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Mental Health First Aid Training Sessions Now Available to Members


If a family member or employee fell at your farm and badly twisted their ankle, you’d want to know things you could do to assist them until they could get it X-rayed or they could be seen by the doctor.  It is important that we think of mental health challenges in the same way.

On our farms, we notice when an employee that we see every day begins limping or can’t pick up a hay bale that they had no trouble lifting the day before. Mental Health First Aid training can help us see signs of mental health challenges in the same way that we notice physical health challenges

MHFA Training Dates Location 
 Oct. 18  Hudson/Columbia County
 Oct. 19   Cortland/Cortland County
 Oct. 21  Ithaca/Cornell   University/Tompkins County
 Oct. 25  Middletown/Orange County
 Nov. 2  Binghamton/Broome County
 Nov. 7  Lockport/Niagara County
 Nov. 9  Fonda/Montgomery County
To register, go to: www.nyfarmnet.org/trainings. If there is not training scheduled in your area, check back soon, or contact NY FarmNet at 1-800-547-3276 or
Trainings run from 8 a.m. to
5 p.m., and lunch will be provided from a local eatery with a one-hour break.

On a recent episode of NYFB’s News Bytes podcast, Jennifer Schwytzer a family consultant with NY Farm Net said, “It is a stressful time for farmers all across the board. Certainly the pandemic created issues for farms. High prices. Farming is a hard job to begin with. There’s been a lot of dry weather and drought conditions across the state. So there’s a lot of things weighing on farmers’ shoulders.”

When Todd Heyn and Tim Bigham were asked to consider being instructors for mental health first aid it seemed a natural extension of Farm Bureau’s leadership development program.  While it’s outside the normal realm of what’s been traditional leadership training, it develops the whole person which we believe in at Farm Bureau.

“There’s a lot of times when a mental health challenge affects one part of the farm or one part of the family and to just kind of go forward like it’s not that important to the functioning of the whole person is, reckless ... Todd and I really want to part of changing that,” Tim said on episode 18 of the NewsBytes podcast. 

Mental Health First Aid centers on a five-step model.  First aid givers determine which action is appropriate for the person they are aiding based on signs and symptoms they notice and other environmental observations.  Those who take this course learn what to look for and how to respond using this model.

This training course was developed in Australia in 2000 and has since been adopted by 25 countries across the globe.  It was brought to the U.S. in 2008.  

Todd and Tim are instructors from New York Farm Bureau and were trained as part of a grant that NY FarmNet obtained to expand the scope of instructors in the agricultural community.  The grant funded certification of another 14 instructors from other organizations throughout the state.  Other instructors include representatives from NY FarmNet, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Young Farmers Coalition, NY Center for Ag Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), and Black Farmers United NYS.  

The grant also offsets costs of instruction so that participants can be trained at no cost to themselves.


Training Available at No Cost to NYFB Members
These training courses are also available to NYFB members at no cost through NY FarmNet in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension offices this fall. Trainings run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and lunch will be provided from a local eatery with a one-hour break. 

After the course, you will be able to:
• Recognize common signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.
• Understand how to interact with a person in crisis and connect them with help.
• Use self-care tools and techniques.


These free trainings are made possible by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. They have invested nearly $25 million in addressing farmer behavioral health on a state-by-state basis as part of the Farm and Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) through state Departments of Agriculture. 

NYFB Staff Reports and NY FarmNet