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Addressing mental health in youth in rural communities

An FFA member is passionate about stopping the stigma surrounding mental health in youth in the agriculture industry and rural communities.

Jaden Maze, Indiana FFA District Four vice president, started a mental health club after a student in her school committed suicide.

“I’ve been working with the mental health topic since 2019, almost my entire high school career. I’ve given several speeches on mental health in agriculture through 4-H and FFA. We had a suicide in my school and afterward I got together a group of girls and started the first mental health club in my school. We partnered with Bring Change to Mind,” she says. “I knew I had the resources— I had gone through the training, and I had my QPR certification and suicide prevention. And we all knew that we wanted to do something to help, especially being in a rural community. We can all pool our strengths and whatever it takes to help other kids know they aren’t alone. Our goal is to raise awareness for mental health so that younger kids can see older kids talking about it and then they feel more comfortable bringing their issues to the administration.”   

Maze says it’s important to address mental health issues as early as possible.

“The youth are the future of agriculture. If you don’t get these topics and talk to the kids about it than that cycle of mental health issues, drug abuse, and addictions is just going to continue,” she says. “You have to stop it at a younger age to make an actual change.”

She spoke during the recent Healthy Lives, Healthy workshop in Boone County.

“I hope people attending the workshops find more interest in the topic and I hope it prompts them to take action. The biggest action you can take is to sit down and have that conversation with someone you know who is struggling. Ask them if they’re planning on harming themself or taking their life. You’re not going to plant that idea in their head if you ask them that question. They’re going to be more grateful you asked,” she says. “As I write my new speech for FFA on the topic, one of my lines is to be transparent and honest because honesty can save a life. Change happens when we eliminate our fear.”

The one-day workshops are taking place across Indiana now through July.

Maze served as president of the Western Boone County FFA Chapter for two years and will be running for state office in June.

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