Overwhelming interest in suicide prevention training in Minnesota's agricultural communities

Updated: November 20, 2019 06:54 PM

New trainings aimed at preventing suicide among farmers and others in the agriculture community are getting overwhelming interest, so much so, more sessions will likely be added.

Speaking to a full room of roughly 30 people, retired chaplain and presenter Glen Bloomstrom spoke candidly about suicide prevention, offering skills those in attendance could practice and use when they walked out the door.


"People consciously and unconsciously communicate that they are having thoughts of suicide frequently, and so our job is to connect with those invitations to talk about suicide," Bloomstrom shared.

"The steps in safe talk are: tell a person what you see, hear, sense and know, ask clearly and directly about suicide, listen to the reasons for a person wanting to die, and then help them to keep safe for now," Bloomstrom said.

Brandon Balzer grew up on a farm near Owatonna, and he now works in dairy sales and interacts with more than 150 dairy farmers each month.

"After having this class, it starts to take me back to some conversations I’ve had and it makes me wonder a bit," Balzer said.

Amy Lopez is a Suicide Prevent Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Health.

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"There is such a pervasive stigma associated with talking about this topic, especially among the farming community," she said.

That's why the training is targeting rural communities, hoping those living and working there will open up to talking about suicide.

"I think it’s important to get over that hurdle of asking the question, 'are you suicidal?'" Lopez said.

"Research has shown that by asking that question directly, you’re able to create an opening in a space to listen and to have that person share what’s really going on," she added.

With commodity prices low and weather that's had very detrimental effects on farming this year, Balzer said the training is invaluable.

"Now I will feel a little more empowered to ask the question, and I think going forward I can make a difference if I see something," he said.

Wednesday's training in Faribault was the third safeTALK training this fall in Minnesota. There are six more scheduled through January.

Even with the additional six training sessions, there are still more than 140 people on the waiting list to attend one of the trainings. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture wants people to sign up, that way, they can contact you if more sessions are added.

You can register for events here.

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Jessica Miles

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