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Help is on the line

Missouri launches AgriStress resource for rural families

Missouri producers and rural families seeking mental health support now have a chance to get free confidential services through the AgriStress Helpline, launched in August by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

The helpline connects agricultural producers and rural families with mental health care professionals who have an agricultural background. The number to call or text is 833-897-2474. The line is open and staffed 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

“We know producers take pride in their ability to handle challenging circumstances, which can lead to a stigma around seeking mental health support,” Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said. “But it’s okay to need help. The goal of the AgriStress Helpline is to ensure free, confidential support is available for Missouri farmers, ranchers and rural community members.”

The service was created in response to a shortage of mental health professionals in rural Missouri, Chinn said. The state has 3.7% of the recommended supply of mental health professionals necessary to serve its population, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s 2020 data. All 99 of Missouri’s rural counties face a shortage of mental health professionals, including 57 counties that don’t have a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist at all.

The helpline was established through a USDA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant that helps fight farmer stress and suicide. The grant money also helps distribute mental health training and resources that are issued by the University of Missouri Extension. The helpline is part of the AgriSafe Network, a nonprofit collaboration to reduce health disparities in rural communities.
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