SIU School of Medicine Program Focused on Farmer Health

With food and daily needs dependent on the work of farmers, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has created a program that will focus on providing resources to improve the mental and physical health of farmers and their families.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative brings together resources dedicated to farmers and their lives.

Illinois has a large agricultural sector and farmers have a unique set of circumstances surrounding work and daily life, Karen Stallman, agricultural resource specialist at the Center for Rural Health and Human Services Development at the SIU School of Medical.

“Farmers face a lot of stress,” Stallman said. “There are a lot of variables that farmers cannot control.”

Stallman said a farmer’s livelihood depends on the weather, his equipment, commodity prices and many other variables that impact his yield or his ability to do his job.

The program aims to help farmers cope with these stressors and find resources to help them, whether it’s support groups, mental health professionals, doctors or other programs.

“The various factors can be difficult to manage, and farmers and farm families struggle because of them,” Stallman said.

With the spring planting season and fall harvest, Stallman said this can be one of the toughest times for farmers and the initiative presents them with an opportunity to gain support.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative site includes blogs, webinars and videos on topics that impact farmers, including the impact of climate change on farmers and their mental health.

The program was piloted in 2019 in six counties, including Morgan and Sangamon, before rolling out to all counties in the state.

In addition to connecting farmers and their families with resources, Stallman said their program also received funding to help cover six free sessions — individual, couple or group — with a mental health professional.

“That means a farmer doesn’t have to travel, they can do it from home,” Stallman said. It also allows them to do it at their own pace, which is necessary when juggling busy schedules depending on the weather.

They will help you identify problems and find resources.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative has also partnered with the state hotline to provide a place for farmers or their families to call for help. The hotline is available at 1-833-FARM-SOS (833-327-6767).

Those wishing to connect with resources can visit the Farm Family Resource Initiative website. They can also email [email protected]

“We rely on farmers for our food, so we have to take care of them,” Stallman said. “We always say a farmer takes care of his crop, his livestock, but he doesn’t take care of themselves. We want to do that.”

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