May is National Mental Health Month
It won’t come as a surprise to Georgia farmers that studies have shown increasing levels of stress in their profession and in their rural communities, even if they often are unwilling to talk about it.
May is National Mental Health Month, and in an effort to connect struggling farmers and rural residents with help, the University of Georgia has assembled Rural Georgia: Growing Stronger, a clearinghouse of resources to assist with coping skills and advance emotional and behavioral health.
The information is compiled in a central online location at www.extension.uga.edu/rural. The site provides resources from experts across the country to help individuals recognize a neighbor in crisis and connect them with assistance. There are also numerous resources on health and wellness, financial planning, dealing with stress and much more.
In addition to the website, UGA Extension agents and specialists are working with farmers at commodity production meetings across southwest Georgia to jumpstart the conversation about health, both physical and mental. Extension agents, who serve in every county in Georgia and work closely with the agricultural community, can play a vital role in helping to normalize conversations about stress and mental health, said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for UGA Extension.
“I see us as a conduit between our audience and the people who can help them,” Johnson said. “I'm not, in any way, trying to turn us into counselors. But their Extension agents and their bankers know when they’re in trouble, and they trust us.”
UGA Extension has partnered with local health care providers as well as the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to combine the resources and expertise of each organization.
“This is a complex, multi-faceted problem and UGA Extension is excited to convene a diverse team of experts to help us address this issue. So far, our efforts and educational resources have been very well received by farmers and several have followed up to avail themselves of the offered counseling and other services,” Johnson said. “My appreciation goes to all of our partners as well as the agriculture agents and specialists who care so deeply about the success and wellbeing of their clientele. This is a new area of education for us and slightly out of our area of expertise but, with the expertise of our partners, we are able to help farmers get the resources they need, and that is ultimately the role of Extension.”
For more information about rural stress in Georgia and what UGA is doing to help, visit www.extension.uga.edu/rural.