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Mental Health Peer Support

Farming can be both isolating and stressful, particularly in the context of lower prices, the loss of small dairies, and the uncertainty of the pandemic. In response to farmer requests, in 2020, Marbleseed convened a Farmer-led Mental Health Group called “Growing Wellness.”

The group has since identified the need for more structured peer support in rural communities where mental health services may be difficult to access, and for farmers who may be reluctant to seek professional help.

The power of peer support in farming

“Peer support encompasses a range of activities and interactions between people who share similar experiences of being diagnosed with mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, or both. This mutuality, often called ‘peer-ness’…promotes connection and inspires hope. Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding and validation not found in many other professional relationships.” – U.S. Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency

The unique lived experience of farming makes peer support a powerful tool for addressing mental health. The Growing Wellness group agreed: Certified Peer Specialists could help meet the need for support, especially in rural communities where the cost is high for mental health services and the availability is low. Even with subsidized services, long waitlists mean that accessing care can be extremely difficult.

Building a peer-supported mental health program for farmers

Certified Peer Specialists will be trained to use their personal experiences dealing with and overcoming personal problems, such as depression or substance abuse, to provide support to peers and demonstrate that recovery is possible. Farmers who receive training in peer support techniques will provide support and counseling to fellow farmers around the state at no cost.

These trained farmers will become a support network across the state so that all Wisconsin farmers can gain the support they need to overcome life’s challenges and stressors in a constructive way, with support and skillbuilding offered by fellow farmers that shared a similar lived experience.

This program is currently being built out. Check back soon for more resources. For questions or information on how to get involved, please contact nou.thao@marbleseed.org