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Illinois FFA to help spread the word on mental healthIllinois FFA to help spread the word on mental health

Gov. JB Pritzker announces a plan to broaden mental health efforts for farm families.

Mike Wilson

September 6, 2023

2 Min Read
Governor JB Pritzker stands behind a podium and speaks into a microphone at Farm Progress Show 2023
SUPPORT: “Our greatest problems require our most creative solutions — and I am confident that this grant program will simultaneously break down barriers and open up doors for our state’s No. 1 providers,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, announcing additional funding for the Farm Family Resource Initiative, along with Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, at the 2023 Farm Progress Show. Mike Wilson

Following the success of a state-supported program to help Illinois farm families access mental health resources, Gov. JB Pritzker announced funding for up to 20 grants at $1,000 each to support FFA chapters implementing local initiatives that encourage access to such resources. All FFA chapters in Illinois are eligible to apply for the grant, and grant applications will be available from the Illinois FFA Foundation in fall 2023.

The announcement came at the 2023 Farm Progress Show, recently concluded at Decatur, Ill. The grants will be part of the Farm Family Resource Initiative program, which began as a pilot program in 2019 and was expanded statewide in 2021, when Pritzker announced a $500,000 funding boost at the 2021 Farm Progress Show.

FFRI, created in partnership with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, offers free and confidential mental health advice through a toll-free help line (888-327-6767), available to call or text; an email option ([email protected]); and six free telehealth visits.

“For generations, farmers have awakened at the crack of dawn to feed livestock and tend to crops so the rest of the world can enjoy nutritious food,” Pritzker said. “Countless hours, seven days a week, can come at a personal cost. Across the nation, we’re in a mental health crisis that affects children, seniors and, yes, farmers. There is nothing more important than making sure every Illinoisian has access to mental health services they need to lead happier lives.”

FFRI has been a “resounding success” and “will now become an ongoing permanent part of our budget,” he added.

The additional grants for FFA chapters is another leg in a continuing strategy to help change the mindset around mental health.

“This generation knows that health care includes mental health care,” Pritzker said. “Historically across the U.S., we’ve treated it like there’s a stigma, but no longer, especially for this young generation of adults; they’re not burdened by the same hesitancy in accessing mental health. They speak candidly and freely, and it has made them experts and advocates.”

FFRI will play a major role in breaking down mental illness stigma, added Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

“If you’re struggling with your mental health, it can feel like you’re all alone, especially in rural communities,” she said. “We’re here to say, it’s OK to not be OK. Illinois stands with you and will continue to uplift the services that will help you be well. Our administration is committed. It’s all hands on deck.”

About the Author(s)

Mike Wilson

Executive Editor, Farm Futures, Farm Progress

Mike Wilson is executive editor and content manager at FarmFutures.com. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Ogle County, Ill., and earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Illinois. He was twice named Writer of the Year by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and is a past president of the organization. He is also past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, a global association of communicators specializing in agriculture. He has covered agriculture in 35 countries.

“At FarmFutures.com our goal is to get readers the facts and help them analyze complicated issues that impact their day-to-day decision-making,” he says.

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