Avera Launches Free Mental Health Hotline for Farmers and Ranchers

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It’s not always easy to reach out for help. Midwest farmers are no different. According to the CDC, South Dakota has one of the top 10 suicide rates in the country.  Many of those are farmers and ranchers.

You’ve heard it before: times are tough for the family farmer. Farmers and ranchers are working hard to protect their profits and crops. However, like all people, farmers can’t always protect themselves from mental health issues.

“You know they kind of have that independent, can-do attitude which is wonderful in most situations, but when you need help, that can be almost a harmful attitude,” said Dr. Matthew Stanley from Avera. “It’s kind of our midwestern approach to life.”

Walt Bones is a farmer from Parker. He’s one of the farmers battling wet weather, overproduction, and low prices.

“From the multigenerational heritage that we have in farming, you know, it’s hard to admit that maybe we can’t handle something ourselves,” said Bones.

That’s why Avera is making it easier for anyone to receive free mental health counseling. Anyone can call a new farmer stress hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to speak with a licensed mental health professional. You don’t need to be an Avera patient.

Avera officials realized that many farmers live in small towns where it may be difficult to maintain privacy.

“When you’re talking about small communities, it’s hard to park your pick up in front of that local mental health center,” said Stanley.

Bones wants people to know that anonymous help is a phone call away. Tonight, he wants to send a message of hope to any farmer, or person struggling:

“We can do this, you know,” said Bones. “We can change. We can adapt.”

The free hotline number is 1-800-691-4336.

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