VOLGA, S.D. (KELO)– Damaged buildings.

Flooded crops.

Recent storms have been leaving their marks on agricultural operations all across South Dakota. Farmers are feeling the effects, not only physically, but also mentally.

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

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

“We’ve been encouraging people that if they feel like they are experiencing some depression problems, things like that, certainly contact professional help. Three of the major healthcare providers in South Dakota have resources like that, anything from going and getting personal help to anonymous phone line where you can just talk to somebody so those resources are there, those are professional people that can handle that and we encourage people to contact them if they feel it’s needed,” said VanderWal.

Avera’s Ag and Rural Stress Hotline has seen an increase in the number of calls following storm events.

“The number of calls does go up and down really based on a lot of things storms and bad weather certainly a component of that. Over the last three and half years that we’ve run it when you get a drought season or some of that, you usually end up with more calls,” said Thomas Otten, Assistant Vice President of Avera behavioral health.

Since starting the hotline in 2019, Avera has received over a thousand calls from ag producers or their concerned family members and friends. They then connect those people with a professional who not only works there but is also a farmer himself.

“One of the very unique things that happens is he might be doing phone calls with farmers, but it might be 7 o’clock at night and one of both of them might be in a tractor when that phone call is occurring,” said Otten. “So I think someone who really understands that ag community and is incredibly vital to know those stressors that come along with that.”

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

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

“Isolation and withdrawing is certainly something that is a red flag,” said Otten. “Now there’s no one thing that or no magic pill, there’s no one thing that you see one thing that you say if you see this you’ve got to reach out. What I encourage you to do is if you have any concerns, or if you have any thoughts that they are going through a tough time, talk to them about it, ask the question: are you having thoughts of suicide?”

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

Being there for others and helping them get the resources they need.

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

There are many other resources out there to help farmers connect with mental health resources and cover the costs of those 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 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 offers funding assistance and support for mental health services for individuals impacted by natural disasters, including farmers, ranchers and their families. For more information, click here, call the SDSU Extension at 605.688.5125 or simply call 211. 
  • Farmers and ranchers may also call the Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1.800.691.4336 to talk to Avera’s skilled and compassionate mental health professionals. 
  • Text “TALK” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line.
  • High school students can text “icare” to 898211 to connect with the Helpline Center’s Text4Hope program.
  • Call the 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.