Dinner Theater is a Success

Ohio State Extension – Ashtabula County hosted a successful dinner theater on April 11, which brought together community members to promote awareness and education about mental health. Guests were treated to a delicious dinner from a local barbeque restaurant and then enjoyed a performance that focused on the ways farm stress can impact our mental health. The performers used humor and empathy to convey important messages such as recognizing signs of changing mental health, breaking down stigma and encouraging attendees to seek help when needed. Afterwards, representatives from local mental health agencies spoke about the resources available to residents of Ashtabula County.

The event was well-attended. Attendees were impressed by the performances and the engaging nature of the event, and were glad for the opportunity to learn more about mental health in a fun and non-judgmental environment.

Andrew Holden, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator, spoke about the importance of the dinner theater: “Often times we get together for an event like this after a tragedy has already happened, and I am just glad we can do this in order to hopefully prevent it.”

A special thanks to the Ohio Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, and Centerra Co-op for their support of this event. Thank you to the 4-H and FFA members who offered child care.

Five adults stand in front of a crowd and hold microphones and a script in their hands. They are performing a skit about mental health. Four adults sit at a table and hold microphones and a script in their hands. They are performing a skit about mental health.

Celebrate National Ag Week!


National Ag Week (March 21-27) is a time to celebrate all the farmers and agriculture workers in Ohio and across the United States. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the hardworking farmers and agriculture workers who work tirelessly to raise the crops and livestock we need to survive and thrive. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to their craft is truly inspiring, and we are fortunate to have them as a vital part of our society.

If you are a farmer or agricultural worker- thank you for letting Ohio State University Extension employees serve you!

If you know a farmer or agricultural worker and want to show your appreciation, consider one of these options!

  • Support your local farmers by purchasing local foods such as meat, vegetables, eggs, or household goods.
  • Send a care package to your favorite farmers. Many farmers are about to spend a lot of time in their fields. Put together a small package of snacks (cookies, chips, jerky, water or sports drinks, etc.) for them to enjoy on the job.
  • Give them space. Your local roads may soon be filled with farmers and their families moving equipment from farm to field. Drive carefully and leave plenty of room between you and farm equipment so that everyone can make it safely home.


Attend the Upcoming “Stop the Stigma” Conference

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” While the stigma around mental health and suicide has certainly decreased over the last several years, it is still very prevalent and affects our family, friends, and community.

Attend the upcoming Rural Stigma Conference to learn how stigma affects rural communities and what we can do to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide. The keynote speakers and breakout session leaders are individuals with a true passion and years of expertise in this subject.

Visit the Conference Home Page for more information, including an agenda.

Click here to register for the conference.


What Happens After a Disaster? (Part 2)

This is the second post in our series about mental health after disasters. Click here to read part 1.

No two humans will respond the same way to a disaster or other traumatic event. There are patterns and common reactions to be sure, but we all have unique life experiences that lead us to respond one way or another. After a disaster, many people will be fine and seem to resume their normal lives, but others may struggle. A person’s reactions to a traumatic event might occur immediately after an event, or they may take several months to a year to surface.

Keep an eye out for friends and family by paying attention to certain changes, including:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns. Are they sleeping far more than normal or constantly complaining about fatigue? Are they complaining about not being able to sleep at all?
  • Changes in emotional state. Do they seem to be “on edge” all the time? Do they say they feel powerless or helpless?
  • Changes in habits- Have they stopped their normal routine? (Ex- no longer going to church, no longer attending grange meetings, etc.)
  • Choosing negative coping strategies- Are they drinking more than normal? Are they engaging in risky behaviors?

Changes like these that last four weeks or more may be signs that someone is experiencing increased stress or anxiety after a traumatic event. You can help by letting the person know what you’ve noticed and share that you are concerned. Provide resources for local providers and let them know that crisis lines are available.

988: Call or text the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional about suicidal thoughts or other crisis situations like panic attacks or severe anxiety.

741741: Text any word to this number to start a conversation with a trained professional who will listen and provide confidential support.

1-800-720-9616- The Ohio Careline is available by phone 24/7 and will connect you with a trained local professional who can provide emotional support and resources.

What Happens After a Disaster? (Part 1)

Any given day, we can turn on the television or open a news app and find a story about an environmental disaster happening in some corner of the country. Stories about wildfires in Colorado or derechos in Iowa are sad and compelling, but we don’t always give disasters much of a thought until they happen in our backyard. When a disaster does happen close to our homes and communities, we can be faced with threats to our physical and mental health.

Humans are resilient and can handle a lot of difficult situations. But sometimes we need to take extra steps to protect our mental health, especially when a disaster happens. What can you do to protect mental health in a disaster?

  • Take care of immediate needs- Make sure friends and family have a safe place to shelter, access to food and water, and proper clothing. Make sure they have access to required medications or medical devices.
  • Don’t force a story- It’s human nature to ask, “What happened?!” There’s nothing wrong with being curious, but it can be upsetting to relive the event each time we’re asked to repeat a story. Offer a listening ear if you can, but don’t pressure others into sharing. Don’t feel obligated to repeat your own experiences either.
  • Avoid “doom scrolling.” – Social media and 24/7 news channels make it easy to stay connected and informed. But constant exposure to stories about disasters and other intense events can be detrimental to our mental health. Set a limit on how much time you will spend consuming this information, and get your information from a trusted source .

Most people will be “okay” after a disaster and find healthy ways to cope and adapt to challenges. If you or someone close to you begins to experience severe stress or anxiety, reach out to a local mental health professional or a crisis line. Each of the resources listed below have trained professionals ready to listen to you, provide confidential support, and connect you with resources.

988 Suicide & Crisis Prevention Life Line– call or text 988

Crisis Textline- text any word to 741741

Ohio Careline- dial 1-800-720-9616

Register Today for Mental Health First Aid!

Do you know how to recognize signs of changing mental health in your friends or family members? Would you feel comfortable asking someone about their mental health? Join the Farm Stress team in a Mental Health First Aid class to learn about mental health and how to help in a crisis situation.

These virtual trainings are held on Zoom. You will receive access to self-paced learning modules approximately two weeks before the training, and then join some of OSU Extension’s Mental Health First Aid instructors for an instructor-led session.

Register for an adult Mental Health First Aid class here

Register for a Youth Mental Health First Aid course here (This class is designed for adults who work with young people ages 12-18).

Want to share this information with others? Click here for a copy of our registration flyer!

Can There Be Light When It’s Cloudy?

Living in Ohio can be a little difficult in the winter months, as it is one of the cloudiest states in the country, coming in within the top six. Many people don’t realize how dependent a person becomes until there is a lack of sunshine. It can be even more of a struggle for someone that may have depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read on to learn more about what SAD is and how light therapy may be something that could be helpful.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is recurrent with a seasonal pattern lasting approximately 4-5 months. SAD can be a winter or even summer-related pattern.

The winter pattern symptoms may include:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)

A type of treatment that is becoming more popular for winter SAD is light therapy. It has been proven to be effective for mild to moderate episodes of winter SAD as a form of self-help. When it comes to severe episodes it has been effective in combination with therapy and potential medication.

Are they safe and effective to use?

  • Yes, as long as they are used as directed.
  • Use no more than 30 minutes in the middle of the day.
  • It is not recommended for someone diagnosed with bipolar depression.
  • Use consistently for at least 2 weeks.
  • If there are any pre-existing eye conditions consult an eye doctor.

Other tips:

The most important feature of a light therapy lamp is the strength of the bulbs. The light therapy lamp should be 10,000 lux. It’s also important for the light therapy lamp to be UV-free or filter out UV light so that you’re not exposing yourself to harmful UV rays.

If you experience SAD and have been experiencing side effects like those mentioned above for more than four weeks, reach out to your doctor and talk about treatment options. Never hesitate to call 988 if you struggling with ongoing mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts or feelings.

New mental health resource for Ohioans!

“Have you thought about talking to someone about that?” If you experience anxiety, depression, or another mental health challenge, working with a professional can be very helpful. But navigating the health care system is not always as simple as calling your local counselor and making an appointment. You have to figure out which providers take your insurance, how many sessions are covered, and what your co-pay might be. If you don’t have insurance, there are even more questions to ask. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out your benefits on your own, so call the Ohio Mental Health Insurance Assistance office for help.

From their website: “This free service is for individuals, families, and behavioral health providers who need help understanding and accessing their mental health and substance use disorder benefits. Whether you have health insurance through an employer, a government program, purchased it directly through an agent, or are uninsured, we can help.  We’ll help you understand your mental health coverage, assist you in getting the most from your mental health insurance for treatment, and facilitate investigations on your behalf if you experience treatment access issues due to insurance.”

Get started today by calling 1-855-438-6442. Recovery from a mental health challenge is possible and probable, and the Ohio Mental Health Insurance Assistance Office can help you start that journey to recovery!

East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference

OSU Extension to Host 2023 East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference

Ohio State University (OSU) Extension will host the 8th Annual East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference. The conference is planned for Friday, March 24 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Shisler Conference Center, 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, OH 44691. All women and young women (high school age) who are interested, involved in, or want to become involved with food, agricultural, or natural resources production or small business are encouraged to attend. Click here for a printable flyer

The conference program features a networking fair and sixteen breakout sessions presented by OSU Extension educators, producers, and partner agencies. Sessions this year are focused around four themes Business & Finance, Plants & Animals, Home & Family, and Special Interest (includes break-out with Ohio FFA State Officers). The conference keynote will be led by Rebecca Miller, Farm and Dairy Editor-in-Chief. Her keynote presentation “Clinging to context in a noisy world: don’t lose sight of the “why” in what you do” will.  Agriculture is often so much more to us than a job, which makes it hard when we face push back — from people around us and from influences outside of our control.  Rebecca will share her path through farming and journalism and how she’s grappled with the questions.  New this year is a Youth Symposium opportunity for high school and college students to present their research, SEA, capstone, thesis, or other study projects.

Registered participants, community organizations, or businesses interested in sponsorship can contact 740-722-6074.

Interested individuals can register for the conference online at .Cost of the conference is $60 for adult participants and $30 for students. Conference fee includes conference participation, breakfast, lunch, and conference handouts. Deadline for registration is Friday, March 10. For additional information locally, please contact Emily Marrison, OSU Extension Coshocton County at 740-722-6074.

Stay connected with the Ohio Women in Agriculture Learning Network on Facebook @OHwomeninag or subscribe to the Ohio Women in Agriculture blogsite at

Recognizing Changes in Mental Health

How do you know when someone close to you is experiencing a mental health challenge? You may not recognize a friend is experiencing a challenge until they show noticeable symptoms like crying excessively or having a panic attack. A co-worker’s worsening mental health may go unnoticed for a long time. We may not recognize signs of worsening mental health because the person hides them. Still, we are more likely to miss signs because we do not recognize subtle signs of changing mental health.

We can become more aware of these subtle signs of mental health changes by sharpening our noticing skills. Here are some signs to notice:

  • Changes in appearance– seeming unusually tired, beginning to wear wrinkled clothes, or having unkempt hair
  • Changes in attendance– showing up to work later than normal, skipping meetings or lunch/coffee breaks. Canceling or skipping social outings.
  • Changes in thoughts- expressing more worry, fear, or anger than is normal for them. Saying things “don’t matter” or feeling hopeless.
  • Changes in concentration- unable to focus on work, very forgetful at home, extremely indecisive.

If you notice any of these signs in a co-worker or friend, think about when the changes began. Being tired for one day is not unusual, but appearing tired for three or more days might indicate difficulty sleeping because of anxiety or stress. A friend who skips one get-together might have had a simple change of plans, but repeatedly skipping (especially if they enjoyed them in the past) might be a sign that they are experiencing depression. When you notice a pattern, it is time to speak up!

Find the time and place to have a private conversation so the person doesn’t feel overwhelmed or embarrassed. Be tactful as you tell them what you’ve noticed, using “I” statements (“I have noticed,” “I am worried,” etc.) and open-ended questions to encourage them to share. Finally, don’t pressure your friend or co-worker to share information they don’t want to share. Let them know you will be available to listen or help in the future.

Pay attention to small signs of changing mental health and tell the person what you’ve noticed. Your actions just might be the help and support they need to address their mental health.