U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) cosponsored legislation on Feb. 28 to address mental health issues in rural America.
Joyce signed on as a cosponsor to the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, H.R. 4820, a bill that would create training programs and public awareness campaigns aimed at identifying and destigmatizing mental health issues in rural communities. The bill was introduced in Oct. 2019 by U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY).
Since 1999, the suicide rates across the country have grown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But suicide rates in rural areas are nearly 45 percent higher than in their urban counterparts.
Farmers and farm workers seem to be more at risk. According to research by the CDC, rural counties had an age-adjusted suicide rate of 17.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, where urban counties had a rate of just 12.5 deaths per 100,000 residents.
Joyce said the bill would direct the U. S. Department of Agriculture to provide training on stress detection and suicide prevention for farmer-facing employees, as well as authorize $3 million for a public awareness campaign on mental health care in rural communities. The bill would also direct the Secretary of the USDA to create a task force of state, local, and federal agricultural and rural stakeholders to address farm and ranch mental stresses.
“All Americans should have access to the mental health care they need, no matter where they live. However, over the past decade, there has been a rapid increase of suicides in rural areas across the country,” Joyce said in a statement. “By implementing suicide prevention training programs and promoting awareness of mental illness in rural areas, the Seeding Rural Resilience Act will help reverse this troubling trend. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of this important, bipartisan legislation to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our nation’s rural communities and ensure that farmers have better access to mental health care.”