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Farm Family Resource Initiative working to help farmers dealing with mental health

Mental health help for farmers
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 4:06 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Agriculture is the biggest industry in Illinois and perhaps one of the most stressful at times.

It’s roughly a $19 billion annual economic impact.

SIU school of Medicine and the state of Illinois Agriculture Department are bringing attention to a program that provides more mental health treatment for farmers.

Karen Stallman understands the stress farmers face.

She and her husband farm in Randolph County where they raise beef cattle and grow corn, soybeans, wheat.

“Farmers are real good at taking care of their crops, their livestock, their equipment. But often times farmers don’t take care of themselves,” said Stallman.

Stallman works for the SIU school of medicine in the Farm Family Resource Initiative.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative seeks to improve the health and well-being of Illinois farm owners and families by:

  • Identifying farm family needs, including mental health needs
  • Identifying available resources for farm families
  • Creating new resources for farm families
  • Developing a network of partners to respond to farm family needs

“The stigma of accessing mental health is one we’ve got to get through. Because if you don’t have your mental health, it really doesn’t matter what your physical health is,” said Jerry Costello, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director.

As spring planting season begins, stress levels can be at an all time high for farmers.

All farmers and their families are able to call, text, email, use web services and up to 6 free Telehealth counseling sessions.

“So that stigma of someone reaching out for mental health help, really the fact that this is anonymous that shouldn’t be an issue or shouldn’t be a problem,” Costello said.

The program began with 6 counties in 2019 as a pilot program. Now it stretches statewide to all 102 counties.

In 2021, the FFRI was funded through a grant from the USDA.

During the last legislative session, the general assembly appropriated an additional $500,000 to ensure the program remains operational in all 102 counties throughout the 2023 fiscal year.

But as the late planting season began, high fuel prices and a geopolitical event going on, Costello believes farmers are stressed at an all time high.

“There’s probably a lot more stress on farmers right now than there has been in probably several years.”

The Farmer assistance helpline is 24/7. It can be reached at 1-833-FARMSOS or 1-833-327-6767..

“Either a bachelor or a master level mental health professional. And that professional is going to provide brief crisis intervention if it is something as drastic as a suicide, then they’re immediately prepared to talk you through that and to be able to address that situation,” said Stallman.

For more information and other ways to get assistance you can find that on the Farm Family Resource Initiative on the SIU school of medicines website.

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