After receiving positive feedback on suicide prevention training provided in 2019 and 2020, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture decided to offer scholarships to groups and organizations interested in hosting the safeTALK program.
SafeTALK (tell, ask, listen and keep safe) is a four-hour interactive workshop that focuses on how to recognize when someone is having thoughts of suicide, how to engage them and how to ensure they get help. Workshop participants have included farmers, community members, ag-related agency staff, lenders, accountants, veterinarians, feed and implement dealers, agronomists, clergy, health and mental health providers.
MDA will provide a partial sponsorship of $500 per qualifying event to groups and organizations that want to offer this training, says Meg Moynihan, MDA senior adviser on strategy and innovation.
MDA started offering safeTALK training after participants at a farm stress workshop in 2018 shared concerns about suicide and wanted to learn more about prevention. MDA teamed up with the Minnesota Department of Health and others to adapt safeTALK for agricultural communities. MDA then offered training at various locations across the state. Class size is limited to 30 people per workshop to promote interaction and learning.
“We initially started with six sessions, and boosted that to eight in the face of high demand,” Moynihan says.
High demand for more training
Feedback after each training session was overwhelmingly positive.
“A whopping 98% of the people who attended these workshops told us they would recommend them to others,” Moynihan says. “Eighty-five percent said they’d ‘definitely’ recommend them, and 13% said they ‘probably’ would. That is high praise indeed.”
Participants said they learned that talking directly about suicide is a safe thing to do and that it gets easier the more you practice it. They also said they felt more comfortable learning about local resources available to help people at risk.
“Several people have told us that since the training, they have done a suicide intervention,” Moynihan adds. “In fact, one person did an intervention in one to two days between completing the training and filling out the evaluation.”
Erasing the stigma
The risk of dying by suicide is real and still high in rural communities, compared to urban and suburban areas. Plus, the stigma surrounding suicide remains.
“People are often afraid and ashamed to talk about suicide — even to say the word — even when they know someone has died this way,” Moynihan says. “This stigma makes it difficult for people to seek help if they are having thoughts of suicide, and it prevents people from learning how they can help keep someone safe until more help arrives.”
Funds are available from MDA to host a workshop on a first-come, first-served basis. Submit your sponsorship request to [email protected] and include your name and address of the organization coordinating the training; the phone number and email of the contact person; proposed training location; proposed date of training; name of safeTALK trainer; target audience; how you will promote training; how you will ensure that farmers and people who work with farmers receive priority for registration; and other sources of funding for training.
To locate a trainer for your event, contact [email protected].
Read MDA’s announcement of the sponsorship.