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Part 4/4: Southwest universities and other entities provide online mental health training and coping strategies. There's hope and help.

Ron Smith, Editor

August 12, 2022

3 Min Read
shotbydave/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Farmers and other residents of rural America may have limited resources for mental health crises, but they do have options.

Tiffany Lashmet, Agricultural Law Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension, and Shannon Ferrell, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University, looked at some of those resources during a recent Ag Law in the Field podcast, hosted by Lashmet.

“Extension has been developing resources for folks who are trying to help people with mental health issues,” Lashmet said. “We want to help people educate themselves to be prepared if mental health issues arise. They want to know what to do. Shannon, talk about some of the resources available.”
Ferrell said several online resources are available from Oklahoma State and other providers.

Download our guide to mental health, Being healthy: Mental health resources for farmers

“The pandemic shoved forward a lot of online mental health resources for rural America,” Ferrell said.

Mental Health First Aid offers an opportunity for training. “Do a Google search for mental health, first aid training. It’s an eight-hour course folks can complete online,” Ferrell said. “This is a first aid course aimed at mental health issues. It comes with a useful manual.”

He said the training is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to be active in mental health issues and to be equipped to help folks going through mental health crisis.

“Mental Health First Aid is a huge step forward for rural communities that have volunteer fire departments,” Ferrell said. “Some volunteer EMT folks have done the training to take care of rural American residents.

“Sometimes in rural America we have to take care of ourselves because help's not coming. I think going through the Mental Health First Aid training is huge.”

Another option is Q P R, Question, Persuade, Refer, a three-hour online training program. It’s also available as a live seminar and is specifically targeted at suicide intervention. 

“QPR trains folks how to get people out of suicide consideration, bring them back, and connect to professional help.

“Mental Health First Aid and QPR are available as online training. I highly recommend both of those.”

Ferrell said Oklahoma State University offers a farm stress webpage. “The program has six modules with a video from clinical professionals on campus who talk about an overview of mental health and topics such as: How do you deal with farm stress? What happens when there's a disaster on the farm (wildfire, tornado, animal health outbreak and your entire herd has to be euthanized)?  Communicating with family and friends during stressful times is another module. One module deals with suicide awareness and prevention.

“The last one is managing stress through mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply learning how to quiet your mind and think through what you're feeling. It's learning how to observe yourself. It can be tremendously useful in helping kick yourself out of the cycle.”

Ferrell said Mental Health First Aid, QPR, and the OSU website offer excellent training opportunities. “Texas and Kansas also have phenomenal resources. If you want to educate yourself, good resources are available.”

“The National Agricultural Law Center has pulled together a list of resources and contacts for every state,” Lashmet said.

Rural America is in a mental health crisis, Lashmet and Ferrell say. With limited mental health resources in most rural communities, online opportunities might be the best first step in finding help.

Resource links:

Mental Health First Aid 

QPR Institute 

Oklahoma State University Farm Stress Website 

National Agricultural Law Center Farm Stress and Mental Health: Where Can You Turn?

Also, some new resources are available with the national 988 mental health hotline (like 911). You can find information on that here:

Mental Health series:

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About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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