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New, free service offers counseling for Iowa farm families

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(KWWL) -- Being a farmer means dealing with a continually unpredictable career field with challenges far beyond your control where it be severe weather, market prices, or international trade disputes.

Iowa Farm Family Wellness Alliance, a new first-in-the-nation service (created by Farm Foundation and Iowa State Extension), provides farmers and their families with support for their overall health from various experts.

"This is just a tool to help people feel better and therefore farm better," said Dr. John Lawrence, the Vice President of Extension and Outreach for Iowa State University.

Lawrence cofounded the alliance, which is a prepaid service funded by a donor from the Farm Foundation. The extension office has long had a hotline for those dealing with farm stress: call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.

Farm Foundation is looking to see the affect of the alliance's service in the Hawkeye State, Lawrence says.

"They do plan, if this is successful, if there is good uptake here in Iowa, to extend it into other states," Lawrence said.

Lawrence adds the confidential service is meant for the entire family, regardless of their role in the fields.

"We often think of the farmer but the spouse, the children, that stress can be throughout the family," he said.

It's also important to note the stigma that surrounds mental illness, but Lawrence wants to remind Iowans that mental illness is just that, an illness, which means it's often treatable. He adds it can present differently for everyone.

"It can be quite severe, but it can also be something that's bothering you, nagging at you, and this is a way to get some assistance with that," Lawrence said.

How do the services work? How can they be accessed?

  • These free, confidential services are available to all Iowa farm families, including adults, teens and children.
  • Families can access support via phone, text, live chat, video or app.
  • To access free coaching and counseling through Personal Assistance Services, call 1-833-999-FARM (3276) or go to farmfamilywellness.com
  • Whether you are looking for assistance for yourself or someone you care about, professionals are available 24/7 to take your call.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the Iowa Farm Bureau recently shared resources for those dealing with mental illness and farm stress. You can find them here.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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