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Texas State researcher receives USDA grant to address mental health crisis among farmers

Jayme Blaschke | May 8, 2019

farmer with hoe in field
Dr. Erica Nason

With farmer suicide rates at record levels nationally, Erica Nason, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Texas State University, has been awarded a $475,000 grant by the United States Department of Agriculture's  National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help address the crisis. 

Suicide rates among farmers are currently twice as high as they were during the 1980s farm crisis and are higher among farmers than for workers in any other occupation. The lack of mental health resources in many rural communities is a significant barrier to improving farmer mental health outcomes. 

"The suicide crisis among farmers is receiving more attention from both professionals and the general public; however, there remains a lack of research identifying interventions that are likely to have the greatest impact in improving mental health within this population," Nason said. "Given some of the barriers that exist in rural communities, such as a lack of mental health providers, it’s important to think outside the box and identify mechanisms for increasing support. This is why we’re excited to partner with universities and extension offices to provide basic mental health training to early career agricultural workers." 

Nason's project will provide agriculture students in Texas, a group that interfaces with many farmers more frequently than mental health professionals, with basic psychoeducation related to risk and resiliency factors associated with suicide, skills for communicating about mental health, and information about mental health resources, including mobile apps, that can be accessed by farmers in isolated or remote locations. 

Additional online training content and consultation calls with mental health experts will be available from locations that are convenient to participants. Approximately 300 students will participate in the program over five years. Students will participate in learning communities and undergo one-day training sessions, webinars and ongoing mentorship calls over the course of 16-weeks during summer, fall or spring semesters. Additionally, students will participate in assessments for a one-year period following the completion of training.

This work is supported by the Educational Literacy Initiative’s Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) grant program [grant number: 2018-05828]  from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922