I recently received an email from a farmer I interviewed several years ago. She asked me about preventing farmer suicides and the importance of talking to people instead of “holding it all in.”
“Do you know any ag counselors?” she asked. “I have had three different people ask me if I knew any ag counselors . … This stuff is getting real, real fast in our area!”
“This stuff” is the financial situation some farmers and ranchers are facing. Profit margins are small — even negative — for some. Those who suffered through the drought last year probably have already sold off all the livestock they could and used up any feed they could scrape together. No one knows for sure whether the spring will be wet or dry.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the national Suicide Helpline Center at 800-273-8255. It’s a 24-hour hotline. The service is free and confidential.
If it isn’t a crisis situation, you may want seek other help from any of the following resources listed.
There are a number of places you can call for financial or credit counseling. Both North Dakota and South Dakota departments of agriculture run mediation services.
In South Dakota, call Julie McClelland, mediation specialist, at 605-773-4181.
In North Dakota, call Jessie Pfaff, administration, mediation service, 701-328-1496.
Farm and ranch business management instructors can help, too. If you don’t know your local instructor, call the state offices to find out who to contact.
In South Dakota, call the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management at Mitchell Tech. Phone 800-684-1969, ext. 7191, or visit sdcfrm.com.
In North Dakota, call 701-328-3179, or visit ndfarmmanagement.com
The Extension Services have resources, too. Contact your local county Extension agent for information.
If stress management is the issue, mental health counseling is available.
For starters, call 800-447-1985. It’s a national hotline operated by the Iowa Extension Service.
To find a therapist or counselor close to you to talk to, contact your doctor or pastor, or call 211. It’s a national hotline that can provide information and a referral on local services in your area.
If possible, find someone who understands farming and ranching, suggests Mark Rosman, a Harlan, Iowa counselor who writes frequently about the topic. He once led an effort to set up a national network of counselors for farmers and ranchers, but the program never made it into the farm bill.
A therapist who doesn’t know agriculture may suggest you take a vacation, but doesn’t realize that your cows need to be fed every day, he says.
Your best bet is to find a counselor who serves a rural area.
To find counselors in South Dakota, see bit.ly/2Df8rA5.
Mental health resources in North Dakota include:
• Prairie St. John’s — prairie-stjohns.com, phone 877-333-9565
• FirstLink — myfirstlink.org, phone 701-235-7335
• Regional Human Service Centers — nd.gov/dhs/locations/regionalhsc/index.html, phone 800-472-2622
• Lutheran Social Services — lssnd.org, phone 701-235-7341
• Sanford Behavioral Health — sanfordhealth.org
Take the possibility of suicide seriously. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that the suicide rate for agriculture, fishing and forestry professionals is higher than for any other occupation. In 2012, the year that CDC studied the issue, it was 80 to 90 per 100,000 people.
Help makes all the difference. Reach out to someone for help now since, as the farmer said in her email to me, “this stuff is getting real, real fast.”