Mental health resources for agricultural producers

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VOLGA, SD (KELO) – Damaged buildings.

Flooded crops.

Recent storms have left their mark on farms across South Dakota. Farmers are feeling the effects, not only physically, but also mentally.

“We haven’t had major damage compared to other people, but it certainly can be. I know people who have lost livestock buildings that were really their dream, they just built them in the last few years and all of a sudden it’s gone and it’s really hard on people and you watch your life goals and dreams blow away in the wind,” said Scott VanderWal, agricultural producer and president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

But farmers are not alone. There are several resources available for those involved in the industry.

“We’ve encouraged people to get professional help if they feel like they’re having issues with depression, things like that. Three of South Dakota’s leading health care providers have resources like this, from getting personal help to an anonymous phone line where you can just talk to someone so those resources are there. , they are professionals who can handle this and we encourage people to contact them if they feel it is necessary,” VanderWal said.

Avera’s Agricultural and Rural Stress Hotline has seen an increase in calls following storms.

“The number of calls goes up and down depending on a lot of things, storms and bad weather are definitely one of them. In the last three and a half years that we’ve run it, when you have a dry season or part of that, you usually end up with more calls,” said Thomas Otten, assistant vice president of the behavioral health from Avera.

Since launching the hotline in 2019, Avera has received more than a thousand calls from agricultural producers or their concerned family and friends. They then connect these people with a professional who not only works there, but is also a farmer himself.

“One of the very unique things that happens is that he may be making phone calls with farmers, but it may be 7 p.m. and one of them may be in a tractor when that phone call occurs” , Otten said. . “So I think someone who really understands this farming community and is incredibly vital to knowing the stressors that come with it.”

“The first thing that comes to mind is that farmers and herders are very, very proud and independent. They sometimes feel like it’s demeaning to ask for help,” VanderWal said. “It’s okay to ask for help and it’s a very dangerous thing to go through depression and it’s important to address it.”

Family members and friends should also be on the lookout for signs of mental distress in others.

“Isolation and withdrawal is definitely something that’s a red flag,” Otten said. “Now there’s not one thing that or any magic pill there’s not one thing you see one thing you say if you see this you have to reach out. Which I encourage you to do is if you have concerns, or if you think they are going through a difficult time, talk to them, ask the question: do you have suicidal thoughts?”

“It’s very important to talk to them, to encourage them to get help. As farmers and ranchers, we’re not really qualified to provide support or services or things like that, but encourage them to get help, that’s the main thing,” VanderWal said.

Be there for others and help them get the resources they need.

“Farmers and ranchers are eternal optimists and we always look forward and that’s a good thing because things don’t always go your way in the moment,” VanderWal said.

There are many other resources to help farmers connect to mental health resources and cover the costs of these services.

  • DSS has weather-related behavioral health resources available for children, parents and schools online here.
  • To find a community mental health center in your area, click on here or call the South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline at 1.800.920.4343. Services can be in person or via telehealth and financial assistance is available.
  • The Behavioral Health Voucher Program provides financial assistance and support for mental health services for people affected by natural disasters, including farmers, ranchers and their families. For more information, click herecall the SDSU extension at 605.688.5125 or simply call 211.
  • Farmers and ranchers can also call the Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1.800.691.4336 to speak to Avera’s knowledgeable and compassionate mental health professionals.
  • Text “TALK” to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor trained at the Crisis Text Line.
  • Secondary students can text ‘icare’ to 898211 to connect with the helpline. Text4Hope program.
  • Call Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255 (TALK) or chat online here.
  • Call 211 or text your zip code to 898211 to access resources in your area. The 211 Helpline app is also free and available on Google Play or the Apple App Store.


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