The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in five adults or roughly 600,000 Iowans live with some form of mental illness. The National Survey of Children's Health found that one in six youth ages 6-17 also will experience a mental health disorder. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic, weather related concerns, and the ongoing financial strain on the agricultural community are significant factors impacting mental health in Iowa.
Twenty-nine counties are focused on engaging Iowans in addressing mental health. Mental health initiative team chair David Brown says the team is primarily focused on supporting county efforts to market and offer research-based trainings and education on mental health literacy, suicide prevention, and mindfulness. During monthly meetings with counties, the I-team highlights extension resources, partner agencies provide updates, and counties share and celebrate their successes with all.
For example, farmers in Wright County had expressed great concerns due to the additional stressors of COVID-19 and other disasters. In response, during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 when farmers were in the fields, ISU Extension and Outreach Wright County distributed mental health information and bags of snacks. In addition, county staff were trained in “Question. Persuade. Refer.” and Mental Health First Aid to help identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders in conversations with farmers. In addition, staff are incorporating more mental health resources and trainings into farmer communications and programs.
Marketing resources for the mental health initiative can be found on MyExtension, including a customizable Mental Health Initiative Resource Guide, pop-up tabletop banners, newspaper ads, social media posts, and add-on PowerPoint slides you can use before, during, and after presentations with clients, or loop on monitors in an office, or use in other scenarios that address mental health issues in Iowa. Monthly newsletters share county success stories and provide a calendar of meetings, activities, and trainings. The mental health I-team also is highlighting potential partners, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Healthiest State Initiative Make It OK program, and Project STOMP, that create a better-connected network of extension and community partners to help reduce the stigma of mental health.
Update: County website transition
The pandemic changed many things about the way we do business and forced us to shift goals and project timelines. One of those projects, the county website transition, is back on track and you will be hearing more about it in the coming weeks. This project has been four years in the making and has included replacing several outdated and older systems, integrating with other systems within our organization, and completely overhauling the design and functionality of the county websites. In addition, the Extension Information Technology web development team and the county website transition committee have conducted public surveys to gain information about how communities use county websites and have shifted priorities to utilize information from MyData.
Did you know? Shelby, Dallas, and Linn will be the first three counties to transition their websites to the new system. (They won the contest in spring 2020. You’ll understand why when you watch the videos from Shelby County, Dallas County, and Linn County.)
- Iowa House File 802, which has now become law, establishes specific requirements related to racism and sexism training, and diversity and inclusion efforts, at state governmental agencies and entities, including the Regents institutions. The Office of University Counsel and the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost have developed an FAQ with more information about the law including interpretation in a university context and implications for trainings and instruction.
- When employees leave ISU Extension and Outreach for retirement or other opportunities, it’s important that we follow standard procedures for a smooth transition. ISU-paid and county employees and their supervisors should review and complete the ISU Extension and Outreach Employee Separation Checklist before the employee’s separation.
- Remember to check the MyExtension homepage to find what you need to know about issues affecting our organization.
John D. Lawrence
Vice President for Extension and Outreach