Ill. Dept. of Agriculture highlights initiative aimed at helping farmers’ mental health

Improving the mental health of farmers.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 10:20 PM CDT|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT

CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Farmers are known for working long and tough hours.

As the spring planting season begins, leaders with the Illinois Department of Agriculture are working to help ease the struggles many farmers face regarding their mental health.

“We’ve got to get past this stigma of reaching out for mental health help,” said Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Jerry Costello.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative, which began as a pilot program in a handful of counties back in 2019, is aimed at helping farmers, their significant others and workers improve their mental health.

“This is a helpline option, it’s a text option, there’s an email, you can Google a Farm Family Resource Initiative, as well as the fact that there’s six Telehealth visit options that you have to where you can actually go on and have a Telehealth visit with a mental health professional,” Costello said.

Costello said that it will allow individuals telehealth counseling sessions through the SIU School of Medicine. The number is 833-FARM-SOS.

Local dairy farmers from Red Bud, Illinois, said those in the farming business should take advantage of this.

“The work is never ending, so the fact that we don’t have to stop get cleaned up, get in a vehicle and drive somewhere is just so important because we could be working and calling at the same time,” said wife Emily Reinhardt.

The initiative allows up to six individual, couple or group sessions at no cost. The initiative is to help farmers and farm related issues that includes physical and mental health needs.

It also offers ongoing outreach, education, training to rural clients and partners working to improve the health and safety of farm families.

For the Reinhardt’s, they believe this resource is valuable for time to come.

“Knowing that the resources are there--that this isn’t going to be a quick one and done--it’ll be here for a while,” husband Josh Reinhardt said. “So no matter how old you are, how long you’ve been doing it or how long you might do it, it’ll still be there when you need it.”

This mental health resource is available in all 102 counties in Illinois.

Costello said they are working to make it as easy to use as possible.

“The aspect of being confidential, being anonymous to your point, in small towns people don’t want a lot of times for their truck or their car to be seen at mental health professional’s office,” Costello said. “This is a way for them to do it from their combine, from their tractor.”

Click here to learn more about the Farm Family Resource Initiative.