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New initiative focuses on farmers’ mental health

Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 8:15 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2022 at 10:23 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Rick Pate, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, says they are focused on making sure mental health is a priority among farmers in our state.

“We saw some statistics and it showed in a rural communities we were having a bigger issues. You think about it, farming by nature is fairly isolated, and then you remove people being able to go to churches and the schools are closed. And we know that can play into mental health,” said Pate.

Seeing a need, as we continue to navigate a pandemic, industry partners came together Monday for the inaugural mental health first aid training as part of the “A Healthy You, A Healthy Farm” initiative.

“There’s really no reason that somebody ought to struggle and feel like they’re on their own or have to do it by theirself,” said Pate. ”We all need help. We all need each other.”

This initiative provides outreach to farmers to raise awareness of the stress triggers associated with farming. Through a partnership with the Department of Mental Health, these leaders are being given the right tools.

“Mental health first aid is not about actually treating or diagnosing a person, but just kind of getting them stable until they can get to the next level of care,” said Dr. Tammi McCurry, associate commissioner for mental health and substance abuse services at the Department of Mental Health.

McCurry says it’s information like nonjudgmental listening and a full understanding of self help that can make a difference.

“That’s so important because how we approach a person will dictate how they respond to us,” said McCurry. “Self help could be as simple as referring somebody to a certain book to read or reminding people that how important it is to get outside and exercise, to take a walk, or to meditate and journal.”

This initiative was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

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