High Plains Mental Health Center is pleased to announce receipt of a $25,000 grant from the Robert E. and Patricia A. Schmidt Family Foundation, based in Hays. The funding will be used to launch a year-long public education and outreach project geared toward rural Kansas and the agribusiness community.
It has long been recognized that farming and related industries are among the most stressful occupations nationwide and this concern has increased in recent years. This is largely due to many factors beyond the farmer’s control, such as commodity prices, weather and climate challenges, changing federal trade policies and high start-up costs, to name a few.
“We are deeply appreciative of this generous award, which will allow us to be more effective at reaching all of our communities with an important message of hope,” High Plains Executive Director Walt Hill said. “It’s important for folks to know there is help, and there is hope. There are local resources available, and no one has to suffer alone. We hope these efforts will help reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and let people know it’s OK to seek help if you need it. Brain pain is not a sign of personal weakness or failure; mental illness is real illness.”
The agribusiness outreach initiative will include a public awareness symposium, which will be announced in the near future. This event is intended to raise public awareness about challenges facing rural America and the link to cumulative stress and mental health concerns. Other projects included in the grant will include enhanced public outreach activities and media presence, and funding to support several Mental Health First Aid courses in rural areas. The grant also includes funding to assist in training a new regional Mental Health First Aid instructor.
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour, evidence-based training that teaches community members how to identify possible warning signs of a developing mental health problem or a crisis situation. The class offers a five-step action plan that helps de-escalate crisis situations in a safe and effective way, Hill said.
“Very often, it will not be a health care provider who first realizes an individual’s mental health might be declining. It is likely to be family members, friends or acquaintances, who often want to intervene but are hesitant because they might not know how to help or what to say,” Hill said. “Mental Health First Aid was developed to give our communities the tools they need to face these common challenges.”
As suicide rates continue to climb in rural, frontier areas of the Midwest, now is a critical time to further efforts to educate rural communities about the risks and warning signs of possible mental health challenges, Hill said.
Locally owned and operated since 1964, High Plains employs about 140 staff members throughout its 20-county service area in northwest Kansas. With a main office building in Hays, High Plains also has full-time branch offices in Colby, Goodland, Norton, Osborne and Phillipsburg, in addition to community outreach offices in 14 counties. Other specialized services include Schwaller Crisis Center, a 24-hour crisis hotline and community-based support services for adults and youth. To learn more about High Plains Mental Health Center, visit www.hpmhc.com or find the agency on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.