Hawai'i State News

Promoting mental health for Hawaiʻi farmers wins award from the community

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Ag mentorship training. Photo Courtesy: University of Hawai‘i

Nearly 50% of farmers in Hawaiʻi under the age of 46 have suffered from experiences of depression, and nearly 14% with suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in 2023 by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Agriculture is a high-stress enterprise with lots of risks and uncertainties, including volatile markets, fluctuating weather, invasive species and other stressors that agriculture producers must contend with on a daily and seasonal basis.

Due to high rates of stress, depression and suicide among this demographic, CTAHR developed Seeds of Wellbeing with original funding support from the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture/USDA-NIFA in fall 2021 to promote better mental health for those who work in the agriculture industry.


Seeds of Wellbeing provides workshops and educational materials in multiple languages to equip individuals with practical skills for managing stress and promoting mental well-being. Seeds of Wellbeing also conducts cutting-edge research, producing podcasts that have garnered more than 2,000 downloads, and 1,000 Instagram followers.

For its efforts, Seeds of Wellbeing was honored with the Outstanding Community Mental Health Leader award by Mental Health America Hawaiʻi in May.

“This award validates our dedication and commitment to promoting mental health awareness and support within Hawaiʻi’s agricultural communities,” said Thao Le, CTAHR professor and chair of the Family Consumer Sciences department, and Seeds of Wellbeing director. “This recognition highlights the effectiveness of our initiatives from the community in addressing mental health challenges and fostering resilience for our farmers and ranchers.”


Seeds of Wellbeing developed the Hawaiʻi Ag Mental Health Mentorship Program, which has trained more than 60 ag mentors to serve as community connectors and ag mental health navigators, and is seeking additional funding to expand its program and across the Pacific. Guam, for instance, has reached out and is also interested in replicating Seeds of Wellbeing’s efforts.

“We remain steadfast in destigmatizing mental challenges by bolstering social connection and social capital,” said Le.

Seeds of Wellbeing collaborates with the Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Program, a partnership with 13 states and four territories, Safe States Alliance and the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch, along with other organizations to leverage resources and expertise.


“The effectiveness of what we do depends on the relationships we build, cultivate and nurture, so that no one feels alone in their struggles,” said Le.

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