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Dairy Focus: Suicides a Tragic Result of Farm Economy

Help is available for dairy producers dealing with stress.

By J.W. Schroeder, Dairy Specialist NDSU Extension Service

To say the economy and food animal production industries are in unprecedented times is an understatement. Many dairy producers report losing as much as $100 to $150 per cow per month. This financial stress can be overwhelming, which makes seeing beyond the losses difficult.

The current economic crisis is taking its toll. Calls to seven Sowing the Seeds of Hope crisis hotlines for farmers and ranchers in the Midwest have gone up 40 percent during the last several months.

In the wake of a dairy producer’s suicide, taking care of yourself and your family is important.

I recall so clearly those days in the early ’80s when the same tragedy hit close to home as I served as a county Extension agent in North Dakota. Back then, we gathered in community halls and tried to address what became a very difficult task. However, just getting together in that rural community building was therapeutic for those in attendance. Certainly we, as an ag community, were less informed of the resources available to help cope with stress. And since that time, we like to think we learned from those sessions.

Nonetheless, today’s economy is having similar devastation in parts of our country, so perhaps this is the time to remind you that in addition to your clergy, you have many sources from which to chose, and the Internet makes seeking help in confidence so much easier.

If you are concerned about someone, make note of the signs you see in him or her. Pay special attention to signs of suicidal intent or thinking. If you suspect someone may be depressed and suicidal, get help. Here some resources you can share with others in this state and surrounding areas:

  • North Dakota Helpline - (800) 472-2911
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - (800) 273-8255
  • ( is a good resource for finding marriage and family therapists in your area
  • Farm Resource Center - (800) 851-4719
  • Minnesota Crisis Connection - (866) 379-6363
  • South Dakota Rural Helpline - (800) 664-1349
  • Illinois Farm Resource Center - (877) 633-3372
  • Iowa Concern Hotline - (800) 447-1985
  • Kansas Rural Family Helpline - (866) 327-6578
  • Nebraska Rural Response Hotline - (800) 464-0258
  • New York Farm Net - (800) 547-3276
  • Wisconsin Farm Center - (800) 942-2474
  • DFA Cares Hotline, (888) 404-MILK, a toll-free number that gives Dairy Farmers of America members access to market information and answers to general questions and referrals to a member assistance program, which offers professional advice and guidance on financial and legal matters and stress management
  • Anthony Raimondo - McCormick Barstow LLP, Fresno, Calif., (559) 433-1300. Provides legal advice for the dairy community

In the meantime, here are some signs to watch for:

  • A change in routine or behavior. Stress decreases our ability to cope.
  • An increase in illness, such as chronic headaches, ulcers, backaches, eating irregularities, sleeping disturbances, frequent sickness or exhaustion
  • A change of appearance, both in a person and his or her operation
  • Signs of stress in the children. Often, children will be the “canaries” of the family, providing an early warning.
  • A person’s losses. One loss in a lifetime and the chance of a major depression is 50 percent. Two losses move it to 75 percent, and three losses move the chance of severe depression to 100 percent.
  • Cries of help, such as statements of hopelessness (“I’m calling it quits. Maybe my family would be better off without me. Nothing matters anymore. Things will never get better.”)

If you recognize signs of depression and suicidal thinking in a family member, friend or yourself, call for help. Things will get better, but it certainly may take awhile.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:J.W. Schroeder, (701) 231-7663,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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