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View from the Cab: Help is available

By: Kent Casson

Farming isn’t easy. There are plenty of long hours with time alone in a cab, difficult decisions to be made and factors often out of our control.

Sometimes, we all need someone we can talk to. Even farmers. That’s why a mental health grant program for farmers has been expanded to all 102 counties in Illinois. This comes after a 60-county pilot program in Fiscal Year 2023 was a great success.

Through the Farm Family Resource Initiative, farmers and farm families can access a telehealth helpline and access six free telehealth mental health sessions. The program is also funding up to 20 grants of $1,000 each to support Illinois FFA chapters that put local initiatives in place which encourage access and increase awareness of mental health resources and overall personal wellness. Schools will be able to apply for these grants this fall.

Funding for the program was obtained from a grant application to the Farm and Ranch Stress Awareness Network which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative advisory council includes ag industry professionals from around the state who meet each month to provide guidance and support. They also help distribute materials and program information, led by Ag Resource Specialist Karen Stallman.

SIU Medicine, a medical school and clinical practice, is focused on healthcare needs of downstate Illinois residents. The School of Medicine is a part of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. SIU Medicine has been a leader in medical education for over 50 years and a major player in the development of a regional academic center in Springfield.

Dean and Provost of SIU School of Medicine, Jerry Kruse says the school is honored to work with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and other ag partners to support the statewide effort to champion mental health care for farm families. Shelly Nickols-Richardson, Associate Dean and Director of Illinois Extension, notes farmers face a unique set of demands as they work to produce the food we eat.

“Our faculty and Extension specialists are driving significant developments in mental health resources for farmers by combining cutting-edge behavioral health science with a deep understanding of the agriculture industry,” Nickols-Richardson said.

These programs and that funding which supports them ensures the much-needed resources are available to farmers, their families and communities for their mental and emotional health.

For help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, contact the Farm Assistance Helpline at 1-833-FARM-SOS (833-327-6767) or e-mail

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