For those in crisis, a national network of hotlines can be the lifeline they need.
Increasingly efforts are being made to ensure that farmers, whose careers can prove to be stressful, are aware of these resources available to them, including hotlines that are specifically designed to meet their needs.
Crisis call centers provide an initial point of contact for those seeking help and can be the difference between life and death in some cases, said Joan Mazur, professor, Southeast Center for Agriculture Health and Injury Prevention, University of Kentucky during a recent AgriSafe webinar on mental health in ag communities.
When considering serving the farming population with these crisis call centers, technical and infrastructure issues; personnel considerations, such training and focus on the farming population; and the need for political and social institutional support, such as from state agencies and healthcare providers, are important factors to take into account, Mazur said.
In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Farm Center, which is under the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer, operates a 24/7 Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Hotline (1-888-901-2558). According to DATCP’s online Wisconsin Farm Center overview, the hotline aims to “support farmers that are struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, or anxiety or just needing a welcoming ear to talk to.”
The Farm Aid Hotline (1-800-327-6243) is also available for farmers and ranchers Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission designated 988 as the new three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, something all phone service providers will be required to implement by July 16, 2022, with the 800 number continuing to be available during the transition, according to an FCC news release.
AgriSafe is also working on developing a nationwide farm crisis hotline, designed to complement other hotlines and not detract from those offered by state agencies, said Natalie Roy, AgriSafe’s executive director.
Wisconsin, like other states, provides statewide 211 services. Among the services provided by 211 centers are referrals to other agencies and organizations, information on community resources and crisis intervention. In addition to mental health services, farmers and others can receive help in gaining access to basic needs, financial counseling, job training and more through 211.
Wisconsin has eight regional 211 contact centers in St. Croix, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Green Bay and Menasha that cover the entirety of the state.
Mary Mundt Reckase, director Great Rivers 211 based in La Crosse, told The Country Today last year that they had started an initiative to better reach and serve farmers, their families and those in rural communities.
In addition to phone call availability, many of these hotlines also provide services via text and online resources.