The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) announces the launch of the Ag Stress Assistance Program (ASAP) in efforts to provide Utah’s farming, ranching, and rural communities with increased access to mental health services, resources, and education, especially during times of stress.
“Our agricultural and rural communities face significant challenges that contribute to mental health strain. From long-term drought to volatile commodity markets and increasing operating costs, farmers and ranchers face many stressors on a daily basis that are out of their control,” said Commissioner Craig Buttars. “We are proud to be able to provide more resources to our communities and hope we are able to make a positive impact.”
This program operates in partnership with USU Extension AgWellness, whose mission is to provide education, help, and resources for agricultural producers and their families so that stress can be managed.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ anymore as much as ‘when’ we will each need the skills to be able to help connect someone that we love to mental health resources,” said Joshua Dallin, USU Extension AgWellness. “Having the knowledge to access the right resources is one of the greatest steps we can take to help improve and save lives.”
The Ag Stress Assistance Program will focus on three primary elements:
· Mental healthcare reimbursement – free mental healthcare is available to Utah farmers and their families, with or without insurance, through reimbursement with the provider of their choice, up to $2,000 per person while funds remain available. Mental health care treatment includes anxiety, ADD/ADHD, bipolar, depression, grief, insomnia, mood swings, panic attacks, PTSD, relationship problems, stress, substance abuse, trauma, etc. In-person and virtual care options are available.
· Training for producers across the state – USU AgWellness hosts statewide workshops to train those involved in agriculture on warning signs and how to help others in their community. If you work with producers and are interested in hosting a workshop with USU AgWellness presenters, please email Joshua Dallin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Training for 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline operators – training will be provided for operators across the state on stressors specific to agriculture in Utah through AgriSafe.
Throughout the U.S., farmers and ranchers are nearly two times more likely to die by suicide compared with the general population. In Utah, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death with rural areas having higher rates and less access to care; for youth aged 10-24 in Utah, suicide is the leading cause of death. Agriculture is among the top five major industry groups with suicide rates higher than those of the general population. In 2017, nearly 38,000 persons of working age (16-64 years) in the United States died by suicide, representing a 40% increase in less than two decades. Access to healthcare and mental illness prevalence is a significant issue in Utah; according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report, Utah ranked 46th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. for the prevalence of mental illness and access to care.
This program was made possible by a $559,605 grant award through the USDA NIFA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. For more information about the Ag Stress Assistance Program and to learn how to apply for mental healthcare reimbursement, visit ag.utah.gov/asap or https://extension.usu.edu/agwellness.
If you or someone you know is experiencing crisis, help is available; call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.