Let's Talk Mental Health: A Discussion with Oregon's Agriculural Stakeholders

Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources Communications (ASNRC) Assistant Professor Dr. Whitney Stone, and ASNRC Senior Instructor Lauren Chase, received a $10,000 grant from the Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Program to conduct research regarding Oregon agricultural stakeholders’ comfortability in discussing rural mental health and their knowledge of mental health resources. Their study titled “Let’s Talk Mental Health: A Discussion with Oregon’s Agricultural Stakeholders yielded some promising insights when it comes to the rural mental health landscape in Oregon. Their study assessed how different stakeholders in Oregon’s agricultural communities felt about discussing mental health and their perceptions of the resources available to them. In August of 2023, the faculty members hosted both online and in person focus groups and distributed a survey to gather data. Whitney and Lauren met with ag financial/lending groups, crop advisors, commodity commission leaders, and pre-service ag educators across the state of Oregon. “We were so encouraged by the positive responses from our participants. They wanted more information on how to identify when people experience farm stress and where to find more farm stress resources,” said Whitney.

Some big takeaways from their study are:

  • 69% of participants would like to learn the mental health warning signs for farmers and ranchers
  • Participants indicated their preferred method of learning about rural mental health would be through in person workshops at their place of employment, farm show, field day, or through Extension, followed second by listening to podcasts on rural mental health
  • Although some participants indicated talking about mental health in agriculture can be uncomfortable, the conversations are worth having and the resources are needed

“The Oregon agriculture industry innately cares about their farmers and ranchers, which was evident in meaningful conversations we had surrounding mental health in agriculture,” said Lauren. “We are so grateful for those who participated in our study, as their insights will help us be able to better communicate about rural mental health and connect those who need assistance with the proper resources.”

“The participants shared their needs and challenges, and we are fortunate to be a part of OSU, where we can help be a part of the solution,” said Whitney. The ASNRC faculty members received additional funding through a professional development grant through the Association for Communication Excellence to do a follow up study regarding Oregon ranchers and dairy farmers specifically, and how mental health issues may impact spouses and other family members.

Research Results