Kentucky program helps prevent farmer suicides

Posted at 10:39 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 06:24:12-04

(LEX 18) — The program that researchers and the Kentucky agriculture community developed to help prevent farmer suicide is working.

The Agricultural Community QPR Program was developed in 2020 with funding from the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention (SCAHIP), the Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center (CARERC), and Agrisafe.

The goal of the Agricultural Community QPR for Farmers and Farm Families program is to increase agricultural community members' knowledge of suicide, ability to identify people in distress, as well as confidence and comfort to intervene and provide referrals.

"It guides, laypeople, just community members like you and I, through how to question someone if they're in a state of suicidal crisis or thinking about it, how to persuade them to get care, and then how to refer them to care," said Carolyn Oldham, Director of Continuing Education for CARERC.

The training continues to be funded by the Kentucky legislature and is still sparking conversation and change.

"People are echoing that idea that we're talking more about mental health and a lot of that is because of the support of the community, of the state legislature, and advancing these initiatives and advocating for them. And then I also think a lot of it has to do with the increase in conversation regarding mental health during the COVID pandemic," said Oldham.

In 2020, Lawmakers made the third Wednesday of every September "Kentucky Farmer Suicide Prevention Day."

Now there are several initiatives across the state to address the issue. The Agricultural Community QPR Program has trained at least 700 people across Kentucky in the past year.

"The QPR training has been extremely beneficial for me and challenging me to be perceptive of my friends and farmers. How they are, how things are going, even in our markets. And I think being a farmer gives you a level of understanding that before a conversation with a farmer or a fellow farmer is ever had, you know what's going on in the market and so you know the challenges that are that they're facing," said Nathan Lawson, a beef farmer and Director of the Kentucky Beef Council.

Representatives a part of the program include the University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, and Murray State University.

There's an entire cross-state team addressing farmer mental health, which includes the Office of Behavioral Health and the Department of Agriculture.

Trainers are farmers and those who have daily interaction with farmer mental health. That includes manufacturers, farm credit representatives, first responders, and members of the ministry.

"Dr. Julie Cerel professor of social work at UK, and her team's research shows that for every suicide, 135 people are impacted. Suicide is a community problem that requires a community solution," said Oldham.