The defense reauthorization bill passed by Congress this week includes provisions designed to reduce rural suicides.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, sponsored by Sens. John Tester, D-Mont., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., which would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a voluntary program for training agency employees in detecting and managing stress in farmers and ranchers. The program would provide voluntary stress-management training for farmer-facing employees at USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service.
The bill also would create a $3 million public service announcement campaign to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities, as well as direct the secretary of agriculture to work with state, local and nongovernmental stakeholders to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas.
The NGFA hosted discussions on this topic during the 2019 Country Elevator Conference and more recently during the virtual CEC Replay on June 17. Michele Payn, principal of Cause Matters Corp., led a “Resiliency for Agriculture” session, during which she answered questions live and provided updates to her mental health tool kit. View an edited version Payn’s 2019 CEC presentation here.