USDA NIFA Funding to Support Mental Health Efforts in Rural Areas | AG

(KMAland) – The ongoing economic conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic continue to weigh on farming families and other people in local communities.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the Department of Agriculture, through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant program, has awarded nearly $ 7.2 million in investment funding for the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center. The effort is a 12-state collaboration that will create and expand stress management and mental health resources and services to agricultural producers and stakeholders in the north central region.

Katie Wantoch, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Agent, says in her state, there are a couple of discussions coming up looking for input. from farmers on how the network can help.

“The Wisconsin approach is really focused on how mental health and finances impact a farmer. In our first year we are really trying to discuss with farmers and see how we can learn from them and how they interact with mental health providers and receive input so that we can educate those mental health providers about some of that background, so they don’t have to spend the first half hour in their discussions with the farmers talking about things they may not know, such as common farm stressors. People don’t expect and don’t know those things if they haven’t been from an agricultural background and so this is part of that curriculum that we are trying to provide not only to farmers but also to mental health providers. “

Two focus groups in Wisconsin will gather input and similar efforts are underway in all 12 states within the network. Wantoch says the effort is all about education health workers to understand aspects of agriculture.

“Farmers experience stress, we all know that stress is part of our daily life. It’s when it comes to a point that impacts your business, we want to know what it is and how it affects you so we can educate other mental and health care providers. If they’re not growing up on a farm, they’re not familiar with farming, they just don’t know some of these stressors and that’s really what we’re trying to provide, so they can almost skip that section and say hey, I have a farmer who comes to meet me. This is probably what they are going through and what they are experiencing, how I can help them. “

Additional resources are available online on the extension’s website.

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