Rural Families: Taking Care of Yourself Before Others


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We tend to put the needs of others before our own, including the needs of our children, family members and friends. This is especially true of parents. Both mothers and fathers in rural communities often have a lot of responsibility, including taking care of their children, paying the bills, caring for crops and livestock, and planning for retirement. These stressors can place a large emotional toll on rural families. 

In taking care of all the responsibilities and putting the needs of their children before their own, parents in rural communities may unintentionally neglect to take care of themselves. Both mothers and fathers carry a large burden, but they do so in different ways. 

The man of the household is often responsible for making an income for the family and doing much of the physical labor around the farm and household. Men often feel as though they need to be tough. There is a stigma towards men feeling and expressing their emotions. This stigma is not only held by society, but it’s also held by individuals who are stigmatized – this is called self-stigmatization

When a man experiences self-stigma, he holds the belief that he is not allowed to cry, that he must be “a man” and fix his problems on his own. Masculine ideals of stoicism and self-reliance fuel men’s reluctance to seek professional help for fear of being seen as weak. In fact, 40% of producers across Canada reported that they would feel uneasy about seeking professional help due to what people may think. As a result, seeking help for mental health related issues is often extremely uncommon and mental illness often goes untreated. 

Fathers take on the responsibility of their spouse and children. They strive to be a rock for their family members and feel the need to be self reliant. In doing so, they suppress their own emotions and needs. In Canada, suicide rates are highest among rural men.. It is extremely important that rural men understand that in order to care for their family, they must take care of themselves first. This involves identifying stigmas and masculine ideas that are harming these individuals. It is okay to cry, to talk about mental health, and to seek professional help. 

On the other hand, women in rural communities often bear a lot of demanding responsibilities, particularly around the house and with their children. Women in rural areas may have additional stressors, such as restricted social contacts, less opportunity to participate in paid employment, and less access to social services compared to women living in urban areas. 

In order to take care of their family members, women in rural areas must first take care of themselves.. That is, it is important to prioritize self-care. Self-care activities may include social outings with friends, journaling, meditation, physical activity or other activities that the individual enjoys.

So many people try to help and please the people around them while placing their own health and wellbeing on the back burner. Particularly for rural families, their lives can possess additional stressors and stigma surrounding mental health. It is extremely important to remember that mental health is a priority, and we can not help others if we do not take care of ourselves first. To truly help another we need to be strong, healthy, and mentally balanced. Take care of yourself, encourage others to do so as well, and please try to foster the belief that it is okay to seek help when you are struggling.