2nd in Series: Mental Health on the Farm

Karen Markland, Division Manager for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health

2nd in Series: Mental Health on the Farm

October 8, 2015

Part 2  Mental Health on the Farm:  Destigmatizing Mental Health

October 4th - 10th is National Mental Illness Awareness week, and National Depression Screening Day is tomorrow, October 8, 2015.

Resources are provided at the end of this post.

Karen Markland, Division Manager for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health's Planning, Prevention and Supportive Services. spoke with California Ag Today Editor Laurie Greene about mental health and the state's farmers and farmworkers who have experienced increased stress due to the drought and environmental water restrictions impacting their livelihoods.

Editor: Back in April, your department partnered with the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the USDA to receive a grant specifically to host a conference called “The Drought Emergency and Preparedness Conference,” (DEAP). DEAP was a full-day event for farmers to discuss the drought and water, but also included representatives from mental health?

Markland: Here was the Department of Behavioral Health, a mental health partner, at an agricultural event. It was fascinating to see the curious looks that implied, “I kind of want to go up there, but I don’t want to go up there.” And by the end of the day, we had attendees and farmers approaching our table. We created an agricultural theme with plants and live videos of our gardening projects to destigmatize and show that mental health and mental wellness speak all languages. So we were pleased to be there.

Editor: We understand the Fresno County Farm Bureau participated?

Markland:   Yes, the meeting with the EOC and USDA was actually initiated by the Fresno County Farm Bureau, which is is very interested in the wellbeing of its community. Ryan Jacobson, Farm Bureau ceo/executive director, had received some communication indicating our farmers were feeling stress and that some had lost their lives based on the anxiety and depression brought on by these drought conditions. It was time for us to activate and come together to talk about a very uncomfortable subject.

Our Farm Bureau and the USDA partnered to talk to workers and farmers who aren’t just happy; rather, they are depressed and anxious, and we are worried about them. The collaboration among the Farm Bureau, USDA and mental health was wonderful.  It was an amazing dialogue to jointly say, “This is such a stigmatizing topic for a group of individuals who are typically adult male farmers who don’t want to share or hear these words. Yet, we’ve lost lives, so it is time to make a difference.”

The Fresno Department of Behavioral Health is dedicated to supporting the wellness of individuals, families, and communities in Fresno County who are affected by, or at risk of, mental illness and/or substance use disorders through cultivation of strengths toward promoting recovery in the least restrictive environment.County of Fresno Logo

The Fresno Department of Behavioral Health provides mental health and substance abuse services to adults within the County of Fresno. The programs within our department focus on delivering the highest quality of service. There are over 300 professionals and staff dedicated to providing services in both metropolitan and rural areas. The diversity of our staff has helped us create a department that is sensitive to cultural differences and attempts to bridge the language barriers with our consumers.