You Are Not Alone: ​​Mental Health Resources for Farmers, Ranchers and Rural Communities | News

Oehlke wondered: “Could we get the idea that there is someone in the field of mental health who is actively involved in agriculture like me and who is able to understand the trials and tribulations that these people go through?”

It turned out they could.

In 2019, the Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline was born.

Since then, the hotline has received nearly 1,500 calls from 11 different states.

Farmers, pastoralists, their families and people in rural communities can call the free and confidential hotline 24 hours a day. The helpline is staffed by trained assessment counselors who connect callers with vital resources in Mental Health.

Sometimes those resources are not where a farmer or rancher might live. That’s by design, Oehlke said.

“One of the biggest concerns we still have is the stigma behind mental health,” he said.

It’s a sad truth that for many people in rural America, while impressively resilient, they see asking for help as a sign of weakness.

Oehlke was prepared to face this situation head-on.

Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline assessment counselors often direct callers to resources outside of their own communities to protect their privacy.

“They may be just outside Aberdeen, but they’re not comfortable going to Aberdeen because they know therapists or psychiatrists or the doctor there. These are people they might see at a basketball game or a wrestling competition, so they might be more comfortable coming to Sioux Falls, Brookings or Madison,” Oehlke said.