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Mental Health and Well-Being

This group serves as a community of practice for Extension personnel and their community partners who share a commitment to improving mental health through a focus on social and emotional well-being. Members are encouraged to create blog posts, publicize upcoming events, share resources, and engage with other members on issues of common interest.

Engaging the Mental Health and Wellbeing Community of Practice at NHOC


The Mental Health and Wellbeing Community of Practice (MHWB CoP) had a significant presence at the 2024 National Health Outreach Conference (NHOC) in Greenville, NC, held from May 13-15. Both presentations submitted were accepted and received strong engagement at the conference.

A team comprising Jennifer Park-Mroch, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin Madison), Bobbie Jo Bensaid, M.A. (Mississippi State University), and Calandra Lindstadt, Ph.D. (Colorado State University), with assistance from Betsy Garrison, Ph.D. (University of Arkansas), presented on "Understanding Mental Health Literacy and Education Self-Efficacy of Extension Professionals." This presentation detailed a survey conducted by the MHWB CoP to assess Extension professionals’ knowledge and confidence in delivering mental health and well-being education in their communities.

The survey sampled 110 MHWB CoP members, achieving a 50% response rate. Among respondents, 59% were Family and Consumer Sciences professionals and only 7% were from Agriculture and Natural Resources. Most respondents worked at the county or regional level.

The survey measured mental health literacy, teacher self-efficacy, overall confidence in delivering mental health education, perceived top mental health concerns, and participants’ programs and practices. About 63% of respondents rated their overall confidence at eight out of ten or above, and teacher self-efficacy for delivering MHWB content was high, with most responses scoring four or five out of five (i.e., agree or strongly agree).

Responses on mental health literacy were more varied. While 96% strongly disagreed with the statement “Mental disorders don't affect people's feelings & thoughts,” only two-thirds strongly agreed that “Early intervention for mental health disorders is best practice.” Notably, only half of the respondents strongly agreed with the statement “If I am experiencing mental distress, I would seek out help,” which is concerning given their engagement with mental health education.

The top three concerns for mental health in respondents’ communities included access to mental health supports and services, economic factors, and mental health stigma. While these are significant concerns to tackle, it is inspiring that Extension already does quite a bit of work in these areas and is well-situated to help communities address many of these needs.

Our other presentation showcased unique MHWB programs and collaborations nationwide. The poster featured initiatives from seven states/regions, including UW Madison's Recovery Friendly Workplaces, which provides training and resources to workplaces. Extension professionals in the southern region are addressing mental health concerns in agricultural and rural communities through the Southern Ag Exchange Network, offering mental health and suicide prevention training, voucher assistance, and a farmer support helpline across thirteen states, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The poster encouraged conference participants to share their mental health initiatives and future goals on sticky notes, adding them to the center of the poster. Notable contributions included FEWER CO, a mental health and firearms safety training program developed for rural Colorado communities.

The MHWB CoP also hosted an informal breakfast gathering on the last day of the conference, fostering connections and discussions among attendees about the future of MHWB practice in Extension.

NHOC was a successful event, thanks to the organizers. Recognizing the challenge of attending in-person events, discussions are underway for a virtual MHWB summit and also thinking about a pre-event at a related professional conference to create an equitable and engaging platform for all involved in this critical work.

Photo of the MHWB CoP poster at NHOC with (left to right): Brittney Schrick, Jennifer Park-Mroch, Bobbie Jo Bensaid, and Calandra Lindstadt.

Poster collaborators include: Jennifer Park-Mroch, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin - Madison; Bobbie Jo Bensaid, M.A., Mississippi State University; Calandra Lindstadt, Ph.D., Colorado State University; Betsy Garrison, Ph.D., University of Arkansas; Cari Michels, University of Minnesota; Anne Lindsay, Ph.D., University of Nevada - Reno; and David Brown, Ph.D., Iowa State Univesity.

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