GREAT FALLS — Jason DeShaw is a mental health advocate and musician. On Thursday, he delivered a presentation on combating suicide amongst farmers and ranchers.
His decision to help guide others through their mental health struggles came after he himself received difficult news.
“In my late twenties, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and so I went on a quest to not only learn how to overcome it, but also how to advocate for people living with mental struggles,” says DeShaw.
DeShaw believes rates of suicide are higher in farmers and ranchers due to three primary conditions.
“One is the long distance to mental health care, two is the prevalence of alcohol, and three is the easy access to firearms,” he says.
Montana has approximately 50,000 agriculture producers. 20% (10,000) struggle with mental health including anxiety and depression; 5% (2,500) suffer from severe mental illness that includes suicidal behavior.
"Much of that is due to negative stigma. Stigma is just a softer word for discrimination, but it's what keeps a lot of people from reaching out and getting help,” says DeShaw.