Gov. Tony Evers and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski visited the Valley Springs Farm Bed and Breakfast in Reedsburg last week to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.
During their visit, the governor and secretary toured the farm with owners Dorothy and Don Harms and held a roundtable discussion with the Farmer Angel Network. This network is a group dedicated to building strong rural communities by providing resources and fellowship with a focus on mental wellness and suicide prevention in Sauk County.
“As one of our state’s largest industries and a backbone of our economy, it is critical that we ensure farmers, farm families, and rural communities have access to mental and behavioral health services that meaningfully address the unique personal and professional challenges they face,” Evers says, adding that he’d like to see support for the Wisconsin Farm Center in the state budget.
Since the mid-1980s, the Wisconsin Farm Center has provided farmers with a variety of services, including financial consulting, transition planning, conflict mediation, veterinary analysis, and veteran farmer assistance. The center also connects farmers to mental health resources through several initiatives, including programs such as a 24/7 Farmer Wellness Helpline, tele-counseling services, counseling vouchers, online farmer support groups, Rural Realities podcast, and other new educational programs.
“If you or someone you know needs a welcoming ear to talk to, please call the 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline at (888) 901-2558,” Romanski says. “This line is designed to provide farmers and their families access to services that can help as they navigate life’s challenges.”
Depression, anxiety, and subsequent mental health struggles often are taboo topics, and farm families are unfamiliar with or do not have the means to access the health care needed, explains Dorothy Harms.
“This is why the Farmer Angel Network was born,” she says. “Although we are a small group, the Farmer Angel Network has become a voice for farmers, shining a spotlight on the need for continued support of mental wellness access for farm families across the country.”
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