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By Sarah CatoU of A System Division of Agriculture
Download MS Word version
LITTLE ROCK – Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
have shown that American workers in the farming, fishing and forestry industries have
some of the highest suicide rates of any professional group. The University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture is taking steps to address mental health in rural communities.
Brittney Schrick, assistant professor of family life for the Division of Agriculture,
said her department is implementing two new programs to discuss the rising rate of
suicide among agriculturalists.
“In response to the CDC report, our team became aware of a program developed at North
Dakota State University intended to address stress and promote wellness with a rural
audience in mind,” she said. “Mental health awareness is important in order to help
county agents address the problem of rural stress from a fully informed perspective
and to generally increase their knowledge of mental health.”
Managing Stress and Pursuing Wellness in Times of Tight Margins, or “Farm Stress”
for short, is a one-hour program facilitated by county Family and Consumer Science
agents and geared toward farmers and other agriculture workers.
“The aim of the Farm Stress program is increasing awareness of rural stress issues
and warning signs of stress challenges, identifying ways to communicate about and
cope with stress, and identifying local resources and sources of support,” Schrick
said. “This program offers participants information about stress management, depression
and suicide, as well as wellness promotion.”
The second program, Mental Health First Aid training, is an eight-hour, evidence-based
course that will be offered to Cooperative Extension Service agents with the goal
of equipping them to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing
a mental health crisis. The program builds mental health literacy and helps participants
identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.
Mental Health First Aid will be offered to agents in regional training sessions beginning
in May. There are currently three trainings scheduled, open to both county and state
The Farm Stress program has already begun, as agents publicize it at county production
meetings and other venues. Schrick’s team has supplied county agents with materials
to conduct the program in their home counties. This will be available statewide upon
request to local county agents.
“County agents are very excited about the Farm Stress program,” Schrick said. “We
have had very positive feedback and lots of materials requests from agents who are
publicizing and scheduling programs in their counties.”
Schrick said the spread of mental health awareness has the potential to help many
in a demographic that is often seen as independent and self-sufficient.
“My hope is to see improvement in wellness across Arkansas’ agriculture workers and
families, and decreased rates of suicide and depression in this population,” she said.
“Removing the stigma around stress and mental health can have lasting and wide-reaching
For more information on these programs, visit www.uaex.uada.eduor contact your local county agent.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com