The next generation of agriculture is in a unique situation where they are not only struggling with their own personal stress but they are also observing the stress and mental health issues of their family members, which can include parents, grandparents and other family members.
The Ag Health and Safety Alliance’s Gear Up for Ag Health and Safety™ program focuses on educating the next generation of agriculture by interacting with students at Ag Colleges. Funding from UMASH has enabled us to expand the program to include stress and mental health and assist college Ag students in recognizing signs and symptoms of stress and mental health issues not only for themselves but also for peers and family members.
A Mental Health and Stress Motion Graphic training tool has been developed to serve as a conversation starter during the Gear Up for Ag Health and Safety™ program. This motion graphic is now part of the GearUp for Ag Health and Safety™ program along with discussion points to encourage conversation with students and other individuals who are part of a program.
Since January 2019, the Gear Up for Ag Health and Safety™ program with the newly developed “Mental Health and Agriculture” motion graphic and discussion points has delivered the program 7 times at 5 colleges in the United States (Texas, Illinois and Iowa). During this time, the program also traveled to 4 colleges in 4 provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario) to deliver the programs 10 times. In the United States and Canada, the program reached a total of 660 students. The students responded positively telling us they liked the motion graphic and felt it helps them to think about this issue in a non threatening way. Several students stated that this is something they are concerned about for others and they were glad it was part of the program. Instructors at the two colleges also contributed to the discussion with students and agreed that this is an important topic to include in the program.
PRE AND POST SURVEYS
Mental health questions have also been added to the standardized pre and post survey that is administered to all students who are part of the Gear Up for Ag Health and Safety™ Program. Data from the pre-surveys provides understanding on how students are doing prior to the delivery of the program. Sharing this real data with students gives us the opportunity to open up discussions about the students who are in the program.
47% of the students have observed signs and symptoms of stress and mental health issues in family or friends.
Results from 97 students who completed the pre survey indicate that 47% of the students have observed signs and symptoms of stress and mental health issues in family or friends.
In the 2 weeks prior to taking the pre survey:
- 45% of students stated they were feeling nervous, anxious or on edge
- 31% stated they were not able to stop or control worrying and
- 20% reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
Additional programs are scheduled in 6 colleges during March and April 2019 that is expected to reach approximately 600 students. Community programs are also scheduled in two of the communities along with the colleges programs to reach multi-generations involved in farming.
The Gear Up for AG Health and Safety™ Program is being delivered in many regions of the United States, 5 provinces in Canada with a recent expansion to Australia and Nordic countries. The addition of stress and mental health into our program with the motion graphic has the ability to start this important conversation in many programs around the world.