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Initiative focuses on farmer mental health

Ag director Jerry Costello II, center, with State Sen. Scott Bennett & Gov. Pritzker / CIFN photo.

DECATUR – Farmer mental health was front and center at the Farm Progress Show as Illinois Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II and Gov. JB Pritzker announced increased mental health initiatives.

Costello referred to a national public health emergency present in rural areas.

“With farming comes unpredictable challenges from Mother Nature to equipment failures, the adoption of new technologies, financial management and everyone is all too aware of the 24/7 planting and harvest seasons experienced by farmers,” Costello said at a Tuesday press conference.

While farmers care for crops and livestock, they often do not take time to care for themselves leading to high levels of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicide. According to Costello, Illinois is uniquely positioned with farmer mental health efforts already in place and the infrastructure will be expanded in the future.

Additional funding of $500,000 will go toward increasing farmer stress-related mental health initiatives. A grant through the Farm Family Resource Initiative pilot program started in 2019 will be used for increased services. A farmer mental health helpline has been established along with a voucher program for professional behavioral health services and agricultural literacy training for mental health providers.

“These days, there are even more challenges not the least of which is the COVID-19 pandemic during which this industry has kept on going,” said Gov. JB Pritzker while addressing Farm Progress Show media.

The pressures have been intense, says the governor, and it has become clear to taylor mental health resources to better support farmers and farm families.

“Today, I’m very proud to announce new investments to increase farmer mental health resource access statewide.”

Partners in the effort include Senator Scott Bennett, the director of University of Illinois Extension and the dean of the SIU School of Medicine. The governor said mental health care should not be treated as a secondary health care service.

For someone you can talk to for free and remain confidential, call 1-833-FARM-SOS (1-833-327-6767). The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. For access to the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741.


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