News Article Details

Mental health course aims to aid farmers, their families

News-Gazette - 6/27/2019

Jun. 27--URBANA -- Money worries, fatigue, isolation, weather delays -- they can all pile stress and anxiety on farmers. But help is on the way.

An all-day Mental Health First Aid course will be offered in Champaign next month for adults working in the agricultural industry.

The course is intended to help farmers, their families, friends and business associates recognize signs of substance abuse and mental health issues, such as depression and panic attacks, and help remove the stigma from seeking help.

Mental Health First Aid is a program of the National Council of Behavioral Health that has reached more than 1.5 million people in the United States.

The eight-hour class coming up next month at the Champaign County Farm Bureau is being offered through the Carle health system.

Amy Rademaker, with Carle's Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety, said the need for this kind of help in the agricultural community is great, especially recently as economic and weather stressors on the farm industry have grown.

"First, it started out with the tariffs and the prices, and coupled with the weather, we know it's a bad situation," she said.

Not only that, stress on some farmers could be even worse next spring because loss of income this year will impact what they can do in 2020, Rademaker said.

According to a national poll released by the American Farm Bureau Foundation last month, a majority of farmers and farm workers said they see financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing the farm all impacting farmers' mental health. And yet large numbers of rural Americans who were polled also said cost, embarrassment and social stigma would make it harder for them to seek help.

Rademaker, who grew up on a farm herself and still does grain merchandising for her family's farm, will be the instructor for the class at the farm bureau.

She plans to focus on how to recognize various mental health issues and how friends and family members can best approach, offer support and seek out help.

With the suicide rate in the U.S. on the rise, Rademaker said she'll also address how to assess the threat of suicide and self-harm among those in distress.

Deaths by suicide in the United States grew by 33 percent between 1999 and 2017. The suicide rate in 2017 was highest among middle-aged white men, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Carle has trained 15 Mental Health First Aid instructors. And because mental health issues aren't limited to farmers and those living in rural areas, some upcoming courses will also be geared to the general public, Carle spokeswoman Jamie Mullin said. Some of those for the general public are already scheduled for July 10-11 in Champaign and July 27 in Urbana.

The more people who are trained to recognize those in distress, the better, she said.

Rademaker said there are still some openings for the agriculture-focused Mental Health First Aid class July 30, but Carle is also working on scheduling another one of these classes for August.

"As classes fill and the demand is there, we will work on setting up more," she said.

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(c)2019 The News-Gazette (Champaign, Ill.)

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