Our project will design, develop, and deliver an introductory curriculum and a variety of deeper-level trainings on farmer stress and mental health topics reaching at least 300 Federal agency staff, State regulatory staff, Extension, lenders, and faith and social organizations, and business people. In the course of a series of broad informational workshops about farmer stress delivered at six Minnesota locations in 2018, we learned that agricultural advisors want more information and skill building in suicide (including prevention and suicide’s aftermath, conflict resolution and de-escalation. We also know farm and rural youth are exposed to the same stressors that their families experience; trainings on supporting farm and rural adolescents who are experiencing stress and mental health challenges will reach at least 100 ag teachers, 4-H leaders, FFA advisors and other youth leaders. We anticipate incorporating some of these events into existing professional meetings, but will also explore the use of computer-based distance learning, depending on the preferences of our target audiences. Some project team members have already committed to participate, including the AgCentric Minnesota State Agricultural Center of Excellence (collaborator), and Minnesota Departments of Health (collaborator). Other involved partners include Minnesota Department Human Services, Minnesota Farm Service Agency and Minnesota farm and commodity organizations, many of which are involved with ongoing farm and rural mental health discussions and planning with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. We expect this project will reach at least 400 agricultural advisors, educators, and other professionals.
150 agricultural professionals who understand the nature of suicide, can recognize people at risk, and know how to intervene to prevent their completing the act. (25 per location)
150 agricultural professionals who understand and have practiced conflict resolution and de-escalation skills (25 per location)
100 individuals who work with farm youth are aware of how stress manifests itself in farm and rural adolescents and can intervene to help when they recognize signs and symptoms in youth they know (30 per location).
One replicable curriculum available for groups and individuals who want to deliver Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times within their organization or community.
Our project is 1) developing a replicable curriculum designed to teach agriculture professionals and others in rural communities how to recognize and respond to farmer and farm families in distress; 2) developing and delivering lecture-based and interactive knowledge and skill-building workshops.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Develop an adaptable curriculum to teach people who work with farmers how to recognize and respond to farmers or farm family members in distress.
Partners at Central Lakes College are turning a program piloted in 2018 into a professional development curriculum that other groups and organizations can freely use and adapt. Topics include factors that contribute to stress, signs and symptoms of stress, active listening, personal safety, and identifying community resources. Target curriculum users include Extension, Farm Business Management and other adult educators, farm and commodity groups, nonprofit organizations, and others in agribusiness. Target curriculum learners include farm advisors, state and federal agency staff, lenders, clergy, veterinarians, agribusiness and other rural businesspeople.
The second draft of the curriculum and facilitator guide are currently in review.
Train agricultural community members to prevent suicide.
With partners at Minnesota Department of Health, SAVE, and LivingWorks, we adapted an evidence and skills-based suicide prevention training called safeTALK to address the unique characteristics of agricultural communities. The training, planned for six rural locations across Minnesota, sold out quickly, so we added three more sessions. A total of 233 agricultural and rural professionals – agency staff, lenders, clergy, lenders, agribusiness, social service providers attended.
We solicited evaluation feedback via SurveyMonkey approximately 24 hours after each event. The overall evaluation response rate was 51%.
Participants learn to prepare for and approach potentially adverse interactions in ways that lead to better outcomes for everyone involved, and learn precautions to stay safe in highly charged situations
The MDA contracted with U of M Extension Center for Community Vitality to develop and deliver this 3-hour workshop that explores the ways stressful times in agriculture trigger bad news and difficult conversations. Leadership & Civic Engagement educator Denise Stromme facilitated the workshop at six Minnesota locations in Summer 2019, reaching more than 245 attendees. The target audience included lenders, mediators, agency staff, clergy, educators, farmers, veterinarians, social service providers, and other farm advisors and rural businesspeople.
We solicited evaluation feedback via SurveyMonkey approximately 24 hours after each event. The overall evaluation response rate was 56%.
Workshop facilitator Denise Stromme commented, “As the instructor, I felt that many of the participants did not expect the focus to be on them and how they can prepare themselves for conflict and difficult conversations. That being said, the participants were engaged in the content and activities and the energy was positive, which was important for such a somber topic.”
Evaluation data indicate that the workshop was effective in accomplishing its educational goals:
When asked what they would take away from the workshops, answers included:
- Conflict isn’t in itself a negative thing. It can be a useful tool in facilitating change.
- Conversations and words matter. How we interpret someone’s anger matters a great deal.
- It reinforced the art of communication and the importance of the relationship.
- Taking the perspective of the person I am working with more so than my own.
- Using empathy and reflection to understand where they are coming from.
And the PI’s personal favorite:
- In regards to anticipating conflict “turning a 5 minute task into a 5 day headache” was a quote from the workshop – I have thought of that a lot afterwards….
Participants listed one action they plan to take as a result of the workshop. They included:
- Spending more time in conversations with the farmers in my community.
- Actively ask myself “how do I want to be in this moment?”
- I am trying to be more mindful of the values and feelings I hear, beyond just the “facts”.
- I see myself becoming a more present and active listener.
- Avoid looking at conflict with a win-lose mentality.
- Stop avoiding or delaying conflict.
- Be prepared for conversations and how to frame things and build relationships.
- Remain curious.
- Be proactive.
And finally, when asked for suggestions or final comments, several suggested more time for discussion and a deeper dive, and use of more specific life situations or guest farmers sharing their issues. Others enjoyed the interactive nature of the workshop, the emphasis on self, and appreciated the workshop highlighting the stress and plight of farmers and those who care and work with them.
Orient adults who work with youth to the stressors unique to growing up on a farm and equip attendees to support adolescents in stress.
We contracted with licensed professional counselor Monica McConkey to develop and deliver this two hour workshop, followed immediately by a “QPR For Youth” suicide prevention workshop, for a total of three hours. McConkey grew up on a farm and has strong professional background providing psychological services to youth but in developing this training found little research on farm youth specifically related to stress and mental health.
She delivered the workshop at five Minnesota locations in Summer and Fall 2019 to target audiences including teachers, school counselors, school administrators, 4-H leaders, FFA advisors, youth pastors, social workers, mental health professionals, health care professionals, others who work with farm youth.
We offered and evaluated two initial public sessions to pilot the training, which attracted 125 participants. McConkey delivered it under the aegis of this SARE-funded initiative in three more locations by request (Southeast Minnesota School Counselors Assn., MN Department of Human Services School-based Mental Health Conference and Minnesota Rural Education Association Conference. She has delivered it to several other groups as well.
We solicited evaluation feedback from attendees at the first two workshops using SurveyMonkey approximately 24 hours after each event. The overall evaluation response rate was 42%.
While many offered suggestions to improve the workshop (most frequently to make it longer because it felt rushed), most respondents said they would recommend it:
From the first two workshops, we learned that participants comprised two basic groups, and it was a little challenging to meet their differing needs simultaneously. One basic group consisted of adults familiar with farming issues who wanted to know about mental health and adolescent development. The other consisted of mental health and social service providers who wanted to know more about the types of farm and agriculture issues and challenges that youth experience. Monica began to alter the altered slightly with each training to be as relevant and useful as possible.
In thinking about basing a curriculum on this workshop so that others could replicate it, McConkey thinks about dividing it into modules “Understanding stressors unique to farm youth”, “Intervention and relationship building techniques for farm youth”, and “Youth-focused suicide prevention”.
Educational & Outreach Activities
There was such strong demand for safeTALK training that we added three workshops to the six originally planned, and could still not accommodate all who were waitlisted. Our partners Minnesota Department of Health and LivingWorks instructor Glen Bloomstrom convened a session to teach safeTALK instructors how do deliver the Preventing Suicide in Agricultural Communities model, so there are now eight instructors qualified to offer this tailored training instead of one. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering funds to help sponsor additional trainings organized by local hosts in rural communities.
In addition, we have received unsolicited feedback from four safeTALK: Preventing Suicide in Agricultural Communities projects who have performed suicide interventions since training.
Creator/instructor Denise Stromme has delivered this workshop by request for two more groups – Farm Business Management instructors and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Staff.
PI Meg Moynihan described several components of this SARE PDP project in testimony to Minnesota House and Senate Agriculture committees in February 2020. Video at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hjvid/91/892586