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  • Cornell Cooperative Extension

While suicide is a leading cause of death nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates soar even higher in rural areas – between 64 and 68 percent higher than in urban areas. Farmers, in particular, are especially vulnerable, with a 3.5 times greater risk of suicide compared to the general population. These statistics paint a grim picture, highlighting the urgent need for accessible mental health resources and targeted suicide prevention initiatives in rural America.

NY FarmNet, a program coordinated by Cornell Cooperative Extension and a collaboration between the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is responding to this pressing need alongside the American Society for Suicide Prevention to bring the Talk Saves Lives program to communities throughout New York state.

Led by trained instructors, the presentations deliver a standardized suicide prevention education program to rural communities. The 45 to 60 minute presentations equip participants with the knowledge and tools to identify risk factors, warning signs, and lifesaving intervention strategies, along with practical strategies for managing their mental health and supporting others in crisis.

Audrey McDougal, a licensed clinical social worker and one of the presenters for the series brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the program.

"Suicidal feelings are often temporary, treatable, and preventable – and there are many resources to utilize to get through difficult times,” says McDougal. “I hope people leave knowing that they are not alone in facing the challenge of suicide and talking about it is the first step toward saving lives."

One of the primary barriers to addressing mental health issues in rural communities is the lack of access to healthcare providers and resources, making it difficult for individuals to seek help when they need it most. Additionally, limited access to broadband internet and digital healthcare further exacerbates this problem, isolating individuals and hindering their ability to connect with vital support services.

According to NY FarmNet Executive Director Greg Mruk, providing Talk Saves Lives presentations is an important component of their program’s educational outreach. 

"We desire to improve the understanding surrounding a difficult topic for many people to talk about," says Mruk. "We all can help someone who might be considering ending their lives by simply talking to them. Talk Saves Lives offers some of the techniques and awareness on how to do this.”

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