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Avera offers farm and rural stress hotline

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has first-hand knowledge on the stresses involved in farming.

“I farmed and ranched for many years in South Dakota, but what we are seeing now are historically tough times. Flood damage, wet fields, a difficult and unpredictable ag environment. It can all add up to a heavy burden of stress,” she said.

Noem is helping Avera Health promote a 24-hour hotline for farmers.

As a resource for people in many Midwestern communities struck by flooding, wet conditions, and a volatile ag environment, Avera Health has created the Farm and Rural Stress Hotline.

Farmers, ranchers and people who live in rural communities can call 1-800-691-4336 24 hours a day. The call is free and confidential.

According to Avera, the hotline is staffed by trained assessment counselors who put callers in touch with local mental health resources. Avera is one of only few health systems nationwide with a hotline similar to this.

“Farmers are expected to be tough, but that ‘pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps’ mentality is so unfair to them,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, clinical vice president for the Avera Behavioral Health Service Line. “Mental health care in our rural population is what we specialize in and we want our agricultural friends to know that we are here for them.”

Avera has offered services in behavioral health services for 60 years and offers a full continuum of services from psychiatry to outpatient therapy and counseling, inpatient care and addiction services.

“If you or someone you love is experiencing extreme sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety or hopelessness, we encourage you to call,” Stanley said.

“This is the third year in a row of net farm income decline, and input prices keep going up, making work in agriculture that much harder,” said Jim Woster, a longtime ag-business consultant who serves as an advocate for farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. “Those hard times build up.”

Woster said that despite the stoicism rural folks are known for, he believes the hotline will be an effective resource. “Today’s farms are often partnerships between wives and husbands and children,” Woster said. “If this hotline can help just one person, it’ll be worth it.”

Besides the Avera hotline, farmers can also call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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