The University of Missouri Psychological Services Clinic is offering brief telepsychological services to help adults and children cope with anxiety and stress-related to COVID-19, said Debora Bell, long-time director of the clinic.

This service comes at the perfect time to help rural families under stress, said University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch. “Health is a farmer’s most important, and yet most neglected asset,” she said. “When stresses pile up, it becomes distress and overwhelms.”

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists farming as one of the top 10 stressful occupations.

“Now, more than ever, the country sees how vital farmers and ranchers are to the food supply chain,” said Funkenbusch, one of the teams of MU Extension professionals trained to help farmers and ranchers facing stress.

“This MU telehealth service comes during one of the busiest times for row crop farmers. Those in the horticultural industry also face financial uncertainty as distancing requirements threaten timely, direct sales opportunities such as farmers markets.” MU Extension agronomist Valerie Tate agrees. “In 2018, drought hurt many farming operations. Then, in 2019, many farmers suffered from things beyond their control such as excess rain, flood and market prices. They began 2020 with high tensions and hopes for a better year. Now they worry about protecting their families from coronavirus, as well as social isolation.” Tate, who works with farmers and cattle producers in northcentral Missouri, says rural residents sometimes avoid mental health treatment because of perceived stigmas. They may avoid seeking help in traditional office settings in their areas to avoid people they know seeing them.

Travel also is an issue for some rural clients, Tate says, because mental health services are not available in some rural areas. “MU Psychological Service Clinic’s telehealth option gives them the option to receive treatment in the privacy of their own homes,” Tate said. “For many, this will be a more comfortable and accessible option.”

The clinic offers 1 to 5 brief sessions through videoconferencing or telephone. Bell said therapists would offer skills to help with stress, uncertainty or social isolation. This includes problem-solving, scheduling of positive activities, positive thinking and reactions, and building connections.

Clients with insurance coverage will pay standard co-pay fees. Clients without insurance or those seen by doctoral student trainees will receive free services. Need-based assistance is available. Call 573-882-5805, or visit https://psychology.missouri.edu/psychological-services- clinic for more information or to make an appointment

“Farmers, because of their strong and independent nature, often are reluctant to talk about these issues,” she said. “Fortunately, resources are available. If you need help or know of someone who needs help, reach out.”

Funkenbusch says MU Extension also offers Mental Health First Aid classes to help people learn to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in communities. See Health and wellness on the MU Extension website for related information and resources.

You may also contact Funkenbusch at FunkenbuschK@missouri.edu or AgrAbility@missouri.edu. She also recommends Missouri AgrAbility Project at www.AgrAbility.missouri.edu or MU Extension Show-Me Strong Farm Families on Facebook at ShowMeStrongFarmFamilies