Farmers offered mental health support
Posted 2:57 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2022
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is working to promote the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ new AgriStress Helpline to provide farmers across the state with mental health support.
The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has interpretation services in 160 languages. Farmers can call or text 833-897-2474 to speak directly with a healthcare professional. Crisis specialists have access to a Virginia-specific database of agriculture and health resources.
“The stress on a farm never ends,” said Dana Fisher, chair of the VFBF’s Safety Advisory Committee, which leads the organization’s mental health support efforts. “Stress and mental health issues are always a problem in the farming community, and stress can lead to costly mistakes on the job.
“Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, but farmers don’t always know who to talk to.
The AgriStress Helpline offers farmers in Virginia a confidential and trusted source for mental health support.
VDACS has partnered with AgriSafe on the helpline, which is supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the US Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. AgriSafe is a national 501(c)(3) organization representing health and safety professionals working to reduce health disparities in the agricultural community.
Farm Bureau received part of the funds from the grant and used part of the money to create 15 billboards promoting the helpline. The billboards are in strategic rural locations throughout the state and were on display through October.
“It’s really hard to find mental health professionals who are accepting new patients these days,” Fisher noted. “This helpline is available 24/7, and there will be someone on the phone who knows agriculture and the challenges farmers face. If you just need someone to talk to, this is a resource that’s there to help.
Farm Bureau will also promote the helpline in late November at its annual convention which attracts more than 500 farmers and other industry professionals.
Additionally, Farm Bureau sponsors a series of workshops to help people who regularly interact with farmers recognize signs of stress and mental health issues. Targeting co-op workers, farm supply companies, Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and others, the workshops will be held regionally through March 2023.
“The workshops are intended to help workers who come into contact with farmers know the signs and causes of stress and understand where to direct them for help,” Fisher said.
The workshops are organized in collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension.