Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Minnesota holding workshops for law enforcement on farmers' mental-health issues; high suicide rate noted

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture launched a six-week workshop series last week to educate rural law enforcement and the public about mental-health issues affecting farmers. A 2017 University of Minnesota study found that suicide rates among farmers are three to five times higher than all other occupations.

"The 'Down on the Farm' sessions, sponsored by the university's Cooperative Extension Service, will teach people in farming communities to recognize the warning signs of mental and emotional distress and provide information about resources that are available to farmers," Katrina Pross reports for the Minnesota Daily.

Minnesota Sheriffs' Association Deputy Director of Professional Development Randy Willis will present the workshops. He says sheriffs need to known about mental-health issues because they're the primary law enforcement in farming communities, and he hopes they'll learn more tools to help farmers before a mental health problem becomes a crisis.

Farmers in tight-knit communities often don't feel like they can trust health care professionals, and often don't feel like they can take the time out of their busy schedules to go to counseling, according to agriculture-department Director of Mental Health Outreach Ted Matthews: "The planting and harvest system is not easy for them, and the uncertainty that comes with farming can cause a lot of stress and anxiety." Last October the department launched a 24/7 mental-health help line for farmers, which Matthews said has been successful.

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