(The Center Square) – A pilot program to help farmers deal with stress-related mental health issues is expanding throughout Illinois.
Led by Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, the Farm Family Resources Initiative launched a six-county pilot program that will expand thanks to federal funding. A $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture was made available in response to a federal declaration of a public health emergency.
In 2019, the FFRI was established to specifically address mental health needs of the farming and agricultural communities. The FFRI committee consists of members from government, commodity groups, healthcare, academic institutions and industry.
Additional plans for the grant funding include text and email communication options, a voucher program for professional behavioral health services, and further mental health first aid training for agricultural community members.
“We know that our farmers are stoics and they don’t necessarily want to reach out for help, and this gives that outlet and the avenue for people to reach out and find the resources and services that they need,” U of I Extension Associate Dean and Director Shelly Nickols-Richardson said.
A the center of the program is a new telephone helpline. It is free of charge to farmers and their families who are in need of someone to talk to during stressful time. The number is 1-833-FARM-SOS.
“SIU School of Medicine’s mission is to optimize the health of central and southern Illinois,” Dean and Provost of the SIU School of Medicine Jerry Kruse said. “The FFRI program is one of the best ways to serve the region and the rural families that have been the backbone of many of the communities we serve.”