The Wisconsin Farm Center at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is launching a series of virtual farmer support groups to help ongoing efforts to give Wisconsin farmers access to mental health resources.

“These groups are designed to bring farmers and farm couples together so they can share ideas, provide encouragement, and support each other through challenging times,” said Jayne Krull, director of DATCP’s Ag Resource and Promotion Bureau, which houses the Farm Center.

Beginning in February 2021, the support groups will be offered at various times and dates to best accommodate farmers’ schedules. They will be at 8:00 p.m. CST on the fourth Monday of every month, 1:00 p.m. CST on the first Tuesday of every month, and 8:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month for farm couples. The sessions will be between 60-90 minutes in length and held via Zoom.

The support groups will also be open to farmers and their spouses at no cost to the farmers. They can be located anywhere in Wisconsin and must register ahead of time. Sessions will also be limited to 20 attendees per session, with a couple counting as one attendee.

In addition to virtual support groups, DATCP has established the Farmer Wellness Program, which includes a 24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline, Farmer Wellness Tele-Counseling Sessions, and a Counseling Voucher Program which allows Wisconsin farmers and farm families to obtain counseling services at participating mental health providers in their local area at no cost.

“Each year brings its own unique set of challenges to farmers, be it weather, markets, supply shortages, changes in personal circumstances, or even public health scares,” the program handout states. “While some stress is a normal part of life, prolonged and increasing amounts of stress can have a negative impact on overall wellness, leading to depression and anxiety.”

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