Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri Psychological Services Clinic is offering teleservices to help adults and children cope with anxiety and stress related to COVID-19.

The clinic offers up to five brief sessions through videoconferencing or telephone, said Debora Bell, longtime director of the clinic.

This service comes at the perfect time to help rural families under stress, said MU 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 most stressful occupations.

“Now, more than ever, the country sees how vital farmers and ranchers are to the food supply chain,” said Funkenbusch, who is part of a team 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,” she said. “Those in the horticultural industry also face financial uncertainty as distancing requirements threaten timely direct sales opportunities such as farmers markets.”

In 2018, drought hurt many farming operations, notes MU Extension agronomist Valerie Tate. “Then, in 2019, many farmers suffered from things beyond their control such as excess rain, flood and market prices,” she said. “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 north-central Missouri, says rural residents sometimes avoid mental health treatment because of perceived stigma. Travel also is an issue for rural clients living in areas where mental health services are not available.

The MU Psychological Services Clinic’s telehealth service 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.”

Bell said therapists would offer skills to help with stress, uncertainty or social isolation. This includes problem-solving, scheduling positive activities, positive thinking and reactions, and building connections.

Clients with insurance coverage who receive services from licensed providers will pay their standard copay. For clients without insurance and clients seen by doctoral student trainees, the fee is $20 per session. This fee is waived for clients with Medicaid. Need-based fee assistance and scholarships are available.

Call 573-882-5805 or visit for more information or to make an appointment.

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

MU Extension offers Mental Health First Aid classes to help people identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in their communities. For related information and resources, search “Health and wellness” at

For resources specific to farmers and farm families, visit the Missouri AgrAbility Project at and MU Extension Show-Me Strong Farm Families on Facebook at ShowMeStrongFarmFamilies. Contact Funkenbusch at for more information.