NORWALK, WIS. — Not long ago, a local farmer here plunged into a depression so intense that he could barely muster the strength to leave his bed.
The 40-something father of eight went dark for weeks, despite the enormous amount of daily work needed to keep his family farm going.
“If you are running a small farm, you still have to get up and milk the cows. You got to go put the crops in. There are demands that nature doesn’t let you forget,” explained Jeffrey Menn, a farmer and doctor who was familiar with his friend’s crisis. “His massive depression immobilized him. He couldn’t even get out of bed for two or three weeks. Young guy, but he got himself worked into a hole.
“It’s his wife who’s taken over the operation, and she has, let me tell you. She’s a force of nature. This woman, she gets things done. You know, eight kids, mountain of debt, but she’s out there busting her butt to make things happen.”
It could have been worse for his friend, said Menn. “Depression can lead to suicide. He’s recovered from the deeper parts but in terms of the leadership in the family, that’s now been transferred to his wife.”
A retired physician, Menn is known locally as the “cowboy doctor” for his love of riding horses and western attire. In 37 years of practice, he has become all too familiar with the impact that depression and suicide have had on the lives of farmers and their families in the western counties of Wisconsin, where he works full-time at the Neighborhood Family Clinic.
He is also a farmer.
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