The agricultural industry is a constantly changing field due to stressors such as variable weather patterns and changing markets prices. And as a result, mental health challenges and suicide rates have increased in agricultural communities. To provide assistance to agricultural producers and their families, New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau have joined forces to support Here to Help New Mexico.
The project was established with funding through the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network from a $500,000 United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant. Through the Southwest Border Food Protection and Emergency Preparedness Center, Here to Help New Mexico will enhance existing efforts to increase stress prevention, wellness and health resources.
In this collaboration, Extension will use its community outreach expertise to deliver educational programs in communities throughout the state. Southwest Border Food Protection and Emergency Preparedness Center Co-Director Tom Dean acknowledges the challenges to having conversations on topics such as behavioral health.
“Most people don’t want to talk about it in a public program,” Dean said. “Our primary emphasis is dealing with stressors and stress management. If we can do that, we can help promote those conversations after community meetings and help people identify when someone might be in trouble with issues.”
Here to Help New Mexico goals include improving behavioral health, reducing and mitigating stress, and providing positive outcomes for the state’s agricultural communities.
“As they face endless difficult challenges – including drought, wildfires and high input costs – our farmers and ranchers need our support now more than ever, especially related to stress and mental health,” said New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte. “The pressure of feeding the world is real. While our New Mexico farmers and ranchers are resilient, they are not immune to stress, so it is important that these resources are available.”
In addition to helping agricultural producers and their families, Here to Help New Mexico also will aid families who have been impacted by the recent wildfires in the state.
Not only will Extension share Here to Help New Mexico educational programming in all 33 counties in the state, Extension faculty have been trained to recognize signs of mental health issues, especially when working with youth who are involved in agricultural programs.
“We’re trying to do what we can to build up our resources and capabilities to do more of this,” Dean said. “If we can help somebody have a more positive outcome and deal with issues out there, that’s the impact we are hoping to have.”
The Here to Help New Mexico website features information about mental health challenges, steps to help someone in emotional pain, crisis hotline numbers, a survey to access stress and health and “Stress Free You” videos from Matt Rush, who has done considerable research on the topic.
On the national level, the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, launched July 16, is a service that provides 24/7 support for mental health crisis.
To learn more Here to Help New Mexico, visit www.heretohelpnm.com.