Nationally, agricultural work, including farming and ranching, has been identified as a high-mortality-risk occupation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Fatal Occupational Injuries Census identified agricultural work as one of 63 occupations with fatality rates more than twice as high as the overall rate of full-time workers.1
In Georgia, agricultural workers have the highest rate of suicide in any occupation.2 A 2016 study by the Georgia Department of Labor reported that at their time of death, 36% were experiencing depression and 32% were experiencing other mental health problems.2 The study highlighted the need to consider workers’ mental health as an occupational health issue and called for ensuring that workers have access to workplace and community-based suicide and other violence prevention services.
To reduce and prevent exposure to mental health hazards and address work-related suicides, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Atlanta-West Area Office, and Mental Health America of Georgia formed the Georgia Mental Health Alliance (GAMH Alliance). Dr. Anne Montgomery and Ph.D. candidate Stephanie Basey were invited to speak at the October GAMH Alliance meeting, where they shared the results of the Farmer Mental Well-Being Study.
Montgomery and Basey were also invited to speak at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Occupational Health Subcommittee Meeting in December, as well as the American Farm Bureau annual conference in Puerto Rico.
Georgia is one of 22 states granted funding by the CDC’s National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which makes up the CSTE subcommittee. The purpose of the NIOSH funding is to strengthen occupational safety and health surveillance to help drive actions to improve the health of workers in the United States.3
On December 7, Dr. Anne Montgomery and Ph.D. candidate Stephanie Basey spoke at the winter meeting of the Council of State Territorial Epidemiologists’ Occupational Health Surveillance Subcommittee in Atlanta. They presented on their statewide results of farmer mental health.
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