Grant funding is allowing for the increase of farmer stress-related mental health initiatives statewide.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced the funding this morning at the Farm Progress Show near Decatur. Department of Ag Director Jerry Costello says the $500,000 grant was applied for in coordination with Southern Illinois University Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, and University of Illinois Extension.
The Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI) was established in In 2019 to specifically address the mental health needs of the farming and agricultural communities.
Governor J.B. Pritzker says the FFRI Committee consists of members from government, commodity groups, academic institutions, healthcare, and industry.
The FFRI launched a six-county pilot program to provide resources to Christian, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Morgan, and Sangamon counties through a telephone hotline connecting farmers with mental health resources and providers.
Pritzker says the grant will allow for the expansion of the pilot program to the entire state. He said during today’s announcement that he is proud the program is expanding to all 102 counties in Illinois to ensure rural communities are getting the care they deserve.
“Make no mistake, our farm communities are the toughest of the tough. And when it comes to mental health, asking for help is sometimes the bravest thing that you can do. Mental healthcare is healthcare, and in Illinois, we are making it easier to access help every step of the way in every community, and that’s how we shape a state where all of our people can thrive.”
Additional plans for the grant funding include text and e-mail communication options, increased marketing of the helpline, a voucher program for professional behavioral health services, agricultural literacy training for mental health providers to increase knowledge of the agricultural community, and further Mental Health First Aid training for members of the agricultural community.
Costello says it’s a service that is needed.
“Farmers are stewards of their livestock, they’re stewards of their crops, but many times they don’t take the time to care for themselves. This leads to high levels of anxiety, depression, sometimes substance abuse, and all too often suicide.”
The Farmer Assistance Helpline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week at 1-833-FARM-SOS.