Aug 25, 2021
Washington state targets ag industry stress, suicide prevention

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has received a $500,000 grant to work in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health and Washington State University Extension on a project addressing stress and suicide prevention in the agriculture community.

“Farming and ranching are challenging in most years, but this past year has brought on extreme difficulties for the agriculture community,” WSDA director Derek Sandison said. “We know that stress is high among farmers, ranchers and farm workers, and the suicide rate is on the rise. We appreciate the partnership with DOH and WSU Extension. This grant will allow our agency do its part to help those who work in agriculture through these difficult times.”

The grant was awarded by the USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will use the money to support the Farming Stress and Suicide Prevention Project, a collaborative effort involving WSDA, Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Washington State University (WSU) to set up a mental health counseling and financial advising network for the agriculture community.

“Behavioral health is a public health issue, and our priority as an agency is to create equitable access to resources like stress and suicide prevention,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Washington State Secretary of Health. “We are thankful for the partnership of our sister agencies as we endeavor to reduce harm for people working in the agricultural sector.”

The project will work to address the increased stress in the farming and ranching community due to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and natural disasters such as drought and wildfires.

“It’s gratifying to work with WSDA on a topic of such importance,” said Vicki McCracken, director of WSU Extension. “We look forward to supporting and providing additional help with the mental health of all agriculture workers in Washington.”

The programs being developed are modeled after efforts in the Midwest to help farmers manage stress better, and provide financial advice to help reduce economic stress.

In Washington, each partner will play a different role on the project.

  • WSDA will primarily administer the grant.
  • DOH will develop a voucher program that will give farmers and their families access to counseling services with participating practitioners in the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs network.
  • WSU will develop financial literacy workshops, as well as plans to share suicide prevention approaches geared toward rural, agricultural populations. In addition, the current Farm Stress and Farm Health and Safety programs will continue to provide guidance and coordinate within agriculture network.

Information on the project will be shared at as the project is developed.

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