Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

From The Mailbag

September 15, 1997

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to send me a note or a letter. Your doing this is one of the things that makes writing this column so worthwhile. Here are some letters that were thought provoking and I would like to share with you.

"I read your recent advice about dating in the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan and wanted to thank you for writing. I wish more parents would take your advice to heart. I appreciate your daughter's response as well. Her advice about dating, waiting for marriage and setting standards was excellent! Through my work and raising my own five children, I have come to appreciate the positive aspects of courtship instead of dating." - President of a crisis pregnancy center in South Dakota.

"My husband fought a battle with cancer for about 1 1/2 years, here and at Mayo. Some people look at me funny when I repeatedly say that the time he and the family were given was a very real gift. Your column explored the gift time can be to the patient, but it is also such a gift to the family. Each of the family members also had the gift of time to talk to and spend time with him, to give of themselves to make him feel comfortable and to assure him of their love.

. . .It made it much easier for all of us - a true gift. It certainly doesn't take the separation, hurt, sorrow, loneliness away, but it gave all of us time to adjust and accept (if that is really possible) his impending death . . .So yes, time was a such a gift for all of us - to listen to what he needed to say and to say what we wanted to. How many people never have that opportunity. - A North Dakota widow.

"Five years ago I wrote you to let you know how a "workaholic" farmer . . . affects his family. Then it was up to me to tend to almost all of our children's wants needs and education.

"Now our children are grown, married and gone. We have retired. Yes, we have amassed quite a lot of money but what a life! Last year my husband lost most of his vision due to macular degeneration. He has no hobbies to spend his time on. He depends on me to drive. The only 'hobby' he has is listening to the radio - mostly talk shows. He can't see well enough to read the farm ads despite visual aids.

"Do continue to advise your readers to have a hobby and be family oriented!" - a North Dakota farm wife.

"I've often wondered if you acquired such knowledge on mental health from personal experience? You are right on! I had my first breakdown after my young son was killed. . . . Depression is nothing to take lightly. It can kill and not always by suicide. Where I live the public looks at mental depression as insanity. Once a person goes to a psychologist for help, he or she may as well carry a sign. . . .

"With your help I would like to do something that would prevent others from losing all interest in life. To treat depression you must first distinguish the cause." - A Minnesota resident.

"I have read your editorial that appeared in the Dickinson Press on, 'What type of community do we have?' I live in a small rural town of approximately 160 people. Our community engulfs quite a large surrounding area and we continually attempt to bring the community together to accomplish the same goals. We have just accomplished our fourth annual HORSE-FEST celebration to which many have participated, some reluctantly, not realizing it has to be a joint effort to succeed." - A western North Dakota resident.

"In one of your recent columns you made a list a things that are wrong with our society and you asked if you left anything out.

"There are too many today who believe that only a written agreement is binding and no longer honor an oral commitment. . . .We still believe that it is right to honor our word. We have tried to teach our sons this by teaching and by our behavior. I think the word honor is beautiful because of all it stands for."

  • An Illinois reader

"My colleagues and myself cut out your articles often and carry them with us. We often share them with our clients. Sometimes we feel that even though we may be saying the same things to our clients, it is somehow helpful to show them an article of yours to support what we are trying to do with these families. For them, to see the same message written down, sort of legitimizes it and they accept it more readily . . .You've helped us more than you know." - A marriage and family therapist from Moorhead MN.

". . . I am an alcoholic, however, I have not used alcohol and/or other drugs for quite a while; hopefully never again.

"It seems to me all the negative happenings in our society are 'symptoms' of negative relationships in regard to ourselves, our fellow person, our environment and to our God. How do we get positive relationships to happen? There may be other ways, but in my life I've seen it happen in many other people's lives through involvement in 12 step groups." - A Minnesota resident.