This is Ag!

27. Kim McConnell - Licensed Psychologist & Director of Clinical Programs at Spring Health, grit, resilience, empathy, and much more

Episode Summary

In episode 27, I sit down with Kim McConnell, Director of Clinical Programs at Spring Health. Together, we explore the intersection of agriculture and mental health, and UnitedAg's partnership with Spring Health, which is set to launch on March 1st. Kim, a licensed psychologist, delves into the critical need for mental health support in tight-knit communities like agriculture. Kim bravely shares her personal journey, reflecting on her struggles with depression and the pivotal role her father's company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) played in her recovery. We emphasize the importance of early intervention in mental health care, stressing the potential consequences of neglecting these issues. The discussion extends to the dangers of short-term thinking in healthcare plans, particularly regarding diagnostic procedures and mental health services. The long-term costs, both financially and in terms of human well-being, of prioritizing immediate savings over preventive measures like therapy is detrimental to the ag industry. Toward the end of our chat, we discuss the challenges of accessing healthcare while facing life stressors, and conclude with the following: it’s hard, but we’re alive. Join us as we navigate the complexities of mental health care in agriculture and work towards building a supportive and resilient community.

Episode Notes

In episode 27, I sit down with Kim McConnell, Director of Clinical Programs at Spring Health. Together, we explore the intersection of agriculture and mental health, and UnitedAg's partnership with Spring Health, which is set to launch on March 1st. Kim, a licensed psychologist, delves into the critical need for mental health support in tight-knit communities like agriculture. Kim bravely shares her personal journey, reflecting on her struggles with depression and the pivotal role her father's company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) played in her recovery. We emphasize the importance of early intervention in mental health care, stressing the potential consequences of neglecting these issues. The discussion extends to the dangers of short-term thinking in healthcare plans, particularly regarding diagnostic procedures and mental health services. The long-term costs, both financially and in terms of human well-being, of prioritizing immediate savings over preventive measures like therapy is detrimental to the ag industry. Toward the end of our chat, we discuss the challenges of accessing healthcare while facing life stressors, and conclude with the following: it’s hard, but we’re alive. Join us as we navigate the complexities of mental health care in agriculture and work towards building a supportive and resilient community.

This episode is sponsored by UnitedAg,  one of the largest association health plans to offer healthcare to the agriculture industry of California and Arizona.  

Kirti Mutatkar, President and CEO of UnitedAg. 

Reach me at
UnitedAg website -

Episode Contributors - Kim McConnell, Kirti Mutatkar, Dave Visaya, Rhianna Macias

The episode is also sponsored by Brent Eastman Insurance Services Inc. -

Blue Shield of California -

Elite Medical -


SAIN Medical

MDI Network -

Episode Transcription


Kirti Mutatkar: I'm super, super excited today because I'm here with Kim from Spring Health. And [00:00:10] UnitedAg has had a relationship with Spring Health for 3 or 4 years, and super excited to announce that we will be going [00:00:20] live with Spring Health starting March 1st. And this benefit is beyond just whatever we do at our health plan. [00:00:30] Right? It is. It is something that is really, really important with who we serve in our ag industry. And even beyond that, that's so important. So I am Kirti Mutatkar. [00:00:40] I'm the CEO president at UnitedAg. And Kim, do you want to introduce yourself?  


Kim McConnell : Sure. Thanks, Kirti. Uh, I'm Kim McConnell and I'm a licensed psychologist. I [00:00:50] am the director of clinical programs with Spring Health. I oversee a variety of clinical initiatives in our organization, support some of the clinicians [00:01:00] that work directly with our members, and also work with our product team to develop new ways of helping people onboard, sign up for Spring Health and get to care [00:01:10] to get better faster.


Kirti Mutatkar: So that's awesome. Thank you for being here. I know we have a, later we have a session at APMA where we are doing a live session. [00:01:20] I mean, we'll do it like this exact session maybe there. We'll see.


Speaker3: Yeah I'm excited about all these things. This is great. Yeah.


Kirti Mutatkar: So when I think of Spring Health. So [00:01:30] just to give you why we got involved with Spring Health a couple of years ago. So we have a health innovation forum at UnitedAg. And what we do is we interview or talk [00:01:40] to our users or our members and find out what is important to them and what should we be working on. So we then reach out to start up companies within that, [00:01:50] uh, the need of what we have, and then partner with one and pilot the program. So what happened in 2018, 2019, when we [00:02:00] were going around and talking to our members, we found that mental health, behavioral health kept coming up. And we were at that point, there was still a little bit [00:02:10] of a taboo around mental health, and it was not openly talked about, but that kept coming up. And so we then met with a few startup companies that addressed [00:02:20] this issue. And Spring Health by far was the best. And I met Adam, your founder, and it was his story and why he started Spring Health that was just amazing. So [00:02:30] thank you for being a partner. We offered it to our membership at zero copay, no deductible. That's incredible. 2020. And now we are going live through the health plan. So excited. So anything [00:02:40] uh, you might want to address and why this is so important today. And what can people see from a personal standpoint, from an employer standpoint [00:02:50] by not addressing it? What are the issues that you see?


Kim McConnell : Yeah, you know, there's certainly the human suffering component. And in fact in, you know, in [00:03:00] ag communities, they're so interconnected. So if one person is struggling it affects the family, you know, affect people's coworkers. But they're even [00:03:10] tighter than that. You know, the schools can be affected. Uh, churches, you know, these are communities that are really tight knit. So the impact is really broad, you know, [00:03:20] and I think, you know, the challenge during Covid was that people were suffering in new ways. The bright lining of it was [00:03:30] that it really did start a conversation that started to diminish stigma. People started talking about it more. You know, we had some celebrities come [00:03:40] out, familiar faces, um, that came out and spoke about their own struggles, which I think really did chip away at some of the stigma and made it easier for people to raise [00:03:50] their hands and say, I'm struggling, I need help and increase people's access to care. I think that's one of the biggest things in mental health. Maybe, [00:04:00] you know, significantly more than in medical care. We don't know where to go or what kind of treatment to start with. And I think that's why, you know, companies like Spring, [00:04:10] people are so hungry for a place to go where they don't have to have it all figured out, but they can sign up and get directed to care that really fits them immediately. [00:04:20]  


Kirti Mutatkar: Do you know what? That was one thing that was very important to me because when you have issues going on, right, you don't know what kind of care you need. So [00:04:30] Spring has a very different approach because I could be calling in, I could just be anxious because I have this podcast interview. Right. I could just be feeling anxiety because of that. [00:04:40] Or I could be in a state where, I don't know, could do some harm to myself, but I don't know what kind of help I need. So your navigator [00:04:50] program, which people interview me and then say, okay, this is the care you need. Yeah, that's very unique, right? I haven't seen that in other, [00:05:00] uh, companies that we had talked to.


Kim McConnell : Yeah, Kirti, you're talking about our care navigation program. It really is one thing that sets us apart. So when people sign up, they'll answer a few [00:05:10] questions about what they're struggling with and they'll get some options within our product. We've even done a ton of work in the last year to really improve the routing of people to the [00:05:20] things that might help them, but they all have access to our care navigation team, which are licensed clinicians that talk to people and help them get what they need. We [00:05:30] see all kinds of things. Like you mentioned. You know, it might be a momentary stressor or something that, you know, pops up in someone's life like, you know, public speaking [00:05:40] or relationship problems, struggles with parenting. Some of those are really well addressed with coaching. And then there are some where the better [00:05:50] fit is with a therapist. There may be some mental health problems that are new things like depression or anxiety, that are more patterns that have set in, or even chronic problems [00:06:00] that have escalated, like you were saying, could be an emergency need where someone is really struggling, you know? And that's one of the things that really [00:06:10] struck me, you know, when I was looking at the literature recently on mental health and agriculture is in agriculture is [00:06:20] actually number four for the industry with the highest suicide rates in the country, which is in my mind, staggering.


Kirti Mutatkar: It is. I actually was just talking to someone recently and that's [00:06:30] exactly what she was saying, especially the 26 year olds. That range of workers that we have. Yeah, it's surprisingly so prevalent. Yeah. And I [00:06:40] wonder I mean, there are a lot we know what maybe some of the issues could be, but that has to be addressed as a serious problem.


Kim McConnell : The studies show that men in agriculture, [00:06:50] they have two times greater chance of taking their lives.


Kirti Mutatkar: That is crazy.


Speaker3: It's life and death. Yep. Yeah.


Kirti Mutatkar: So when you think about it, it's the human aspect of it. Right? [00:07:00] When I think about it from UnitedAg and what we do from Spring Health, what you do. Yeah. We'll save a health plan some cost. Yeah, we'll do all that. [00:07:10] But deep down you're actually saving a life. Yeah. That means a lot. I mean, that's maybe as big as it gets.


Kirti Mutatkar: So, Kim, when [00:07:20] I talk about UnitedAg and I get passionate about that saving life and the empathy. And that's why at UnitedAg, I don't see myself as running a health insurance company. That's not, I [00:07:30] don't even think about that in those terms. I'm like, exactly what you just said today. What can we do to make somebody's life better when they're going through some issues? [00:07:40] Right. That's what we're trying to do. So why did you get into this; what's your story?


Kim McConnell : That's a great question. So I actually grew up, let's see, my father [00:07:50] was a fourth generation farmer on a grain farm in Kansas.


Kim McConnell : So I didn't come from Uh, the health care field. Uh, yeah. Ag is very familiar, you know, and I was actually [00:08:00] home at Thanksgiving with my dad, and I was thinking about this question that I hear people that are at similar points in their careers. I hear people talk about wanting to retire early. [00:08:10] And I asked my dad, I said, you know, I remember stories of my grandfather driving around the dirt roads that surrounded our farm when he [00:08:20] was 94 years old. He was no longer farming, but he would drive around and see what was going on every single day when they were plowing, planting, harvesting. And, you know, [00:08:30] I was thinking, man, like he never wanted to stop working, you know, what is it that causes somebody to feel so committed? I feel very fortunate that I landed [00:08:40] in a spot where, you know, I've been traveling this week with work and honestly feeling more energized by being so engaged with work. Yeah. So how did I end [00:08:50] up here? Thankfully, with stigma reducing, I'm more comfortable telling this story. So when I was in high school, I really had a significant struggle with depression. My dad [00:09:00] was working for a company in sales, and I went to my parents and I said, you know, that I had gotten to a point where things [00:09:10] were pretty dark, and I told them that I think I need help. And I had no idea. As a high school student, this is in the 90s. Like at that time, people weren't talking about [00:09:20] what you do in that situation, right? But my dad, fortunately had actually had an EAP program. They had never sought counseling [00:09:30] or mental health services, so this was new to them too. So at the time, EAPs were a little bit different. Employee assistance programs that offer counseling and these sort of benefit support [00:09:40] were different in that they were kind of triage stations for people where, you know, if they could do crisis intervention or help someone through [00:09:50] a real situational problem that was going to pass, then they would, you know, work with someone for a couple sessions. But if they saw that there was more extensive care [00:10:00] that was needed, someone needed to be seen, you know, to really address something that had set in as a mental health problem. Then they would send someone. They'd recommend [00:10:10] someone in the community to be there. Their mental health provider. And so that's what happened with me. I met with the EAP person. I can vividly remember the room. That experience is [00:10:20] really imprinted in my mind. And then I started working with a provider in the community, and I saw her for a little while. And I've, you know, I've had mental health tune ups throughout my [00:10:30] life, but that experience with that counselor changed my life, truly changed my life, changed the course of my life in terms of my career. But it actually it really [00:10:40] shifted how I think about things and probably saved my life in that moment. And it became really clear, like I committed from that point, senior year in high school, [00:10:50] to going into psychology, going to grad school and making this my, my career.


Kirti Mutatkar: Thank you for sharing that, Kim. That's, I know that's hard to share [00:11:00] because you've gone through it and I could see it on your face and that's where your passion comes from. So kudos to you for going through all that. [00:11:10] Kudos to your parents for recognizing that and then doing what you do today. That's awesome. But part of your mission and part of my mission [00:11:20] here is for the Kim's of the world, who do not get that care right. What happens then? It could be we as parents who [00:11:30] don't know about this, say, what's the big deal? Just go, be happy or do something and don't recognize those early signs that [00:11:40] could have such disastrous end to it and could go in so many different directions. So I think we owe it to that, because of what we do to get [00:11:50] that message out and say it over and over again, please get that help. Go, go find out if you see someone, your loved one, whoever it is, it could be your employee. Help [00:12:00] them out because you might not know that you might save a life later and just take them in a very different direction.


Kim McConnell : Yeah, yeah. And the earlier we can intervene, you know, the [00:12:10] better. Obviously it saves a great deal of suffering. But even from an employer standpoint with the labor shortages in Ag, this is you know, an issue is [00:12:20] to help people manage the stress as it comes up so they can stay in. And also like the cost savings are really remarkable when we look at early intervention, [00:12:30] when people get outpatient care, when they're struggling with anxiety, depression, especially, in fact substance use disorders, then we often prevent people [00:12:40] from escalating, from really starting to struggle worse to the point that they presented the emergency room because they've had a panic attack associated with anxiety, or they need [00:12:50] inpatient or residential treatment for substance use disorders. And, you know, it's been demonstrated in the research. And Spring Health recently put out a paper on [00:13:00] return investment showing that when we invest in outpatient care, we can see the outpatient spend for mental health services go up. But what we see is the medical [00:13:10] spend go down to a point that there is positive ROI, which is pretty remarkable. We know that. I mean, we see a reduction in a variety of areas of [00:13:20] medical spend, not just behavioral health. Even we know that mental health problems are closely associated with things like heart disease, blood pressure, and even conditions that we might not expect. [00:13:30] We see there being a link between getting behavioral health care and decreased medical spend.


Kirti Mutatkar: You make a really good point, because that was the reason when we offered [00:13:40] Spring Health earlier on at zero copay, we're not even going into deductible, exactly what you said because it's like the even seas. Right? So [00:13:50] when you look at a health plan and if you limit even see or any diagnostic procedures, yeah, you are thinking of a short [00:14:00] term gain and giving up your long term losses, right? So it's very short term thinking and we all get into that. We all think, oh, it's going to save me money today. Why would I send [00:14:10] somebody to a therapist for free? Because that doesn't make sense at all. This is going to cost me this. But you don't realize what you just said. The cost that comes later, if [00:14:20] that does not happen is not just triple fault, but ten folds. 100 folds, right? It's crazy. What happens then. Yeah. So even from a cost standpoint, let's take the human side out sometimes and think through [00:14:30] this. From a cost standpoint. It's also super important.


Kim McConnell : It's actually I think really huge that you all have removed, um, that out-of-pocket cost barrier, you know, because you've got [00:14:40] people that are doing good work managing their personal budgets. And it can be scary to see a sizable deductible have to be paid down before they access care. So I think that's a huge [00:14:50] step forward in terms of increasing access.


Kirti Mutatkar: We actually just had someone in our member services. I was talking to our director of member services, Sonia, [00:15:00] and she was telling me somebody came in to UnitedAg and she needed care. And we did what usually a health plan would do right from [00:15:10] a compliance standpoint. The first step, without realizing the situation she was in, we said, here's the directory, you can find the outpatient help and let [00:15:20] her go, right? Without realizing the state of mind she was in. Yeah. And recently we found out it's gotten a little bit worse for her. And [00:15:30] the guilt and the feeling that we could have helped this person a month ago, and it could have had a different direction, she would have [00:15:40] gone in different direction, I could hear it in Sonia's voice and she said, never again am I ever going to do this. So if somebody calls in [00:15:50] and needs that help, we'll say, don't worry about this. We'll figure out, where do you want to go? Let's figure out from looking at that. Yeah. And that's the shift that all of us need to [00:16:00] think about, right. Even from compliance, from work, we need to do what our standard procedures are. Our processes are sometimes [00:16:10] in this situation, you need to step back because it's not like somebody getting a can. I mean, even those situations, sometimes you lose kind of the sense of what you need to do. Yeah. It’s even worse. You don't know what kind of help you need and how you should go about getting it.


Kim McConnell : People ask me all the time, you know, because I've been in this field for 20 years. If, you know, I get [00:16:30] requests from family, friends. Hey, can you, you know, someone I know is struggling, I am struggling. Can you help me find a provider? Time and time again, I've asked. Okay, you know, tell [00:16:40] me what your health plan is. Let's see if we can find you in-network services. It is even for someone on the inside of behavioral health that knows the system, knows what I'm looking for. It can be a [00:16:50] real puzzle to try to figure out, to identify a provider that has availability. Right now, you know that there's not an obstacle because of cost. And that's, [00:17:00] you know, one of the primary reasons Spring Health built the care navigation aspect of the business, that we really want to eliminate that struggle. April [00:17:10] our CEO and co-founder, said from the beginning that, you know, was a major barrier in her experience when she was in need of [00:17:20] services and she didn't want that to happen one more time again. So, yeah, it's really part of our mission.


Kirti Mutatkar: That's true. And especially in the rural parts where we serve. Right. So [00:17:30] providers shortages are huge even in the places that we are in urban or any other places. But imagine that now being triple fall in places where [00:17:40] even medical care is not there. So, I mean, this is one step further.


Kim McConnell : I live in Colorado and prior to coming to Spring, I actually worked for the state [00:17:50] agency that runs the Medicaid program there. And so, you know, one of our responsibilities was to build an out of network statewide so that anyone that was on Medicaid could access [00:18:00] services, and it was tremendously difficult to find providers in rural areas. And if you needed a provider that had a specialty, it was even [00:18:10] harder, like finding a really qualified provider, say, to do substance use disorder treatment or a specific kind of intervention like treating eating disorders. Man, then if [00:18:20] you didn't have access to virtual services, we were really stuck.


Kirti Mutatkar: Yeah. So can you walk us through? What happens if, let's say I'm calling in, uh, through [00:18:30] Spring Health. What does that process look like?  


Kim McConnell : Yeah. So there's a few ways that you can sign up. A lot of times employers will send out communications to their members, [00:18:40] or UnitedAg may send out communications to members. And there'll be a link that you can click on right in the email. Or you can call in [00:18:50] to our care support team. And then you sign up. So you'll answer a few questions. You know, you might indicate which goals you have. Or we tried to make it super simple, um, [00:19:00] and streamline so you can click on certain issues. Maybe anxiety is something that's a concern to you. Maybe you want to work on relationships or parenting, or you want to reduce your [00:19:10] use of alcohol. Any of those things. I mean, we’re the whole gamut. And then you'll be presented with several options and a care plan. So we try to streamline it, not give you the entire laundry [00:19:20] list, but really target. We call it precision mental health, where we present you with options to get engaged in care that are going to target the things that you've identified [00:19:30] needing to struggle with. And when you get to that first provider, whether you're signing up for therapy or medication management to talk to someone about medication [00:19:40] or coaching, you'll get a full assessment at that time. So if we didn't catch something on that initial sign up, then we're going to make sure it becomes part of what we call a treatment plan to [00:19:50] make sure that your whole self gets addressed in the process of working with Spring, and we can even help if people need higher levels of care. So there's something [00:20:00] between outpatient and residential care called IOP. If you need IOP intensive outpatient or residential care, our care navigation team [00:20:10] can help you find those resources as well. In fact, I run a care navigation team and I've listened to some of the calls of my team members. They have gotten on [00:20:20] the phone with residential programs, asked about bed availability, asked them to check benefits, gotten admission dates for folks that need care right now. So it's pretty [00:20:30] cool.


Kirti Mutatkar: It is pretty cool because actually, Sonia and our member services team they do that right now. But what a huge resource we'll have at UnitedAg, because she's [00:20:40] going to have that resource. And working in partnership. We get people the help they need.  


Kim McConnell : Yeah. No one has to swim through their provider directory with their health plan anymore. Not you know, [00:20:50] there are good services available. We need everybody at the table to cover the mental health need. But we are working really hard to make that easier.


Kirti Mutatkar: Yeah. So from [00:21:00] an employer standpoint what can an employer do?


Kim McConnell : Yeah I think the more an employer can communicate and destigmatize just [00:21:10] saying the words, putting the signs up in break rooms, sending the emails, whatever the way, is that an employer communicates with their team saying [00:21:20] that, you know, help is available. And here's how you get it. Those are the two biggest pieces highlighting, you know, if you need it. And it's not just if you need it [00:21:30] for you, but it's also if you need it for your dependents and family. And that was the situation I was in when I was in high school with my family. You know, I actually heard one of my colleagues say the other day [00:21:40] that when a family member is in crisis, from a mental health perspective, it is one of the worst days of your life. It's truly is. If you're [00:21:50] a parent, you know, if you're someone's loved one, a spouse, a partner, it's pretty scary and it's absolutely critical to know where to turn.


Kirti Mutatkar: [00:22:00] And the stigma that's associated with it. Yeah. As a parent, uh, sometimes you want to hide, right? And you then make sometimes the wrong [00:22:10] decisions because of the pressures of society in the community and all the things that go with that.


Kim McConnell : Yeah. And I've watched, I'm a parent as well. Yeah. Um, and, uh, you [00:22:20] know, I've watched parents, they get to the point where, you know, they finally work through the stigma, like, and say, okay, I think it's time to do something about this. And then they can't [00:22:30] get into care. They can't find a qualified provider. They can't find somebody that treats the thing that your child is struggling with. And that is truly heartbreaking.


Kirti Mutatkar: There's so many barriers. [00:22:40] I mean, even just talking about even our health care industry, the broader health care industry, and how much barriers we put in there, and sometimes taking [00:22:50] what the intent was, right. It was to take care of all of us.



Kim McConnell : I think you're getting at the issue that like, you know, providers go into it by [00:23:00] and large because we want to help, right? You know, it's in our hearts, in our genes to be part of the solution. And it's been my experience working in [00:23:10] several systems where you feel like the red tape is so hard to get through, that it makes it tough to even provide good care [00:23:20] or make sure people that need it can get to you.


Kim McConnell : So, you know, I think the landscape is really changing. I'm actually more optimistic now than I've ever been in my career. Yeah. I'm really [00:23:30] feeling, you know, just incredibly thankful that companies like Spring are out there.  


Kirti Mutatkar: Yeah, we need to advocate for that. And I think that you're right. The change is coming. But the continuous [00:23:40] kind of getting that message out and how the importance of that, because it's like you said earlier, you're saying, now I could be okay. Now, I think I've gotten past the stigma, either [00:23:50] for me or for my kids or whatever. We get the care. And then I find out there is no provider in my area, or then I find out I go to some facility and I [00:24:00] don't know if it's in network, out of network. I don't know if I need -- it's the whole thing, so confusing. It's so confusing.


Kim McConnell : Yeah. I mean, any time I [00:24:10] sign up for health insurance and I look at, you know, the plan options, it's mind boggling. Yeah. Like, and then you actually get to the point where you need care and sorting that out is, you know, often [00:24:20] in crisis or you know, if you're looking for medical or mental health care, you've got a stressor for sure.  


Kirti Mutatkar: At a minimum that itself will stress you out and you'll need a therapist.


Speaker3: That's right. [00:24:30] That's right. It's a good time to get one. Yes. Yeah, yeah.


Kirti Mutatkar: One of the things I think we, uh, one of our board members, uh, I was talking to, he says [00:24:40] he was equating this going to a dentist. Right? He said, like, we go to regular checkups. We go every six months. Right. And when you said the fine tuning of you get your [00:24:50] own, you need to tune up. So any thoughts on that?


Kim McConnell : Great, great point. Yeah. Like I said, that initial experience of being in counseling in high school left such an imprint on [00:25:00] me, shifted the way I thought. But then there have been times, you know, you encounter major stressors of all kinds, or, you know, you end up encountering kind of more low grade [00:25:10] things that take their toll and really shift your thinking over time. And then you find yourself, man, I'm in a spot that I thought maybe a month or [00:25:20] two would go away and I'm still here. Uh, I think it's time for me, even if I don't know exactly what I need or how I'm [00:25:30] going to talk about things or what, exactly. Like, can I even pinpoint the problem? Is it depression and how did why did I end up, you know, in this spot, you know, [00:25:40] feeling kind of like a dark cloud is over me for a period of time? Is it anxiety? Do I really need to talk about relationship issues? Where do I start? Fortunately, [00:25:50] even as a psychologist, I don't always have those answers. Fortunately, when you get care, you don't have to. People can help you sort through that, and it has been immensely helpful [00:26:00] to me to do these tune ups really, where I can kind of reroute in some of the things that were so helpful in the initial [00:26:10] pass with counseling and learn new things. It's amazing how as we grow over time, you know, from your 20s, 30s, 40s, even, you know, we spring actually [00:26:20] serves children and families as well. So even early and much later, life changes and the things that you're going to face and how you face them, how you find yourself [00:26:30] facing them can surprise us. So it can be really nice to meet with someone at these different phases in life when we're struggling a bit and kind of get back on course [00:26:40] and save ourselves.


Kirti Mutatkar: The fight that's so, so important, right? I mean, and when you're looking so let's say I don't know if I need [00:26:50] care. Right. And I don't know if my employees need care or my loved ones, let's say. Yeah. What are some of the things that I should be watching out [00: :00] for? Is there like something? Kim, if Kim is saying something to me, maybe you say, oh my, somebody was diagnosed with this, my loved one. And is that something? Oh, I [00:27:10] need to figure out if Kim is doing okay with this.  


Kim McConnell : Yeah. Super attuned thing Kirti if someone says [00:27:20] that they know someone close to them that is struggling, it's a great time to ask. You know, we have support. Do you need help connecting to that person to [00:27:30] support? Do you need some support as well? But you might also see some more subtle things, like people you know retreating or sort [00:27:40] of stepping back from their work or relationships at work or in their community. Family member you know, big shifts are the things to pay attention to when you [00:27:50] know someone to be a certain way and relate to you a certain way and show up at work a certain way, and then you notice something shifting, it could be more activity, [00:28:00] frenetic activity. In more cases, it's going to be more of a retreat. You know, if they're close to you and you notice changes in some of their behavioral patterns, [00:28:10] like sleep or eating, things like that, those are worth paying attention to as well. There can be many reasons for those, but there are good things to key into, especially as an employer or [00:28:20] a manager. You don't have to be an investigator and you don't have to be a mental health clinician. All you have to do is just say, hey, I've noticed X and Y I'm [00:28:30] concerned for you and want to make sure you have access to whatever you need, and you don't have to be intrusive. It's pretty easy to just pass along the information gently.


Kirti Mutatkar: So that's [00:28:40] a good point. And as an employer, sometimes when you think of it, I mean, it's from a human side, from an empathy side. It's important to pay attention to your employees. But even from a productivity standpoint [00:28:50] or the turnover of good employees, you might have a good employee going through something like this and you don't you're not watching out for that, and it might end [00:29:00] up being worse. So it does have an impact. Keep an eye out and think from an employer not just looking for even from our productivity and the business sense of [00:29:10] it. It is important to pay attention to that because I know this at UnitedAg, I know some of our very strong employees at United who treat UnitedAg more. [00:29:20] I mean, it's not even work to them, right? It's they're that passionate about UnitedAg, but they've struggled with some of the issues earlier on and they got the help. And that's the reason they can do [00:29:30] what they do today.


Kim McConnell : Yeah I mean, I think we're realizing that with how prevalent mental health struggles are, it's the rule, not the exception. Good people, [00:29:40] some of our best employees, some of our loved ones, you know, are struggling. Yeah, yeah. It's not a deficiency. Right. You know, and I think even more, not [00:29:50] only can we come out of these struggles kind of back to who we were, but we might even develop more resilience, which I think was why that first experience for me was so impactful. You know, we often [00:30:00] have a shift in mindset that prepares us for the next thing that comes our way. So that doesn't mean we don't struggle as much. Yeah. Which is huge.


Kirti Mutatkar: One of our, actually, [00:30:10] our chair, Veronica, I was talking to her recently and what she said was very interesting to me. She said during the Covid time we were running, we [00:30:20] were go, go, go because we were taking care of everything from a work standpoint. We were doing everything that needed to be done. The groceries came in, we washed it, we did air dried [00:30:30] it. We actually ended up doing a lot of stuff to take care of ourselves. It was a go, go, go. Yeah. And then it stopped. But your heart and the way you [00:30:40] reacted to it was still going right. So you are still on the go, go, go thing, but there is nothing there for you to go, go, go, right. I mean that is not [00:30:50] needed. So that had an impact. And suddenly you feel it's like when you go through something really big in your life and it stops. Yeah. And that's when you [00:31:00] realize there's a big sense of loss. Yeah. Good or bad. I mean, this was a good thing that happened, that it stopped, but it's still a sense of loss. Yeah. And what that does [00:31:10] to our psyche and what that does to us, you don't even realize what happens. And then you end up going in a very bad direction. Yeah.


Kim McConnell : And it's like a change in your rhythm. [00:31:20] You figured out how to keep a pace and then, you know, this thing happens and, and it shifts so much that it knocks you off kilter. Yeah. And you got to figure out how do I start a day. [00:31:30] How do I get through it. Yeah.


Kirti Mutatkar: Talking I know you have a background in agriculture. I mean you grew up in that. What do you see [00:31:40] from your research? What are some of the things that you've seen in this industry that impacts, I mean, makes it a little bit more stressful than others?


Kim McConnell : Yeah. And I have, [00:31:50] you know, one view of a part of ag, so I certainly wouldn't, you know, want to speak for all of it because I know it's a heterogeneous field, but, you know, there certainly some unique [00:32:00] stressors in agriculture. There are a lot of things that are really out of a growers control. So obviously you've got, you know, the volatility of crop [00:32:10] prices, you've got weather, you know, labor shortages, especially right now, you know, you've got long hard work days. You know I don't know. [00:32:20] It was like not an option for my grandfather to go on a vacation. You know he got a little bit further along. They no longer had livestock [00:32:30] as part of their farming operation. And so like then he and my grandmother would come see us. We lived in North Carolina, where I was growing up. And so they'd actually be able to come see us for a little bit [00:32:40] of summer vacation in this narrow window when, you know, things were quiet. So, you know, the ability to reset is really different [00:32:50] than I think, uh, people in a lot of other industries. So there are, I think, really unique stressors for people in agriculture. Yeah. I [00:33:00] also don't want to diminish the fact that, like, it's a unique industry in a very good way. Um, I think one of the reasons that my grandfather drove [00:33:10] around the farm until he was 94 years old is that it was like it was in his bones that he loved it.


Kirti Mutatkar: That's not work. It's not. It's life. It's life.


Speaker3: Life. Yeah, that was it.


Kim McConnell : And there's also, [00:33:20] you know, while there's volatility, most farmers are really courageous entrepreneurs. It's part of what's exciting. Yeah. My dad told the story of [00:33:30] going back. So he would always go back for the harvest in the summer even when we you know, we were in North Carolina and kids were in school, we would go back to and as we got a little [00:33:40] bit older, we didn't always go back every summer, like by the time we were in high school and college. But my dad would. So as I'm sure lots of people can relate to, the harvest [00:33:50] had to be done before this really looming weather event was coming in. So they were going to have hail and rain, and it was going to lay down all the crops to a point they could not cut them. My grandfather was older, but [00:34:00] he was still out there cutting wheat. And they were talking. He was talking about how, you know, they would always cut until after dark. The lights would be on the combine. But, you know, they [00:34:10] were cutting like, well, well, well into the night chasing, you know, trying to get it done before the rain. And my dad was tearful when he was talking about this. And it wasn't [00:34:20] just because it was a stressful moment, it was also because that was the excitement of it. Like, that's why they did it. That's, you know, it was part of why they did it. [00:34:30] Yeah. And it makes you, you know, I believe it makes you really resilient. You have a grit.


Kim McConnell : You have a commitment to this thing that you just can't check [00:34:40] out from. You can't take the day off on a moment like that that I think is unique to ag.


Kirti Mutatkar: It is. And you know what? That what you just said. Sometimes when we talk about stress and [00:34:50] we talk about mental health or whatever, we say, get away from what stresses you. Yeah, but the stress part of it is also the passion part of it. And that's life. And [00:35:00] that's what we enjoy. We can't be going somewhere and saying, okay, I'm going to sit on the beach because I don't want to have these issues. We have to live the life. We have to take the good, [00:35:10] bad and the ugly and make it work for us. Yeah, and that's what makes life fun. And that's why we need to do the fine tuning, right?


Kim McConnell : You know, it's great to take a break. And I wouldn't say don't go sit on the beach, but. But I went through, like one of the hardest year and a half of my [00:35:30] life, probably about six years ago. And, and I was actually talking to my therapist and I said, man, you know, it's been hard, but I have been so alive.


Kirti Mutatkar: That's [00:35:40] good on you.


Kim McConnell : That's kind of what it's about.


Kirti Mutatkar: It is. It is. Yep. That's what it is. That's what it's all about. And so that's where you and I come in, where we provide [00:35:50] help, where we can. So all of us live life and be alive, right?


Kim McConnell : Yeah, yeah. All the things. Not all, not always good, but the whole range of emotions [00:36:00] is what makes us really alive, you know?


Kirti Mutatkar: Yeah. Yeah. Because it's, uh, in the Indian thing, right? It's the people say they go away to Himalayas when they don't want to [00:36:10] deal with life. And they go, and they are supposed to be the godly people. But for me, I never related too much to that. Because if you can live life [00:36:20] surrounded by everything that you do and feel alive, that to me is more spiritual awakening than anything else. Yeah. [00:36:30] Because that's I mean, if you can be and whatever resources we can get, whatever help we can get from therapy or whatever and just be like you said, [00:36:40] be alive. Yeah, but how awesome is that?


Kim McConnell : For a long time in my career, I treated substance use disorders. And one of the things that I loved about working with people that [00:36:50] were changing their use, quitting or cutting back, was that most of the times you cut right to kind of the core of being alive, which was like. How do I tolerate [00:37:00] being in the moment without changing, without escaping it through, you know, substance?


Kirti Mutatkar: Is there anything else, Kim? I mean, this [00:37:10] is I have a feeling we can continue talking all day long. Yeah, we went a lot of places. We went a lot of places.


Kirti Mutatkar: But is there anything else that you want to add? [00:37:20]



Kim McConnell : You know, I would just say, you know, I really appreciate the fact that employers are doing what they're doing. You know, our jobs are such a big part of our lives. And, you know, [00:37:30] like we were saying, good ways and bad good stress, even bad stress, both of those things. And that's a place where there really can be more visibility for getting [00:37:40] help, you know.


Kirti Mutatkar: So a call to action to anybody listening, please get help and reach out to us. Reach out to Springhill. And because it's really, [00:37:50] really important and if you have somebody, especially even any loved one, anybody, your employees, it's that important. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to everybody else. [00:38:00] Yeah. So thank you so much, Kim, and thank you to Spring Health for being a partner. And I'm looking forward to changing lives going forward.


Kim McConnell : Thank you so much. Thank you. It's been a pleasure.