Battling Stigma Around Mental Health on The Rice Stuff Podcast

Learn about the science behind stress and strategies to deal with it
Apr 27, 2021
ARLINGTON, VA – Public health officials believe we are in the midst of a mental health crisis in this country – and that was before the added stress and anxiety brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic.  Studies have shown that farming is one of the most stressful occupations there is, and some point to the alarming statistic that farmers are twice as likely to die by suicide than someone in the general public.

Against this backdrop, The Rice Stuff has published a very special episode about mental health and rural communities.

“USA Rice first started working on rural mental health issues in 2019 by inviting Harvard-trained psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Shimi Kang to be the keynote speaker at that year’s Outlook Conference,” explained show co-host Michael Klein.  “Earlier this month, Dr. Kang reached out to us to offer the USA Rice community some new resources and she jumped at the chance to join the podcast.”

In addition to Dr. Kang who shares the science behind stress and strategies to deal with it, Dr. Archie Mason and Arkansas rice farmer Mike Sullivan joined the program to talk about an initiative they are passionate about, the Agri Health Network.  

“Agri Health’s mission is to help people recognize the signs of stress and offer opportunities to help deal with that stress through faith, family, and community with other farmers, and their motto, ‘It’s okay to not be okay,’ is one of the most important messages we can all take to heart,” said co-host Lesley Dixon.

That message is especially important for farmers because of their long tradition of being stoic, independent problem-solvers.

Also joining the podcast to talk about this specific aspect of mental health was Andrea Paquette, the president and co-founder of the Stigma Free Society, a group dedicated to ending the stigma around mental health issues.

“Andrea presented wonderful resources, including a new Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit that touches on all aspects of rural life,” said Klein.  “She also led by example by speaking candidly about her own struggles with mental wellness.  So often when people are struggling, they think they are the only ones – that everyone else is perfect.  Of course, that’s not true, but we have to talk honestly and openly about it.  We’re seeing more and more celebrities and athletes talk about their struggles with mental health, and we really hope this episode jump starts important conversations in our communities.”

The group discussed depression warning signs, dealing with trauma, and suicide, as well as strategies for having difficult but vital conversations with those around you, and offered many resources that are listed and linked in the box below that the Daily will publish throughout May, Mental Health Awareness Month.

“The bottom line is, you aren’t alone, it’s okay to not be okay, and as Archie said, ‘give yourself some grace on that,’” said Dixon.

New episodes of The Rice Stuff are published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month and can be found on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.  All episodes and additional information can be found on the podcast’s dedicated website at  The site includes a “Podcast 101” section on the “About” page for people new to the medium and a means to reach out to the show hosts and guests via the “Talk to Us” button.

Mental Health Resources Discussed on Episode 20 of The Rice Stuff

Agri Health Network
A non-profit established to provide stress assistance to those engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations.

Stigma Free Society
The Society’s goal is to create AWARENESS of the various stigmas that exist in the world, develop an UNDERSTANDING of the challenges that numerous people face and encourage all people to foster ACCEPTANCE of themselves and others.

Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit 
A collection of inspiring stories, tips, resources, and a peer counseling program

Dr. Shimi Kang
Access Dr. Kang’s writings, books, seminars, and more.

Mental Wealth with Dr. Shimi Kang
Dr. Kang’s YouTube channel is loaded with quick videos to help you build your mental wealth.

That Farm Life Podcast from Archie Mason and the Agri Health Network
Leaving the Valley Podcast about preventing and coping with suicide

Suicide Prevention Hotline

Farm Aid Mental Health Resources