Agriculture is the focus for our team, and direct contact with our farm producers is part of our daily activity. These producers have experienced an extended period of low prices for their products, whether dairy or crops. Unfortunately, this creates an opportunity for high levels of stress, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness, not only for producers, but also for family members and others working closely with farm operators.
In early 2019, NY FarmNet collaborated with Cornell Cooperative Extension to bring training in Mental Health First Aid to the agricultural community.
Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illness, builds understanding of their impact, and reviews common support strategies. This training prepared agricultural professionals, farm neighbors, and agency staff to be mental health “first responders” with the skills to start a conversation with someone who seems to be reaching out for help.
I had the opportunity to participate in this training in February at the Madison County CCE office. The 8-hour course used role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a mental health crisis and connect persons to the appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care.
We learned the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses, like anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. The course provided basic knowledge about mental health problems in order to administer the appropriate help by following the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan.
By attending this training, I am now better able to support people experiencing mental health problems by assessing the risk of harm, listening non-judgmentally, giving reassurance, and encouraging professional help.
If you or someone you know is struggling to manage stress or experiencing symptoms of mental illness while farming, we encourage you to contact NY FarmNet. According to their website:
NY FarmNet is a free and confidential consulting service available to any farm located in New York State. We help farmers with any personal or financial issues that your farm may be experiencing. FarmNet has a network of consultants, who work one-on-one with farm families to resolve financial and personal issues. Our consultants are willing to speak with you on the phone or come out to your farm for a visit.
FarmNet has a 24/7 phone line at 1-800-547-3276 (FARM) that you can call to request service. You may also request services through an online form. However, for urgent requests it is recommended that you call.
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