Farm Mental Health and Wellness Program Benefits Iowa Farmers, Rural Communities – Iowa State University

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ISU Extension and Outreach contact: David Brown, behavioral health state specialist, [email protected]
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa farm families and their advocates are benefitting from mental health and stress assistance as well as other wellness support, thanks to the Farm and Ranch Wellness: Meeting Local Needs program.
In August 2021, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship was awarded a $500,000 grant to expand farmer mental health support programs in Iowa. Over the last year, the Department has partnered with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to help raise awareness about mental health and wellness resources and make them more accessible to farmers and rural communities.
Young couple hugging and overlooking farmland by Pierre/stock.adobe.com.“We want anyone dealing with stress and mental health challenges to know that they are not alone,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “This successful partnership between the department and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has helped to ensure that mental health and wellness resources are available and accessible to farm families and residents of our rural communities across our state.”
Through this grant, ISU Extension and Outreach staff have provided more than 1,500 direct, one-on-one local consultations and nearly 6,000 group consultations across the state, sharing key farm stress resources. Individual contacts have been made with veterinarian offices, cooperatives, banks and credit unions, certified public accountants, crop production services, Farm Service Agency offices, Farm Credit Service offices, local seed companies, farm implement dealers, and many others. Group consultations have been offered at Private Pesticide Applicator, Farmland Leasing, and Annie’s Project meetings, as well as to county extension councils and Rotary clubs, among others. During these consultations and meetings, more than 25,000 farm stress resource publications have been shared. 
“What is important is that we put a list of exceptional resources into the hands of individuals and businesses who could most benefit,” said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Our farmers, ranchers and producers are still being impacted by the lingering effects of COVID-19, drought and high input costs, and can still benefit from stress assistance and other forms of support.”
One of those resources is the Iowa Concern hotline. The program began in 1985 as a toll-free number serving the agricultural community during the farm crisis of the time. Today, Iowa Concern serves both urban and rural Iowans, but is a key link to stress assistance for those farmers or farm families who may be struggling. Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week by calling 800-447-1985 or visiting https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship applied for grant funding to support this work through the “Farm and Ranch Assistance Network” program. Funding is provided through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through award fund 2021-70035-35720.
The initiative builds upon recent ISU Extension and Outreach efforts in this area, including:
Additional resources are available on the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center website at farmstress.org/. Electronic copies of farm stress resource publications are also available for free download from the Extension Store website, including Farm Stress and Mental Health (HS 180A) and Stress on the Farm (HS180).
 
Photo credit: Pierre/stock.adobe.com
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