Combating the negative stigma of mental health in rural communities

The Colorado Department of Agriculture hosted a talk on rural mental health on Facebook on Wednesday. Panelists from five organizations working in the field of mental health for farmers answered questions from the moderator and viewers.

The group discussed the relationship between physical and mental health, the stigma surrounding mental health in rural communities, the resources available in their areas and more.

Participant Rebecca Edland, associate director of technology and membership in the Colorado Farm Bureau, works with the Colorado Bureau of Agricultural Dependence and Mental Health program. She said farmers and ranchers face similar stressors as people in urban areas, such as economic change.

Edland said rural life could exacerbate stress through geographical and social divisions, high community transparency, limited control over factors such as time and expense, and a lack of mental health resources.

“Because (farmers and ranchers) are involved in these specific realities, they have to face them with tremendous strength and perseverance,” Edland said. “But mental health resources are largely stigmatized. They are very vulnerable in this conversation and often do not have access to care at all. ”

Fighting stigma

The panel discussed the negative stigma surrounding mental health services in rural communities and how to combat it. Edland said people can fight stigma by sharing their own stories about mental health care.

Another panelist, Chad Reznicek, a behavioral health specialist at the Colorado AgrAbility project, said mental health education makes people more likely to seek help. Feeling separated from others and burdened by them are major risk factors for suicide, Reznicek said, so it’s important to let people know you value them.

“So when we ask, ‘How are you feeling today?’ It’s more than accepting ‘Good,'” Reznicek said. “‘Are you sure? Because you seem to have a lot on your plate lately. Just taking that extra moment to make it clear that we’re connected, that we care about people, I think it’s a long way.”

Hannah Bates works for Southeast Health Group as the Coffee Break Agriculture Coordinator. She told the other participants in the panel that SHG provides COMET (Changing Our Mental and Emotional Trajectory) training, which emphasizes the importance of engaging others and actively listening to them.

“Take the time to listen to them, because nine times out of 10 is all someone really wants,” Bates said. “They want to be established, they want someone to listen to what’s going on in their lives. And that could be the difference between taking someone’s life or having a good day. “

Mental and physical health

AgWell program director Clinton Wilson sat on the panel and said that stress can affect physical health, especially the circulatory system. Physical activity can also affect your mental health, which is why Wilson said AgWell teaches a technique called box breathing to its clients, which uses temporary inhales, exhales and pauses.

“I practice this every night before I go to bed,” Wilson said. “It really helps me calm down, relax, and focus on my breath.”

Reznicek called the link between mental and physical health a “two-way street”. AgrAbility provides farmers and disabled farmers with tools ranging from gloves to reduce vibration to wheelchair lifts to help them do their jobs. The company provides its customers with a study of quality of life before and after helping them.

“What they found after physical assessments and adaptations was that people’s psychological well-being increased by 28% and their existential well-being by 21%,” Reznicek said. “Then their perceived level of support by 20%.”

The last participant in the panel was Mariel Balbuena, executive director of the Coalition for Family Centers in La Plata. She said combating the stigma against mental health care would make people treat problems more like physical illnesses.

“If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist,” Balbuena said. “If something happens to you, you go to the emergency room, so if you have any anxiety or depression that you probably shouldn’t have, just look for a mental health provider because our mind is as important as our heart, our blood. pressure or tooth. “

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