LEXINGTON – Farming can be a source of stress, anxiety and depression due to its unpredictability and physical and mental demands. Researchers at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment are helping train Kentuckians to recognize the signs of mental distress in members of their local farming community. The program is very successful.
Through college Southeastern Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention and the Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center, Kentuckians who regularly interact with farmers and rural health care providers learn question-persuasion-referral. QPR is a nationally recognized suicide prevention program that helps individuals recognize when a person is experiencing mental difficulties and connect them with healthcare professionals. British researchers used the existing QPR program and developed additional material to help participants identify farming-related stressors and farming-specific behavioral cues that may indicate a farmer is going through a rough patch. .
“When the 2018 federal farm bill allocated funds for mental health services for farmers, it really opened the conversation about mental health in the farming community almost overnight,” said Joan Mazur, professor. and deputy director of the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury. Prevention. “People seem to really appreciate the opportunity to talk about mental health, use the word suicide, and have conversations about the struggles they see in their communities.”
During the summer of 2020, with the support of an Agrisafe sub-grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Southeast Center trained 17 certified trainers from the QPR Institute who in turn , used these skills to train 415 Kentuckians as part of their agricultural community QPR for farmers and farming families. program.
“We really wanted to take advantage of this important political ‘moment’ and develop a community support network to resolve this difficult issue,” Mazur said. “We asked for participation from people who we knew were already integrated into rural farming communities, worked regularly with farmers, and who really cared about the mental health of the farmers. We wanted to find ways to break the limits that farmers can impose. ”
Alethea Bruzek, an officer in the UK Co-operative Extension Service, was among the extension workers and faculty members at UK-Kentucky State University who initially trained in QPR. Since she was trained, she has trained others.
“I have a unique opportunity to reach farm families through my extension work,” said Bruzek, Boyle County Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Officer. “This training gave me the tools I need to start a conversation with someone from my local farming community, who may be struggling. It was a great chance for me to try to help.
The centers received additional support from the 2020-2021 Kentucky Legislature through a sustained effort by Kentucky Rep. Brandon Reed. The Legislature’s Allocation funded another 40 QPR trainers to train an additional 300 Kentuckians in the Kentucky Rural Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Pilot Program. The second cohort of participants is located in counties with high needs for these services. They live in areas with high morbidity and mortality rates and a large number of farms.
“It is extremely rare to have the support of a state legislature to tackle rural mental health, and we are so grateful that our lawmakers have made this issue a priority,” Mazur said.
The centers also study the effectiveness of training. In the first group of participants, British researchers interviewed them three days before and one month after the training.
“Our results show that the training had a statistically significant impact on the trainees. After the training, participants were twice as willing to intervene with someone who needed help, ”said Carolyn Oldham, director of continuing education at the Central Appalachian Regional Center for Education and Research. “In our first group of trainers, two had actually worked with a producer in the first month after learning QPR. ”
The second cohort of participants is being formed. Researchers will investigate this group one month, six months, and a year after completing the program.
Researchers are also working with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center to upgrade the state’s suicide hotline. So when a Kentuckian calls him, another Kentuckian answers the phone. Kentucky hotline callers are also asked if they are a farmer or a member of a farming family, which will allow researchers to track mental health issues in rural communities.
The South East Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention and the Central Appalachian Regional Research and Education Center are funded by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and chaired by Wayne Sanderson, professor in the UK Department of biosystems and agricultural engineering.
Plans are underway for the project to build on the Kentucky model and expand and scale its community-based farming community-based QPR training-of-trainers model to other Southeastern states served by the center.
The center has also developed a video that highlights the importance of suicide prevention education and features some participants from the first cohort. It is available online at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cXcmtfN3C6xJ3mapD3xPq-nHGN1B6_nn/view.