NEWS

Mental Health First Aid training for WI Ag Community set for April 12

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Various risk factors including weather, economic uncertainty, as well as, ever-evolving supply and demand changes, can take a toll on farmer's mental health.

There is no doubt that farming can be extremely rewarding, yet also stressful and demanding. Various risk factors including weather, economic uncertainty, as well as, ever-evolving supply and demand changes, can take a toll on farmer's mental health.

In order to address some of these issues, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension will be offering virtual and in-person educational programs to help the Wisconsin agricultural community identify and respond to a variety of behavioral health challenges.

The next virtual Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for the agricultural community is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pre-registration and approximately two hours of self-paced, online pre-work are required to participate in this training. For more information and to register for this free program, go to https://go.wisc.edu/85h93s. Please register by April 6 to allow time for completing the pre-work.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults lives with a mental illness. Research shows that suicide rates are higher within the rural and agricultural communities. The stigma around mental health challenges and thoughts of suicide is prevalent in our rural and farming communities. MHFA for the agricultural community is an effort to eliminate this stigma.

Just as CPR teaches you how to help someone having a heart attack, MHFA covers how to help someone experiencing a mental health challenge including, but not limited to, depression and anxiety, panic attacks, substance misuse, and suicidal thoughts. The program gives participants the skills and confidence to provide initial support and respond in both crisis and non-crisis situations. MHFA is a program that teaches participants how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of these challenges.

According to Cath Tease, Health and Well Being Educator for Manitowoc County Extension, "Farming is one of the most stressful occupations in the United States. While stress can be a motivator to move us into action, too much stress can damage our health and create potential mental health challenges."  

Mental Health First Aid is an early intervention public education program. It teaches adults how to recognize the signs and symptoms that suggest a potential mental health challenge, how to listen nonjudgmentally and give reassurance to a person who may be experiencing a mental health challenge, and how to refer a person to appropriate professional support and services.

"When we use the skills we learn in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)," says Tease, "we are the first line of support for a person in need.  We are there to help others feel less distressed and offer support as they seek additional resources."

Instructors for the April 12 session are Joy Kirkpatrick, Farm Succession Outreach Specialist for the UW–Madison Division of Extension, and Cath Tease, Health and Well-Being Educator, Manitowoc County Extension. Joy is currently leading the Farm/Ranch Stress Assistance Network funded project for Wisconsin and Cath is active in county-wide substance use and mental health coalition efforts.

If you would like to arrange an Adult MHFA training for your agricultural business or organization, complete this short interest form: https://go.wisc.edu/46dp5f. For more information, contact Joy at joy.kirkpatrick@wisc.edu or 608-263-3485.

Funding for these training programs is provided by the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center: Engaging Programs to Support Producer Well-being (NCFRSAC), USDA/NIFA award number 2020-70028-32728 and the Wisconsin Rural Opioid and Stimulant Engagement project funding by SAMHSA.

Amber Burke can be reached at aburke@gannett.com.