The University of Minnesota has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Minnesota to offer a monthly suicide prevention program for rural and agricultural communities within the region.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers an array of suicide prevention classes, support groups and other important resources to local communities. According to University of Minnesota Extension educator Emily Krekelberg, the organization took a special interest in helping rural communities with mental health, illness and suicide prevention a couple years ago. The organization was awarded a grant by the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center to train individuals to be QPR instructors for agricultural communities and to adapt the curriculum specifically for farming communities.

“I was trained as a QPR, and we will be offering free online QPR training monthly,” Krekelberg said. “QPR stands for question, persuade and refer. It is a training that is evidence based. It teaches people the three steps they can take to help prevent suicide.”

Krekelberg said that while many producers have an abundance of stressors, a very common occurring stressor has to do with finances and economics, along with the unknown future and viability of the family farm. The isolation of working on the farm and living in a rural community can also make needed everyday socialization hard to receive.

“We still see a very large stigma and lack of access surrounding mental health. Of course COVID-19 has added a whole new layer of stress, all of that uncertainty can be really stressful to farmers as well,” she said.

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In a policy brief released by National Rural Health Association, suicide in rural areas occurs at a higher rate than in urban settings. According to the brief, the suicide rate among farmers is 3.5 times higher than the general population.

By offering this new suicide prevention program, Krekelberg hopes to combat the stigma surrounding mental health in the agriculture community while also offering a much-needed resource.

“In suicide we see very often, people who knew that person may ask themselves, ‘I wish I would have known,' or 'what could I have done?’ And I think that a lot of us feel like we can’t prevent suicide, but the thing that is really important is to remember is that suicide is the most preventable form of death,” Krekelberg said.

If interested in signing up for the prevention program, please visit the suicide prevention meeting registration at https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAsdeyurz8pEtdZ_2N0oG4pX9-IjM7Bo1SH.