Farmers' Stress Hotline

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Health experts say this has been an unusually stressful year for the agricultural community. 

That's why Avera and Avera Behavioral Health has started a new Farmers' Stress Hotline.

It hasn't been an easy year for those working in agriculture. Walt Bones is a 4th generation farmer in Parker. 

"We had a lot of moisture. It was wet. So our planting which we normally like to have wrapped up by the first of May didn't even get started till the middle of May," Bones said. 

The former state agriculture secretary says 97 percent of South Dakota farms are family owned, at times adding to the pressure.

"My grandfather made it through the dirty 30's, my dad made it through the farm crisis of the 80's, you know. Why can't we make this through? Why can't we do this? What's going on?" Bones said.

He says the job is extremely stressful. 

"It puts a level of stress on people that is really tough sometimes to overcome," Bones said.

A new service is now available to help farmers, like Bones, get through the tough times.

The Farmers' Stress Hotline is a free and confidential 1-800 number through Avera Behavioral Health offering farmers and ranchers an outlet to relieve stress. 

"You could be sitting in the cab of your tractor on your cell phone and talking to us, and no one would know. You could literally do this anywhere," Psychiatrist and Vice President of Avera Behavioral Health Dr. Matt Stanely said. 

Stanley says that's why a 1-800 number was the best fit.

"If you live in a rural town in South Dakota or Minnesota or anywhere in the region, and you have to park your pickup in front of the local mental health center, you know half of the town is going to know by the end of the day. I grew up in a small town, that's just the way it is, and even if that's not the way it is that's what you think is going to happen," Stanley said. 

He says in these kinds of situations, suicide rates rise.  So he's urging those who need help or those with loved ones who need help to pick up the phone. 

"If people would just call in just to talk, and maybe to just start that conversation, I don't know if I need help but here's what I've been feeling," Stanley said. 

"Because of that fierce independence that we have, you know oh we can do this. But I think it's ok to say that, maybe we need to talk," Bones said. 

Because your mental health matters just as much as getting the combine fixed.

Again, The Farmers' Stress Hotline is a free and confidential service. The number is 1-800-691-4336.

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