WI Women in Conservation to offer online mental health support training

WI Women in Conservation
Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) will partner with Farm Well Wisconsin to provide a two-hour virtual training on Thursday, January 20, to help women learn to recognize someone in need and respond intentionally and effectively without putting
their own mental health at risk.

Women farmers and landowners wear multiple hats and juggle various responsibilities, often providing key emotional support to family and community members. Winter can be a particularly difficult time in farm country, especially combined with the stress of a prolonged pandemic.

Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) will partner with Farm Well Wisconsin to provide a two-hour virtual training to help women learn to recognize someone in need and respond intentionally and effectively without putting their own mental health at risk.

The training, which will be held on Zoom from 10 a.m. until noon, is open to all women farmers, landowners and conservationists.

“Mental health is a topic that impacts everyone. For better or worse, women often take on the role of providing emotional support for their families and extended networks - acting as counselors, confidants, and mediators,” says Chris Frakes, director of Farm Well Wisconsin. “It is vital to learn the skills needed to carry out those roles more effectively and to learn how to set boundaries that protect your own wellbeing.”

A recently-released poll from American Farm Bureau Federation suggests that a majority of rural adults (52%) and farmers/farm workers (61%) are experiencing more stress and mental health challenges than they were a year ago. Younger rural adults are more likely than older rural adults to say they are experiencing more stress and mental health challenges than a year ago, and they are more likely to say they have personally sought care from a mental health professional. 

“I think mental health is a concern in many communities, but especially rural areas. In the past few decades, a lot of things have changed for us - from the vitality of our Main Street businesses to the opportunities we have to make a living close to home. A lot of people are struggling and that isn't a comfortable thing to talk about,” said Lauren Langworthy, of Blue Ox Farm in Wheeler.

Langworthy is a WiWiC Conservation Coach, mentoring other women in the region, and she’s also Director of Special Projects for Wisconsin Farmers Union. 

“Farm prices, access to health care, corporate consolidation, even opportunities to learn and socialize - there are many bigger trends that are changing rural life. Farmers can be especially independent and self-driven people and it is easy to feel powerless when you find yourself struggling - even if none of it is your fault.”

Participants in the trainings will explore the “COMET” method, which stands for Changing Our Mental and Emotional Trajectory. This program aims to change the trajectory of someone in a vulnerable space, and headed towards crisis, back towards a place of wellness. The workshops, led jointly by FarmWell and WiWiC facilitators, will be in a “Learning Circle” format, encouraging peer-to-peer interaction among participants.  They will practice being a person who says or does something to offer support, care, or a referral and causes a positive change.

“Neighbors helping neighbors is a deep-seated rural value. We do not hesitate to assist our neighbors when they are impacted by a house fire, but when we notice that a neighbor is struggling with stress or depression, sometimes we are unsure,” says Frakes. “COMET believes in the power of everyday interactions. By learning a simple, effective strategy for engaging with people who are stressed, we can make a difference.”

COMET training attendees will come away from the workshop with a concrete, actionable set of skills that will increase their confidence in reaching out to friends, family members, and acquaintances who are in a vulnerable space. Through robust discussion, and one-on-one roleplay, attendees learn how to hold space for someone who is struggling, and to set aside their concern that they must know all the answers or how to “fix” the other person’s problem.

The trainings are organized by region to facilitate community among neighbors, but are welcome to all women farmers, landowners, and conservationists. Space is limited and events are not recorded to encourage story-sharing among participants. Registration is FREE but necessary to obtain the Zoom link. More information and registration is at WiWiC.org

Upcoming training sessions

  • Jan. 20: Northeast COMET training, Marathon, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca, Outagamie and Brown counties.
  • Feb. 3: West Central COMET training, Pierce, Pepin and Buffalo counties.
  • Feb. 17: Northwest COMET training, Polk, Barron, and Dunn counties.
  • March 3: Southwest COMET training, Vernon, Crawford and Grant counties.
  • March 17: Southeast COMET training, Walworth, Racine and Milwaukee counties.