New Ohio initiatives to address farm stress

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COLUMBUS — A new federal grant awarded to the Ohio Department of Agriculture will support and enhance several initiatives that address farm stress in Ohio. In partnership with Ohio State University Extension, training will be provided to mental health and other health care professionals in Ohio on the unique stressors and factors that influence agricultural producers, other individuals working in the agricultural sector and farm and rural households.

Titled “Bridging the Gap for Agricultural and Rural Mental Health Training in Ohio,” the $500,000 grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

“Our farmers and producers are facing incredible stressors,” said Cathann A. Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. “Many farmers are faced with unpredictable issues and concerns daily involving personal health and injuries, equipment and parts, animal health, weather, and crops,” Kress said.

“COVID-19 came at an already challenging time for farmers, adding uncertainties and complexities with supply chain, and additional stressors with health and family concerns. Many mental health professionals are not trained, nor do they have direct experience working with the agricultural sector and their unique challenges.”

That is where OSU Extension, CFAES’ outreach arm, will step in. “Many farmers and rural households do not have access to or have not fully engaged with the resources available to help them address or cope with many of these stressors,” said Jackie Kirby Wilkins, director of OSU Extension.

“This grant will bring people and resources together to effectively impact farm stress and improve well-being. When our farmers are supported, we all benefit.”

Under this project, OSU Extension’s responsibilities will be to:

  • make existing and newly developed curricula for Ohio’s mental health care providers available for continuing education unit credits related to the unique stressors existing in the farming community.
  • begin to build infrastructure for CEU management.
  • provide education and outreach of mental health programming to the agricultural community.
  • certify OSU Extension educators as trainers in Mental Health First Aid; question, persuade, and refer (QPR); trauma-informed care (TIC); and Generation Rx or other relevant trainings.
  • provide funds for promotional materials and media.

This project will build on OSU Extension’s work on two other North Central Region USDA NIFA farm stress grants. One supported the development of a clearinghouse of state resources that are available on CFAES’ Rural and Farm Stress website (u.osu.edu/farmstress).

The second grant is supporting the creation of the regional Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center, and it has provided funds to add a behavioral health specialist position with OSU Extension.

“Mental health is a serious issue affecting many of our farm families and rural communities all across the state,” said ODA Director Dorothy Pelanda. “ODA is proud to be part of a team-leading Ohio’s efforts and putting much-needed resources toward addressing this important topic.”

The newest grant will support the expansion of education and training programs designed to build Ohio’s capacity to respond to the mental health needs of the farm and rural population, and it will address mental health concerns such as death by suicide, depression, and anxiety.

OSU Extension will work with ODA on marketing and outreach strategies.

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