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Farmer suicide prevention program growing

Farmer suicide prevention program growing

The USDA provided Washington State University with a federal grant

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A university received a federal grant to help further a program designed to assist farmers with their mental health.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provided Washington State University (WSU) with a $7-million grant to help the school expand its farmer suicide prevention program.

Don McMoran, director of WSU’s Skagit County Extension office, helped oversee a county pilot project in 2019. This came after state lawmakers created a task force to examine industry suicides following three deaths over the course of three years.

McMoran and others involved with the pilot project received $450,000 to train workers, start local programs and engage with farmers.

“At the end of those workshops, people would come up to me and talk about how important this education is and how it would help their neighbor or someone they know,” he said in a Sept. 28 release. “Nobody says it helped them. There’s still a major (misconception) about suicide, especially amongst farmers and ag workers.”

Since the pilot, the program has expanded to cover all of Washington State and Oregon. It also includes social media messaging, flyers and other materials.

With the new federal grant, McMoran hopes to expand the program to 13 states and four territories, and include an industry-specific hotline farmers can call.

“We’ve worked with general suicide helplines, and they do amazing, important work,” McMoran said in the release. “But I don’t believe an average farmer is going to call a general suicide helpline, and if they did, the responder may not understand the specific plight of a farmer. We will have a line so there’s someone on the other end who can relate to what a farmer or an ag worker is going through.”

Farms.com has compiled a list of mental health and suicide prevention resources available here.

Farms.com has also reached out to McMoran for comment.

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