(KMAland) -- Due to a wide variety of factors, farm stress has never been higher across rural America. Several of the major agricultural organizations have come together to offer a brand-new online course to help farmers and their families recognize and manage stress.

It’s called the Rural Resilience Training Course and is now available for free. The course was developed by members of Michigan State University Extension and the University of Illinois Extension. Todd Van Hoose, CEO of the Farm Credit Council, says his company got behind the new online course because they’re seeing that farm stress firsthand.

“At Farm Credit, we are out in the countryside talking to farmers and ranchers all the time and we see this stress, and we see this stress rising, not only on farmers themselves, but think about the impact that has on farm families and entire farming communities. We’re hopeful that this online stress training program we’re talking about can help provide some resources to manage that.”

Van Hoose says this online stress-management course will fill a big need in rural America.”

“Rural America has very limited mental health resources. They’re just not available. Through either distance, isolation, lack of health care facilities, there’s a real challenge getting people access to the resources they need and the help they need. In rural America, it seems like there’s a bit of a stigma to talking about mental health challenges, to ask for help when you might need it. One of the benefits we hope is this training program will help overcome that stigma.”

American Farm Bureau is one of the organizations behind the new online course. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall found out how important it is to talk through stress and not hold it all inside after his wife, Bonnie, passed away.

“The worst stress I’ve ever been through was going through her sickness last year and I lost her in January. And, after I lost her and watching my children, I knew I had to be the one to get them all through it and I held it all inside. You hold all the stress and all the feelings you have around issues like that, it’s like a bubble blowing up in you and it will burst. One day I let it out, and I was able to talk about my wife, and the more I talked about her the better I felt myself. We have to help ourselves so that we can help others through this time.”

National Farmers Union is also behind the new online training course. Mike Stranz, Vice President of Advocacy, says rural areas are short on mental health care and this will help fill at least some of that need.

“There have been studies out there that show 61 percent of designated mental health professional shortage areas were in non-metropolitan areas and rural America. Studies would say that 4,000 to 6,000 mental health professionals would be needed to provide adequate care nationwide. That’s just not going to happen overnight, and hopefully, this training can help provide an important stopgap.”

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