BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The University of Illinois Extension office in Kankakee County hosted representatives from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and State Senator Patrick Joyce on Tuesday as part of a statewide tour to announce new resources related to farm stress for those in the agriculture industry.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as well as mental health awareness month, it’s also the heart of the planting season in the state of Illinois and in the Midwest,” says Director Jerry Costello II, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director who introduced and facilitated the press conference, “the program we're going to talk about here today, Farm Family Resource Initiative is something that's designed as an outlet for farmers who are experiencing stress and who may be at a point where they're at a breaking point.”
Kankakee was the sixth stop in a seven stop press tour which spanned locations across Illinois to bring awareness to this initiative.
In partnership with the SIU School of Medicine, Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI) is a project which consists of a free, 100% confidential hotline for farmers and those experiencing agriculture-related stress. Director Castello also mentioned that farmers can call in to the free hotline while in the back of a tractor cab – adding to the confidentiality.
“Farmers and ranchers have demanding jobs,” says Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patrick Joyce (D-Essex), “People experiencing a great deal of stress or living with mental health issues may face challenges on and off the job. It’s vital that we give these folks an outlet, like the FFRI program, to help them cope with the stress.”
The resource hotline, which is available via phone or text at 1-833-FARM-SOS (833-327-6767), is just the first step. According to the SIU Farm Family Resource Initiative, up to six individual or group sessions with a licensed councilor are available at no cost to the agricultural professional or farm family member.
The University of Illinois Extension, who has partnered with SIU and the Department of Agriculture in publicizing this initiative and taking up some initiatives of its own, believes that shining a light on farm stress is very important for the community.
“Growing up in a farm family, not a day went by my parents were not worried about the weather, commodity prices and operating costs,” says University of Illinois Extension County Director Megan Walsh, who serves Grundy, Kankakee, and Will Counties, “Our Extension specialists and local staff have used our understanding of the local agricultural community and developed mental health resources for farmers through cutting-edge behavioral science. Illinois Extension is poised to help because we understand and work in the communities we serve”
Resources on farm stress from Illinois Extension are available online at extension.illinois.edu/health/farm-stress.
WRITER: Anthony Warmack, Communications & Marketing Program Coordinator
ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.