CORVALLIS, OR -- Oregon launched a new crisis line for members of the agricultural community this month, with the help of Oregon State University's Extension Service. It’s the seventh state to offer the Agristress Helpline, and the first to be managed by a university.
"People in rural areas already are at higher risk of suicide," says Allison Myers, Associate Dean for Extension and Engagement at OSU, "Some of that has to do with the geographic isolation and lack of access to healthcare. The agricultural community also faces stressors that many other folks don’t face. For example, the hours are very, very long, so you’re coupling geographic isolation with sort of a social isolation." She adds, "The work itself is really hard and there are a lot of factors that are out of control: weather, natural disasters, pricing. So you get to a place where you have a bit of a storm of factors that can make this group particularly vulnerable. Another factor is the sense of stoicism: this feeling of independence; often needing to be able to handle everything on their own. And the key message with the helpline is that folks are not alone."
Myers believes the helpline will open the door to discuss an important topic, "The conversation about suicide and about risk and about stressors is one that needs to be had. It’s too common for folks to suffer in silence and to not ask for help."
Partial funding for Oregon's participation came from the 2023 legislature, and training for call-takers is provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Myers tells KBND News collaboration between 27 farm groups and healthcare organizations will help the crisis line be successful. "The Nursery Growers, and the Cattlemen’s [Association], along with HealthShare of Oregon and Moda Health; everybody got together to say this is a need that we can fill with the support of the Extension Service and Oregon State University."
The Agristress Helpline is available in multiple languages 24/7 by call or text at 833-897-2474.