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USDA invests in ag mental health

USDA invests in ag mental health

The University of Illinois received $7.2 million to increase ag mental health literacy

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping a university develop resources to assist farmers with potential mental health challenges.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, granted the University of Illinois $7.2 million for the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center (NCFRSAC).

In total, 12 states collaborate through the NCFRSAC. The center will expand its reach to producers by providing hotlines, websites, training and other mental health resources tailored to the industry.

One such website will act as a hub with resource listings from multiple states within the NCFRSAC.

“The central clearinghouse will include center-wide resources and services and then also provide a link to our partnering states and their specific clearinghouses,” Josie Rudolphi, an assistant professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the university, told The Daily Illini.

“The clearinghouse will include things like telephone hotlines that the state is promoting, other types of clinical care or clinical intervention, and resources that may be useful for somebody who has experienced natural disasters or other types of traumatic experiences.”

Rudolphi leads the project alongside Courtney Cuthbertson, an assistant professor in human development and family studies.

The suicide rate among farmers is higher compared to other occupations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from January found the suicide rate for male “farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers” is 43.2 per 100,000 individuals.

That figure, for example is higher than painters (36.6 per 100,000) plumbers (35.4 per 100,000), retail workers (31.3 per 100,000) and truck drivers (30.4 per 100,000).

The report didn’t publish information about female farmer suicides.

Producers face issues, like weather and market prices, that are beyond their control.

“Farming is a complex, multi-dimensional profession that places a unique set of demands on those working in it,” Shelly Nickols-Richardson, director of Illinois Extension, said in a release. has reached out to Rudolphi and industry groups for comment.

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