Between unpredictable weather, depressed market prices and other factors, farming is typically ranked as one of the most stressful occupations.
To help farmers deal with those stresses, MSU Extension is launching a pilot teletherapy program. They’re offering these services with a partnership with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
“The goal is to create a platform for them to get that next level of help and support they might need to help balance some of their life struggles and some of the stress they’re experiencing,” said Eric Karbowski, MSU Extension farm stress educator.
The foundation for the Farm Stress Program was laid before the COVID-19 pandemic added more stresses to agriculture. Karbowski said the need for mental health services continues to grow.
“It takes a confident person to recognize some self-awareness to be able to recognize [they] could use extra support,” he said. “Farming [has a] pride culture—oftentimes [farmers] are the people that will reach out and support their neighbors before they’ll take care of themselves, and I think this is a cool opportunity and platform to show the agricultural industry the support and give them the support they need and deserve during times we haven’t seen before.”
Farmers might have a difficult time opening up to a therapist who doesn’t understand the farming business. That detail didn’t go unnoticed. Karbowski said the program uses therapists who have a connection to agriculture.
“All the therapists that are part of this pilot project have an understanding and empathy of what farming may look like or what some of the tasks or routines are, or the trials and tribulations that farmers experience,” he said.
Now that there’s a teletherapy program in place, Karbowski wants farmers to know that now is a great time to ask for help.
“We really do want to make sure that farmers know it’s out there—that it’s available to them and there are not a bunch of loopholes,” said Karbowski. “What they want to talk about is the direction that it’s going to go, and if things are bothering them, what a great way to hopefully develop some coping mechanisms or develop some supports that will help them get through those hurdles.”
By beginning this pilot program, Karbowski says this is a way to give back and support the farming community.
For information on funding, and accessing the Farm Stress Program resources, click on the links below.