CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — May is Mental Health Month, and it also happens to coincide with the spring planting season. This is often one of the most stressful times for farmers and this year is no exception, as a late start to the spring has them scrambling to plant their crops.

The Farm Family Resource Initiative was founded in 2019 to specifically address mental health needs of farming and agricultural communities. It consists of a telephone hotline to connect farmers with mental health resources. Initially launched in six Illinois counties, the program was expanded to all 102 last year.

In the latest legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly appropriated $500,000 to ensure statewide availability of the hotline through 2023.

“It’s important for farmers to break the stigma of internalizing their stress and understand they can ask for help,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “The FFRI program has already proven its success over the past couple years and has given farmers the opportunity to talk about their struggles to avoid negative consequences.”

Jerry Costello, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, is traveling around the state to promote the FFRI.

“In just a few short years, the FFRI has already helped many in our farming communities,” Costello said. “Providing confidential access to mental health providers while also breaking down stigmas in seeking help is critical for those working in our state’s number one industry.”

Anyone can use the hotline anonymously and can either call, text, or email from their own home.