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Farmers experience greater levels of stress and depression than the general population but are less likely to seek help. Even for farmers who do seek help resources often aren’t readily available. Sixty percent of rural Americans live in areas with shortages of mental-health services. So Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union have partnered to offer stress-management training to individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers.

The groups have gained knowledge from a farm-stress program developed by the Michigan State University-Extension for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. The groups will train individuals to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce the stigma related to mental-health concerns, and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental-health and other resources. Online and in-person training will be offered.

The American Farm Bureau Federation in April 2019 commissioned a survey. Ninety-one percent of farmers and farmworkers responding to the survey said financial issues are affecting mental health. Eighty-seven percent cited losing the farm as a source of stress. And 48 percent of the respondents said they were personally experiencing more mental-health challenges than in 2018.

Feedback from the Farm Service Agency training programs showed strong results. Ninety-one percent of participants indicated the training improved their ability to serve customers experiencing stress. Eighty percent said it improved their ability to manage their own stress. Training programs, funded by Farm Credit, will begin soon. Visit canr.msu.edu -- search for "managing farm stress" -- and farmcrisis.nfu.org and fb.org for more information.

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This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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