Bridging Rural Mental Health Supports

Rural residents and agriculture production workers are disproportionately burdened with higher depression, substance abuse, and completed suicide rates. These elevated rates are significantly impacted by various barriers limiting access to behavioral health care. Behavioral health care networks must understand and be familiar with the cultural and social context to foster help-seeking behavior among rural farmers. As such, trusted community organizations and providers should be included and recognized as part of the local behavioral health system network. Faith leaders are trusted community providers and are recognized as a viable strategy to increase the acceptability and availability of mental health services in rural regions. Extension agents, however, have yet to be formally recognized as part of the rural behavioral health system, despite their contribution through stress assistance programs. Given the chronic behavioral health workforce shortage in rural regions, integrating faith leaders and extension agents in rural behavioral health care systems is crucial to increase the availability, acceptability, and accessibility of services for farmers and their communities. However, collaborative approaches between notable people of influence within the rural community to expand services are not often implemented.

This project will adapt an evidenced-based approach of intergroup dialogue to improve and increase collaboration among trusted faith leaders, behavioral health providers, and extension agents for behavioral health service delivery expansion. Researchers will implement a pre-post intervention feasibility study to examine how an intergroup dialogue intervention can bridge mental health supports to expand behavioral health services for rural farmers.

Full project title: Bridging Differences between Faith and Behavioral Health Professionals: Using Intergroup Dialogue to Improve Agricultural Mental Health Systems
Funded by:
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Funding period: 2022-2025

Principal Investigator

Annie Keeney
Annie Keeney, PhD, MSW, PPS

Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor
San Diego State University
School of Social Work

Lorann Stallones
Lorann Stallones, PhD, MPH


Colorado State University
Department of Psychology

Morgan Valley Headshot
Morgan Valley, PhD, MPH


HICAHS Coordinator
Colorado State University
Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences

Cheryl Beseler headshot
Cheryl Beseler, PhD


Associate Professor
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health