Leech Lake Tribal College, others partner with MDA on farmer mental health initiative

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Oct. 28—BEMIDJI — Leech Lake Tribal College and several other organizations are partnering with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in an effort to increase mental health treatment options.

According to a release, the MDA received a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The goal of the funding is to advance work in farm stress relief and rural mental health treatment in Greater Minnesota.

"We know from working with farmers that suicide, farm transition and succession, legal problems, family relationships, and youth stress are crucial issues where we can all make a difference," MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen said in the release. "We're thankful that the USDA can help us expand our efforts."

The funding will go toward MDA's Bend, Don't Break initiative, which is building upon efforts to connect farmers and rural Minnesotans with resources to help reduce stress, anxiety and crisis situations, such as the drought, that is affecting many Minnesota farmers and ranchers.

Specific examples include improving services such as mental health counseling, farm advocacy, marriage retreats and a 24/7 Farm and Rural Helpline. It will also be used to enhance the skills and responsiveness of professionals who work with farm families in stress through workshops, training and other resources.

In addition to Leech Lake Tribal College, MDA will partner with the following organizations:

* Big River Farms

* Farmers' Legal Action Group

* Latino Economic Development Center

* Minnesota Dairy Initiative

* Minnesota Department of Health

* Red River Farm Network

* South Central College

* University of Minnesota Extension

* Urban Farm & Garden Alliance

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