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Educating Ohio Mental Health Counselors to Understand the Stressors in Agriculture

Extension Education

Shelly Dee Jepsen
Professor and State Specialist, Ag Safety and Health
Ohio State University Extension


Mental health is a concern in rural communities, especially for those involved in agriculture. The CDC reports suicide rates for males in farming, fishing, and forestry higher than the total population (2016). Farmers/ranchers face unique stressors, that many outside of agriculture don’t understand. To confound the problem, rural communities lack access to trained mental health providers, or have counselors that don’t understand the challenges farmers/farm families face on a daily and seasonal basis. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, a cross-disciplinary team from three Extension areas (agriculture/natural resources, family/consumer sciences, and community development) created a new training program directed towards mental health professionals. These counselors are required to obtain Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain their license. The Farm Stress Certified Program has an overarching goal to teach mental health professionals about unique agricultural stressors. Specific objectives are to: 1) Improve behavioral health awareness and health literacy for mental health service professionals; 2) Increase capacity of mental health service professionals to serve in a rural community; and 3) Improve outcomes and experiences for agricultural workers and their families. Our team developed a partnership with OSU College of Social Work (CSW), where CSW agreed to advertise and manage CEUs available through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board or the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board. Providers who complete the entire series receive a “Farm Stress Certified” designation. The program is valued at $100/person and has been offered in multiple formats including a 1-day workshop, webinar series, and online asynchronous. Over 1,000 professionals attended at least one of the three modules, with nearly 400 professionals completing the entire program earning 7.5 CEUs and designated as Farm Stress Certified. A post-program evaluation indicated: course content was suitable and useful (97.5%), instructors presented course content effectively (98.9%), and the course content met expectations (98.6%). Due to the program’s success and feedback, a Farm Stress Certified 2.0 version is in development for 2023. The program has created a new audience for Extension educators. By working together with mental health professionals there can be positive impacts for rural and agricultural communities.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: Dee Jepsen, Chris Zoller, Sarah Noggle, Bridget Britton, David Marrison, Peggy Hall, Aaron Wilson, Jami Dellifield, Ken Martin, Shea Bennett-Callen
  1. Jepsen, D. State Specialist, Ag Safety and Health, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43210
  2. Zoller, C. ANR Extension Educator, Tuscarawas County, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 44663
  3. Noggle, S. ANR Extension Educator, Paulding County, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 45879
  4. Britton, B. Field Specialist, Behavioral Health, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 44663
  5. Marrison, D. Field Specialist, Farm Management, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43812
  6. Hall, P. Field Specialist, Ag & Resource Law, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43210
  7. Wilson, A. State Specialist, State Climate Office, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43210
  8. Dellifield, J. FCS Extension Educator, Hardin County, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43326
  9. Martin, K. State Specialist, Community Development, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43210
  10. Bennett-Callen, S. Continuing Education Program Coordinator, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 43210