DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s not easy to talk about mental health in the agricultural community, but that was the spotlight on day one of the Farm Progress Show.

As many recognize, farmers are in a unique position, facing stressful conditions during their work.

“It’s a really unique occupation,” said the University of Illinois’ Josie Rudolph. “We’re up against narrow windows for planting and harvest, we’re up against prices that we don’t get to set, so a farmer doesn’t get to decide what they sell their product for. They’re also up against tremendous amounts of input costs that are constantly fluctuating.”

That stress has caught the attention of researchers and educators at the University of Illinois and around the nation.

“Among male farmers, the suicide rate is higher than that of the general population. So we know, suicide is challenging, it’s a tough thing to study,” Rudolph said. “We actually know that a lot of the suicides are occurring among people, farmers, 65 and older. So that’s a time when people might be considering, it might be time to step back, they might be encouraged to retire, they may be dealing with health challenges, and they’ve maybe gone undiagnosed and untreated.”

Mental health in agriculture has also gotten the attention of the state government. Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday at the show an initiative to increase access to mental health care in rural communities.

“We’re in the midst of a mental health crisis, one that affects our children, our seniors and yes, our farmers too,” Pritzker said. “Our farm family resource initiative pilot program has been a resounding success, providing telehealth mental health access and a help line to every single one of our state’s 102 counties.”

The University of Illinois also has a voucher program in place to help farmers and farm families get anonymous and free mental health care.

“Farmers and farm families can request up to three vouchers that they can then redeem at one of our participating mental health providers,” Rudolph said. “There’s no exchange of money, there’s no exchange of insurance information. We don’t even know who gets the vouchers. We just pay for them.”

To learn more about the initiative and found out how to get access to resources for mental health and suicide prevention for those in the agricultural community, visit here.