want to remind listeners that none of us here are mental health professionals, and so this shouldn't be taken as medical advice. But we're definitely sharing what we have that might be helpful. 

So the next question, I'm going to turn to Shasta and ask if you can share any resources you're aware of, or approaches that you've seen applied, either specific to tribal communities or applicable to anyone coping with drought stress.

Shasta: [00:25:58] I'm going to talk a little bit about a project that I started with some grant funding from a variety of sources, including the Bureau of Indian affairs and the National Indian Health Board. And with some of that funding, we were able to start the Tribal Climate Health Project. And we have a website for that, it's

And the purpose of that project was to help tribal communities develop climate change vulnerability assessments, and adaptation plans. And of course, impacts of climate change to water were a big part of that, so that relates to drought. But the other thing that we wanted to focus on with the tribal climate health project was... health. 

That's why it's, you know, part of the title of the project, because what we found is that a lot of vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans really look at climate change from the ecological standpoint. And of course that's important. You want to be able to adapt to the environmental stressors or the environmental changes that are occurring as a consequence of climate change.

But what people weren't looking at was how it impacts both physical and then mental health. And with tribal communities in particular, mental and emotional, psychological well-being is very closely linked to cultural well-being. So we have some tools, we have resources, we have a whole resource clearing house on that people can look at to try to integrate some of these tools and these data into their own vulnerability assessments and their adaptation plans.

But from a just a broader perspective, whether it's drought or whether it's any other ecological impact on mental health. It's important to be able to look at things from a community standpoint. And so also on our website, we have some tools about how to assess mental health and put into place some of the, some of the strategies that you can use to help people manage their emotional responses. 

And again, for tribal communities, the broad base of that pyramid is always going to be community. But I think that's true beyond. You know, I think Don and Jesse would probably agree that in farming communities, knowing that you're not in this alone, that you can, you might feel like it's, it's all you, you're the only one who feels like they're suffering. But if you know that you can reach out to another, even another tribal community, another farming community, just another rancher and say, you know, man, I'm having a really hard time. 

If you know that you have that community to reach out to, you're much less likely to get to kind of the tip of the pyramid, where you're at the point where you need professional intervention in order to save somebody. So that's what I would say is just start with your community, reach out to that community. And these can be hard things to talk about. And again, Don and Jesse would know more about farming communities than me, but I would guess that there's a, a little bit of a feeling of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

You don't want to admit that you're struggling. And believe it or not, that happens in tribal communities too. You don't want to admit that you're struggling. So I don't have a specific tool to reach out for that other than to say your community is your tool. So use it. 

Emile: [00:29:31] Yeah, thank you, Shasta. That reminds me of just the need for a peer to peer and community to community support.

And I think we're really seeing that during COVID too, of how important our communities are and in reaching out any way we can and remembering that we're all in this together. And so I think that, that piece about connection and, and remembering that you're not the only one going through this stress can be really helpful.

Yeah. And I'd be curious, also, Jesse, do you have any resources that you'd like to share or strategies that people might be able to use that you've come across in your work? 

Jesse: [00:30:11] Sure.  That's a great point. And, and again, kind of going back to the previous points were made, rural communities, especially, have fewer resources.

You know, if you're trying to seek help, there just aren't the resources available. And also there's that stoic, you know, farmer mentality - I can take this on in some capacity. But that doesn't always work. And, uh, when that is the case, there are resources within your community. Either, you know, reach out to your religious organization or reaching out to your local practitioner, a health practitioner and trying to seek advice or seek help.

Also there's other resources or national resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That's a resource that you can reach out to in times of stress as well, especially if you're getting at that point. So definitely seek help, know that there are a lot of resources out there, know that there are opportunities to reach out to individuals and that there are, you know, there's definitely some help out there for you.

Now from the broader perspective, you know, we know that public health officials and we know that other, uh, officials that are out there and health officials that are out there that are trying to deal with some of these issues. They're trying to, you know, they're maybe just wanting to get resources, to understand broadly what are the impacts of drought on human health and potentially, you know, that, that sub piece of mental health as well.

And so CDC has a number of resources for those individuals. There's When Every Drop Counts, it's a guidance document for public health officials. There's another guidance document called Preparing for the Health Effects of Drought: A Resource Guide for Public Health Professionals. These are documents that are out there that are potentially useful for again, practitioners that are trying to understand some of these health impacts and start trying to better address preparedness efforts as well. 

Shasta: [00:32:09] You know, I was thinking about what you said, Jesse and I, it occurred to me that I wanted to add something to it. And I'm glad you mentioned the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but, as a person who suffers from depression and anxiety myself, and have I’ve been struggling a little bit through COVID, there are those times where you feel like it's, it's too much to even pick up the phone.

So I would encourage everybody to check in. Check in on your friends, check in on your family. And we do that here in Pala, when we're having weather events coming up, you know, where, where maybe there's going to be some people cut off because there's going to be flooding. Ironically, even though we're in drought, when the rain does come, it tends to come in big gusts and it cuts people off.

And so we make sure that we encourage people check on your elders, check on the kids. Check on each other. And I got a check in the other day, the same old man who used to threaten to turn off the water for too long of a shower called me over the weekend and said, you know, Hey sweetie, can I take you to lunch?

And I said, of course you can dad. Cause he knew I'd been struggling. So he checked on me and he came up and bought me a plate of enchiladas, you know? And uh, and it was, it was good. And I've I really appreciate that. So do that, reach out to people, even if you're not depressed somebody around you, might really be struggling. So, you know, reach out that hand. 

Emile: [00:33:41] Shasta, thank you for that reminder for all of us, right? In any situation, to continue to reach out to our communities and our friends and our people. I'd like to circle back to Don because you started with this question and sharing some of the resources that you have for agricultural communities.

And I'd just like to ask a bit more, if you have any other resources or extension publications that you might want to share with the listeners. 

Don: [00:34:13] Yeah. I wanted to go back to Shasta's response to Jesse's response. I, and I think it's important that we look out for those signs in people that might be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

So in the agricultural community, there are some real specific ones that you might notice a farmer changing their routine, doing things very differently than they might do. They might, there might be a decline in care of farm and livestock. Maybe a change in mood. So they may be anxious, agitated, or angry, or new increased financial pressures that are on the farm, or just a loss of interest in hobbies or activities.

And the real big one that we find in the agricultural communities is when, when farmers start giving away their prized possessions. So,  Hey, I want you to have this, my shotgun. I'm not going to be around here anymore, or those sorts of things. And, and when you see those sorts of activities, it's okay to ask the hard question.

Um, you know, are, are you going to do bodily harm to yourself? Are you thinking about of taking your own life? And asking those really hard questions? And if you see those sorts of things, then you need to help them reach out to someone. So a good place to start for farmers is a farm specific resource line through Farm Aid.

You might've heard of that organization before. Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, do a big concert every year for Farm Aid and their resources. That line is 1-800-FARM-AID. So once again, that number is 1-800-327-6243. And then also the National Suicide Prevention hotline. That's 1-800-273-TALK. Once again, that's 1-800-273-8255.

Emile: [00:36:23] Great. Thanks, Don. Thanks everyone for sharing your resources and suggestions about connecting with people. And I just wanted to remind everybody that all of these resources will also be published online in the podcast description. So if you're missing anything while you're listening, all of these numbers and websites will be published in the description.

Sarah: [00:36:45] Thanks Emile. And thank you all for these excellent resources for people who are struggling with stress and depression from drought. I'd like to switch gears slightly now. In January we had an episode on climate hope that received a lot of positive feedback. And so in keeping with this theme of hope, we wanted to ask you what gives you hope as you work with people on drought, stress, and mental health. So Shasta, why don't we start with you? 

Shasta: [00:37:15] Well, I think a lot about hope because by nature, I, I don't want to say I'm not a hopeful person. I'll just say that I'm a pragmatist. So I'm one of those people who tends to plan for the worst, but hope for the best. And, but I will say that what, what gives me hope in this particular area when it comes to drought, I'm hopeful by the fact that people seem to finally be acknowledging that something needs to be done. And for a long time, for those of us working in the climate space, we knew who our other fellow travelers were, but there was a lot of time spent on, ugh, this person, they get it, but they don't think that it's an issue now.

And now we're starting to see people saying. Oh, wait a second. This is happening now. Now that seems like a strange thing to be hopeful about, but the hope comes from maybe more people taking the three minute drought shower because they know that it matters. And, you know, the hippies everywhere are overjoyed that we're suddenly realizing we don't have to take a shower every day. But that, that it is a hopeful thing that people are starting to become aware that they can take steps as individuals that collectively create change that's going to be good for all of us. So if I want to put it as kind of a joke, I just, I hope that there are more slightly smelly people because they realize they can take fewer showers.

Sarah: [00:38:53] Thanks Shasta. And, and you know what, that's what gives me hope too, which is this community of people adapting and working to adapt to climate change. We're all in this together for sure. Don, how about you? What's what gives you hope?

Don: [00:39:09] I'm very hopeful because, at least in western Washington, climate change, isn't all bad.

When I reach out to my farmers and we have these really tough conversations, you know, number one, you have to understand my audience. A good portion of them don't believe in climate change. But when I ask them, is the weather different from when you were a kid? Oh yeah. Yeah. The weather is very different.

So, um, kind of interesting for me to have these conversations, but when I really get down into the weeds with them, they tell me that, Hey yeah, two, three, four degrees warmer in western Washington? Yeah. That could potentially be good for us. We could start growing some of the crops that were traditionally grown in Shasta's area.

So there's, there's some positive notes there. And then also really being able to connect with science and technology through the universities and being able to get that information back to my growers so they can make really educated decisions on what they're going to do for their farm and how to better utilize the water that they do have and make it go further.

Sarah: [00:40:17] Thanks Don. Jesse, what gives you hope? 

Jesse: [00:40:21] I would say, yeah, it's the same. I'm impressed with how our level of knowledge around drought and the impacts that it has on human health, on climate and the impacts that has on human health. It's just growing over time. And the more that we understand and the more that we know, the better that we can be prepared for some of these events.

And so, you know, hopefully through this knowledge and through all this information that we're gathering, our communities will be better prepared and hopefully that'll help save some lives at the end as well. And then also within it, you know, like I said, we're in the process of working on this drought and health strategy document.

And as we're working on this document, we're having workshops around the country. And we're bringing in public health professionals and emergency preparedness and all these different organizations and institutions, and talking about the impacts that drought has on human health. And I have to say that brings me, it gives me a lot of hope because I've been impressed with the number of individuals that we've been able to bring together.

And collectively, there seems to be a lot of interest on trying to address the impacts of drought on human health. So for me, there's a lot of hope for the future of addressing some of these issues. 

Sarah: [00:41:42] That's great. Thank you. It's always nice to end on a hopeful note. And so before we leave, just, we wanted to give you one more opportunity to speak.

So, one last question. What is the one thing that you'd like people to remember from our conversation today? So Don, why don't we start with you?

Don: [00:42:01] The one thing that I want you all to remember is that you can make a difference. If you see people that are hurting, step in and ask them the hard question, get them to help. You'll be glad that you did.

Sarah: [00:42:15] Jesse?

Jesse: [00:42:17] I would say that there's, you know, first off that drought does impact our health. It's not just agriculture, it's not just water resources and the environment. Drought has impacts on our health in a variety of different ways. There's a lot of good work that's out there.

But there's still a lot of work that needs to be done as well. And that's where we need to have more collaborations like this, bringing more people together to talk about some of these potential impacts, and making sure that when we're talking about drought, that public health is in the loop in some capacity.

And so that's what I would probably try to have people leave with. 

Sarah: [00:42:59] Perfect, thanks. Shasta?

Shasta: [00:43:02] Well, it's hard for me to have the last word and not say too much. But just in general, I want people to take away, kind of two things, one that this is real. It's real. The impact of all of these environmental changes, whether it's drought or others, it does have an impact on your mental health.

So remember that. And don't be ashamed of it or feel like there's something wrong with you if you're feeling that sense of sadness, over the loss of something that you had always taken for granted. But the second thing I would take away is still on that theme of hope, which is that you have your community, you have people around you, you're not alone.

And for native people, native people have been here from time and immemorial and they will continue to be here until the end of time immemorial. And that gives us all reason to keep working together, to protect one another and be there for one another and keep giving us reason for hope. 

Sarah: [00:44:11] Thanks Shasta.

The one thing that I, the one big thing I think I will leave from this is community, right. And how important our community is. So thank you all so much for joining us today and sharing your knowledge and expertise on this challenging, but very, very important topic. So we really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you. 

Shasta: [00:44:32] Thank you. 

Jesse: [00:44:33] Thank you. 

Don: [00:44:35] Thanks.

Emile: [00:44:42] Thanks for listening to Come Rain or Shine, podcast of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and the DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. 

Sarah: [00:44:53] If you liked this podcast, don't forget to subscribe like or follow for more great episodes. If you want more information, have any questions for the speakers or would like to offer feedback, please visit or 

Emile: [00:45:21] Our sincere thanks to USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Sustainable Southwest Beef Project, and the US Geological Survey for supporting this podcast.