Fifty-nine percent of rural adults say there is at least some stigma around stress and mental health in the agriculture community, including 63 percent of farmers/farm workers, according to a 2021 American Farm Bureau national poll.
The Check Your Engine mental health awareness project is a four-county initiative that caters specifically to the farmer. This project is in collaboration with the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS) of Tuscarawas and Carroll counties, Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board, the Mental Health Recovery Board of Harrison County and the Farm Bureaus of Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson, and Tuscarawas Counties and the Ohio State University Extension agents of those counties.
The tagline for this project is “What do you do when YOUR check engine light comes on?” Farmers are so used to caring for crops, equipment, livestock, etc., but what if the farmer needs a tune-up of their own?
The Check Your Engine project addresses a priority issue of which the Ohio Farm Bureau focuses on providing access to mentalhealth services to rural communities. “It is our mission to provide training to theemployees of local businesses who interact with producers every day,” a news release notes.
“Picture this example — a Check Your Engine trained individual who’s an employee of an agricultural service that fills feed bins pulls onto a farm to drop off feed for a producer he’s known for many years. Every time feed is delivered, the producer comes out to talk while the bin is being filled. Typically, the producer is chipper and quick to joke with the worker, not to mention the farm is clean and trimmed to perfection. On this particular day, however, the feed mill worker notices the fence lines are overgrown and trash is starting to collect outside of the barn. The producer slowly makes his way to the feed truck to talk. In conversation, the producer says he just can’t do it anymore, feed prices are too high, the weather stinks, he doesn’t have help, he is done. The trained feed mill employee knows these are all signs of depression and are out of character for this individual. He remembers what he heard in training, being a listening ear often really helps those in need. By the end of the conversation, the producer already feels a little less burdened by talking. Luckily, feed will need to be delivered again, a casual checkup at the next delivery is promised by the feed mill employee,” the news release explains.
This example proves the unique possibilities of the Check Your Engine project can specifically cater to those who are involved in agriculture. Even though those who have been trained are equipped to identify key concerns, they are frequently reminded thatthese volunteers are not counselors. Instead they simply serve as a listening ear.
In efforts to bridge the gap for those who need support, the Check Your Engine committee hopes to provide training to individuals who relate to the everyday stressors that are specific to agriculture. This Farm Stress Supporter will learn to be aware of the signs and verbal cues that might arise in a conversation with producers and agriculturists in our community. This person also will be able to guide those who need additional support to a professional clinician.
So far, the Check Your Engine training was presented at the annual meeting of a large agricultural service provider in the area. The presentation was presented by one of the mental health professionals to approximately 100 individuals.
The project recently was awarded a County Activity of Excellence from the American Farm Bureau Federation. This was one of 24 in the country that were selected to be represented at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Puerto Rico on Jan. 5-10.
Anyone interested in becoming a Farm Stress Supporter or knowing of a business whose employees would be interested in being trained on the Check Your Engine program, should contact Natalie Bollon at the ADAMHS Board of Tuscarawas and Carroll counties by calling (330) 364-6488 or (330) 627-7912.
For information, contact Farm Bureau Organization Director Trevor Kirkpatrick at (330) 339-7211 or at email@example.com.