KDA receives $500,000 grant to expand mental health efforts in rural Kentucky

Published 9:37 am Friday, November 5, 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $500,000 grant to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to expand its efforts to address stress, mental health, and suicide prevention among agriculture producers, Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles announced today.

“Focusing on mental health is key to having a healthy agriculture community,” Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles said. “Farmers face all sorts of physical risks in their day-to-day environment. But many don’t consider the incredible pressure on their mental well-being. This grant will enable the Department of Agriculture and our partners to help deliver resources to help our rural communities improve their health.”

The $500,000 grant will allow the KDA to work with the University of Louisville School of Nursing, The Southeast Center for Agricultural Health & Injury Prevention, and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture in a state-wide effort to help farmers and agriculture producers with strategies to aid mental health awareness.

The grant will help the KDA expand its efforts as part of the Raising Hope – Supporting Healthy Lives on Kentucky Farms campaign. Raising Hope focuses on improving the mental and physical health of agricultural producers and is a partnership with state universities and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The campaign is supported by appropriations from the Kentucky General Assembly.

The new grant will fund initiatives in the following areas:

• Mental Health Resource Awareness. The KDA will partner with the University of Louisville’s School of Nursing to launch a marketing campaign to promote the mental health resources available to farmers and to educate the public about the stressors farmers encounter on the farm.

• Youth Outreach.The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment will develop a curriculum for schools to educate youth in rural communities about good mental health practices and how to identify signs of mental stress.

• Farmer Appreciation Grants.The KDA will conduct a Farmer Appreciation Small Grant Program to support community-based farmer appreciation projects that promote the many contributions of farmers to rural life.

• Mobile Web App.The Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention will develop an online mobile app to help improve mental health literacy and address stigmas surrounding mental health challenges. The app will also provide access to just-in-time care and educate users about best practices and resources.

Mental health still faces a strong stigma, according to a 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation survey. The survey also found that a majority of adults in rural communities said mental health is important to them, but many farmers and farm workers have had difficulty accessing a therapist or counselor in their local community.