For the nation’s farming communities, stress-related mental health stands as a significant and growing concern. The demands of farming and ranching are often increased by economic challenges, severe weather and other factors beyond the control of producers.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize projects funded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) Program and how they are addressing important needs within farm communities.
NIFA National Program leader Edwin Lewis, Ph.D., says that FRSAN supported projects work to establish a network that connects individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs.
“These assistance networks help farmers and ranchers increase their behavioral health awareness, connects them to critical resources and help effect positive outcomes for them, their workers and their families,” Lewis said.
A FRSAN-supported survey project at the University of Nevada, Reno showed that both stress and depression levels were higher among farmers and ranchers than people working in non-farm jobs. Participants rated their interest in learning more about 18 coping strategies as well their preferred ways to learn more. The goal is to use this information to fine-tune outreach efforts to the state’s agricultural producers on how to manage stress.
Projects in Other States
Maine FRSAN developed a website focused on Agricultural Wellness and Resilience. The website features resources and tips related to crisis support, a hub to share resilience resources, and upcoming events, training or workshops focused on supporting farmer well-being. Maine FRSAN is using Instagram to promote awareness about farm wellness and farm stress, highlight resources and promote events or programs geared towards farmer well-being.
In Kansas, FRSAN funding was used to create an organized statewide campaign to raise awareness for KansasAgStress.org (website), develop reusable media content, and work to destigmatize the concept of mental health awareness while hoping to lower suicide rates in the Kansas agriculture industry.
In Hawaii, the Hawaiʻi Ag Mental Health Mentor Program was developed after a needs assessment showed farmers and ranchers are more likely to reach out to a family or friend for help, than a health professional. The FRSAN supported project’s goal was to establish a team of mentors that could serve as a liaison to mental health providers for those in need, to build a community on the foundation of care and concern and destigmatize conversations surrounding mental health.
Multiple agencies working together in North Dakota are guiding the FRSAN project. Together, they are fostering collaboration to address farm stress needs while developing and delivering educational resources and programming on farm stress and mental health topics. Additionally, the team is providing crucial support to rural populations through enhanced crisis line services, information referral, and counseling efforts.