State Leaders Unveil Grant Program to Boost Mental Health Awareness in FFA

by Ella

In a bid to address the stigma surrounding mental health challenges among farmers and rural communities, state leaders are taking action.


Governor JB Pritzker revealed on Tuesday that local chapters of FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, will have the opportunity to secure $1,000 grants to support mental health awareness initiatives within schools and rural areas. The Illinois FFA Foundation will be offering up to 20 of these grants, set to be accessible from this upcoming fall.


This announcement was made by Pritzker and other state officials during the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, an annual event showcasing agricultural technology advancements.


Pritzker emphasized, “There is nothing more important than making sure that every Illinoisan has access to the mental health services they need to live happy and healthy lives.”


The program is being coordinated by the Illinois FFA Foundation in collaboration with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Farm Family Resource Initiative.

Karen Leavitt Stallman, an agricultural resource specialist at SIU Medicine responsible for FFRI, expressed her optimism that partnering with FFA will redirect attention to the available resources for farmers. She acknowledged the existing stigma and challenges in seeking help, stating, “In the agriculture community, it’s particularly difficult. As farmers, we’re a stoic bunch.”

FFRI was initiated in 2019 following the advocacy of the late State Senator Scott Bennett, D-Champaign. After a successful pilot program across six counties, the initiative expanded to offer mental health and stress management support to the entire state, bolstered by increased state and federal funding.

The SIU program entails various provisions including professional development, webinars, and online resources tailored to aid farmers and their families in managing stress and mental health concerns. The program also offers up to six free telehealth counseling sessions for individuals within the agriculture industry and their families.

Inspiration for the partnership with FFA was drawn from a similar program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, according to Stallman.

SIU System President Dan Mahony stated in a news release that FFRI is “making strides in advancing the health of rural families,” while the FFA partnership signifies a “multi-generational approach to mental health and wellness.” Governor Pritzker concurred, noting that the younger generation recognizes the importance of mental healthcare within the broader healthcare framework.

Rural communities face distinct challenges concerning both access to mental health services and societal attitudes towards them.

A research brief from July by Adee Athiyaman, a professor at Western Illinois University’s Institute for Rural Affairs, revealed that awareness about mental health care in rural areas lags behind urban centers. This lack of awareness results in “limited knowledge about mental health issues and insufficient support for mental health care policies.”

Furthermore, rural communities encounter obstacles in accessing mental health care. Based on population statistics, the number of mental health providers, and other factors such as substance abuse prevalence, the federal Health Resources & Services Administration designates every rural county in Illinois as a “health professional shortage area” for mental health workers.

Mindy Bunselmeyer, head of the Illinois FFA Center, shared her excitement about the grant initiative, stating, “FFA members are creative thinkers and know and understand their communities. I’m excited to see the unique ways our membership will look to tackle this challenge.”


You May Also Like

Womenhealthdomain is a professional women's health portal website, the main columns include women's mental health, reproductive health, healthy diet, beauty, health status, knowledge and news.

【Contact us: [email protected]

[email protected]

Call: 18066312111

© 2023 Copyright