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New IL FFA grant winners ready to raise mental health awareness

Sixteen FFA chapters across Illinois were recently named winners of the state’s new “Bend, Don’t Break” grant program that focuses on rural mental health. 

The $1,000 grants, intended to increase awareness about mental health in rural America, are being used in a variety of ways. 

Emery Bunselmeyer, a freshman with the Maroa-Forsyth FFA, tells Brownfield her chapter is hosting a 5K run for farmers…

“It is just going to be a fun run called ‘Farm Nights Under the Lights’ and it’s not just for farmers,” she says, “it’s for anybody. So then awareness is out, and I feel that running or walking can just like, take your mind off things and it’s like a mental health break.”

Meg Baer, the Olympia Middle School FFA advisor, says they’re hosting an event for students…

“Called ‘Fill Your Bucket First.’”  She says, “It is going to be a day of learning to take care of yourself before you can take care of other people.”

Baer says the students will also carry the mental health message through special shirts…

“And it’s meant to be a conversation piece to other students and their parents and families.”  She says, “Olympia is a rural school district, so there’s a lot of families in agriculture specifically that we’re hoping we can start a positive conversation with on the importance of mental health.”

Both events are slated for later this spring. 

The “Bend, Don’t Break” program is a partnership between the Illinois Foundation FFA, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and SIU School of Medicine’s Farm Family Resource Initiative. 

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