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HEIGHTENED STRESS: Many more things are out of farmers’ control this year, which is increasing cases of depression and anxiety.

Avera’s Farmer’s Stress Hotline offers mental health aid

Avera Medical Group offers a confidential, free 24-7 hotline to help farmers.

If a friend or loved one has diabetes or high blood pressure and their current diet or medications aren’t working, you wouldn’t tell them to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it.” More than likely, you’d suggest they meet with their doctor.

The same thoughtfulness should apply when a neighbor or family member is struggling with anxiety or depression, says Karl Oehlke, a physician assistant with Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates.

“You can’t just grit your teeth and bear it,” Oehlke says. “If you have pneumonia, I will prescribe an antibiotic for you. If you have sleep disturbance, I will give you something for sleep. Farming is never without stress. Right now, farmers are faced with a lot of stressors out of their control, which may be causing bonafide anxiety or depression. A medical professional can provide medication or counseling options to help with that, too.”

Oehlke speaks from experience. He is a third-generation farmer from Hartford, S.D.

“I farm myself, so I know that typical stresses are heightened right now with concerns over significant fall off in profitability caused by issues with China, flooding and drought,” Oehlke says. “And, the loss of income is pervasive right now. It’s not just the row crop guy or the dairy guy, it’s everyone in agriculture.

“When I visit with farmers who call in, I hear the words ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ quite a bit. … When you’re not making money, you start to lose sleep because you’re worried about getting the kids through school or as a third, fourth or fifth generation farmer, you don’t want to be the guy who loses the farm.”

Oehlke was concerned enough about farmers and ranchers’ mental health that earlier this year he suggested Avera launch the Farmer’s Stress Hotline.

Completely confidential and free, farmers, ranchers, their family and friends can call in 24/7 to visit with trained specialists to better understand where they can go for help.

“There is a level of trepidation about going to the doctor for anxiety or depression,” Oehlke says. “And, if you live in a small community, maybe you go hunting or to church with your primary care doctor and you’d rather keep things confidential. Call the hotline and we can refer you to someone outside your community.”

A professional can provide farmers or ranchers with the medicine and other resources they need to get a good night’s sleep or more healthfully deal with depression and anxiety.

The Farmer’s Stress Hotline number is: 1-800-691-4336.

Source: South Dakota Farmers Union which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the sources. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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