The HOPES Award is dedicated to Helping Others Prevent and Educate About Suicide (HOPES). It was awarded to Farmer Angel Network (FAN) on April 14, 2023, at Mental Health America of Wisconsin’s 13th annual conference called Prevent Suicide Wisconsin: Holding Space. 137 people were in attendance for the virtual award ceremony.
FAN Board Member Christy Wehler spoke to the nomination while co-founders Brenda Statz, Dorothy Harms and Randy Roecker accepted the award. Mrs. Wehler said, “Everytime I work with the group, I am amazed at the impact this small grassroots effort has had. It’s a very small group of volunteers, run 100% by volunteers, who do not actively seek donations and just do the work out of the passion in their hearts. The co-founders, Brenda, Randy and Dorothy have taken a very painful situation and been able to be vulnerable, sharing their own experience to make positive changes in our small rural communities. These changes have spread throughout Wisconsin, nationally and even internationally to break the stigma around mental health and prevent suicide. It’s very humbling and honoring to be a part of this group as I have seen individuals impacted by their work. Those having suicidal ideations have been connected to resources because of the people on this team.”
Mrs. Harms, Farmer Angel Network Board Chair went on to say, “When we started working together and gathered people together because of the loss of our good friend Leon Statz, we never ever dreamed about the impact we would be having on our community, the State and other people across the country. By using our voices as farmers, we have been able to connect directly to a population that really struggles with access to mental health resources as well as accepting help with mental health.”
Co-founder Brenda Statz said, “The award means a tremendous amount to me. After I lost my husband, it was a struggle alone a lot. This group has helped me move forward and find meaning to realize my husband’s death was not in vain. He has had a purpose and his word and his legacy will continue on and hopefully families will be impacted to realize that we’re all in this together. I always say we do not farm alone. We are a neighborhood, a community of support for each other.”
Co-founder Randy Roecker said, “We are trying to break down the stigma that it is okay to talk about mental health and to really just be there for each other and listen.”
Erika Steib, State Suicide Prevention Program Manager with Mental Health America of Wisconsin said, “The work you do is really impressive in the collective and community based approach to prevention is so important. It is really amazing to see that happening here in Wisconsin. You all should be very proud.”
FAN Board Members Christy Wehler, Brenda Statz and Amanda Coorough also presented at a conference breakout session on “Farmer Angel Network: Bringing Farmers' Mental Health Struggles Out of the Shadows.” They explained risk factors for farmer suicide, how a farming community came together to build a stronger community and prevent suicide among farmers, farm workers and their families, and how to build a network coalition of partnerships to make an impact without many resources.
The full HOPES award nomination is available here.