Farm groups create free, online Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training


Farm groups create free, online Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training

A group of farm organizations have partnered to offer a free, online farm stress training course to better equip rural communities with mental health resources.

Cheryl Eschbach with Michigan State University Extension says in 2016, the state’s ag department requested extension create mental health and stress resources for farmers after reports that several farmers had attempted suicide.  Extension first created workshops for ag businesses, partners as well as directly for farmers.

Eschbach says the content in the virtual training builds upon those resources to help rural communities nationwide. “This open and free course was created by extension professionals at Michigan State University, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Montana State University, and South Dakota State University.”

Courtney Cuthbertson with the University of Illinois Extension says one in five adults in the U.S. face mental health challenges which means at least a half a million farmers could be struggling right now.  She suspects there are many more with the daily stress farmers face. “The number of folks that might be having a really hard time with mental health is likely much higher than what our statistics are really able to show us.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who recently lost his wife to cancer, says there’s a stigma in rural America to not talk about emotions, but keeping stress bottled up eventually explodes. “One day I let it out and I was able to talk about my wife.  The more I talked about her, the better I felt myself.  We have to help ourselves so that we can help others through this time.”  

President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council Todd Van Hoose says between low prices, disastrous weather, trade challenges, and COVID-19, the need for mental health support is growing. “We are out in the countryside talking with farmers and ranchers all the time and we see this stress, and we see this stress rising.”

Mike Stranz with the National Farmers Union says in addition to farm economy stress and challenging weather, the coronavirus pandemic has been isolating and makes it difficult for rural residents to find support. “With the stressful times we’ve felt just in the last four months on top of everything else that has happened in the rural economy, it’s all the more important that we share this resource.”

More details about the Rural Resilience Farm Stress Training can be found here.

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