MU Extension to help expand mental health resources in rural areas

All of Missouri’s 99 rural counties face a shortage of mental health professionals; 57 of them have none.

farmer in a field smiling

Feb. 4, 2021

Missouri’s rural counties lack mental health services despite growing financial stress and suicide rates. University of Missouri Extension hopes to change that through a multistate project to help farmers, ranchers and farm families find affordable help close to home.

The University of Missouri is part of a $28.7 million, three-year grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). FRSAN supports projects that provide stress assistance and suicide prevention services for farmers, ranchers and others in agricultural occupations.

As part of the project, MU Extension faculty will train to become certified instructors in Mental Health First Aid, QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) and Taking Care of You. They will provide information to farmers through online and printed resources and social media. They also will hold workshops geared toward farmers and ranchers.

“Critical resources are woefully inadequate and poorly matched to the needs of farmers and ranchers,” said Kathy Dothage, co-principal investigator for the grant. “Even when resources do exist, distance and affordability are issues since many self-employed rural families lack health insurance coverage.”

The interventions offered by MU Extension aim to help farmers and ranchers build resilience. The goal is to reach 800 farmers by the end of 2021.

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