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Redirecting Rural Mental Health in Agriculture with COMET

Extension Education

Bruce Fickenscher
Southeast Regional Director
Colorado State University Extension


   In 2012 the High Plains Research Network was initiated as part of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  The mission statement of the network is: To provide excellent rural health care by translating the best scientific evidence into everyday clinical practice.   Multiple challenges face rural community members in accessing mental health care and support. The High Plains Research Network Community Advisory Council, mental health professionals, and researchers developed an intervention to help community members be more prepared to support others’ mental health needs – especially before a condition becomes an emergency – in everyday conversations and settings. The program, Changing Our Mental and Emotional Trajectory (COMET), trains community members in the seven-question COMET Conversational Health Questionnaire to “be the other person.”

    For several years after that, the concept sat idle on a shelf until 2019 when tragedy hit another small eastern Colorado community of only a few hundred people.  Within a span of a few weeks, four individuals committed suicide.  All either were or had been involved in agriculture.  Under the guidance of the Southeast Health Group, four individuals came together to discuss the issue of mental health and crisis prevention.  All the individuals had their own stories to tell about their experiences in dealing with mental health with both employees and others they knew personally.  The group felt that most of the mental health training courses were too long and would not reach enough of a target audience.  Eventually the COMET concept, a shorter, two-hour training, was presented and accepted by the group as the best fit to raise awareness in the agriculture community.   

   COMET provides community members with a tool to identify and support others who may be experiencing mental health distress. Community members report that a short but interactive training opportunity increases their likelihood of engaging others in mental health conversations to support social connection and reduce risk for crisis.

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

This poster is being submitted only for display at AM/PIC. Poster is not to be judged, but the abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: Bruce Fickenscher, Hanna Bates, J.C. Carrica
  1. Fickenscher, B. Southeast Regional Director, Colorado State University, Colorado, 81063
  2. Bates, H. Project Coordinator, Southeast Health Group, Colorado, 81067
  3. Carrica, J. CEO, Southeast Health Group, Colorado, 81050