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Partnering with our rural and agricultural neighbors: SIU offers support through the farm family resource initiative

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Nearly every industry in our community has felt the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The farming and agriculture industry in Illinois is certainly no exception.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the lockdowns and closures in response to COVID-19 are pushing many farm owners to their financial limits as commodity prices, food demands and biofuel demands drop. In an industry that has already faced years of challenging production and market conditions, these financial difficulties are cutting even deeper into farmers' already-thin margins. And for many farm families, financial strain comes hand in hand with rising emotional strain.

In light of the unusual challenges faced by farmers this year—along with the usual stresses of a harvest season—SIU Medicine has launched the Farm Family Resource Initiative. Here’s information to help answer some frequently asked questions about the program.

What is the farm family resource initiative?

The Farm Family Resource Initiative is a first-of-its-kind joint pilot program launched by SIU School of Medicine, Senator Scott Bennett and the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The goal of the program is to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of Illinois farm owners and families.

At the center of our initiative is a new telephone helpline. This confidential resource is available free of charge to farmers and their loved ones who are in need of someone to talk to during their moments of stress. Calling the helpline provides instant access to trained professionals who can provide necessary support and services. In a time when people are staying home more than ever, our hope is to connect farmers with the resources they need even when they are socially distancing or self-quarantining.

But the initiative is so much more than a helpline. SIU Medicine and our partners also plan to provide ongoing outreach, education and training to rural agriculture communities in the form of free webinars (covering topics like signs of psychological stress), skill-building opportunities for coping strategies, mental health first aid programs and more.

Who is the farm family resource initiative for?

Research indicates that 64 percent of Illinois farmers are facing significant farm-related stress and mental health concerns. We want to be of service to our neighbors who are in need of support and access to health resources.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative is intended to become a statewide network for all Illinois farm families. Currently, the program is being launched in six counties: Christian, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Morgan and Sangamon.

5 ways the farm family resource initiative hopes to impact our rural agricultural communities

At SIU Medicine, we believe that being proactive about personal and community health is essential for improving the lives of our families and future generations. Our commitment to care is a major inspiration behind the Farm Family Resource Initiative. To make an impact, we want to:

  1. Identify early farm family needs, including mental health needs
  2. Identify available resources for farm families
  3. Remove barriers and improve access to farm family resources
  4. Create new resources for farm families
  5. Develop a network of partners to respond to farm family needs

I'm a farmer looking for help—how can I connect to the hotline?

Farmers and their loved ones can contact the new helpline (1-833-FARM-SOS) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Everyone—even the most self-reliant, salt-of-the-earth among us—deserves to have someone to talk to! If you're a farmer living in Christian, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Morgan or Sangamon County and would like to speak with someone about whatever is on your mind, call 1-833-FARM-SOS now.

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