Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

State mental health, ag departments partner in awareness program

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Alabama Department of Mental Health are providing “mental health first aid” to the agriculture industry and farmers around the state.

“(Mental health is) one of those things that in the ag community, they don’t want to talk about because of the stigma that’s associated with it,” Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate recently told Alabama Daily News. “We’re just trying to make people aware of the resources out there if they’re struggling.”

There have been plenty stress factors on famers the last few years: a global pandemic, supply chain issues, a worker shortage, historically high fuel prices, record inflation and now a lack of rainfall.

The “A Healthy You, A Healthy Farm” Initiative was launched in January with a training session aimed at giving those in the farming community tools to deal with mental health issues. 

Beverly Johnson, Director of Prevention Services at ADMH, the main goals for this program include “awareness, education, and the availability of support and resources.”

Funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, there have so far been five training sessions for 133 people, said program coordinator Liz Mooneyham. 

Pate and Johnson both pointed to financial issues as well as the unpredictability of weather as major stressors for farmers.

Pate said that the costs of certain farm materials have nearly doubled recently, adding stress to an already “isolated” profession.

Kim Boswell, ADMH commissioner, recently told a panel of lawmakers about the program, saying it was an example of state agencies working together to provide services to Alabamians. The two departments have compiled a resource list that covers all 67 counties in Alabama in order to point people towards qualified help.

Mooneyham has also spoken to more than 1,300 people at industry events about available resources.

Pate said the program has been well received and people often approach him after events to discuss their past mental health struggles and how they wish they would have known about the resources that exist.

Training sessions will continue through the summer of 2023 in various areas throughout the state. More information can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia