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Farmers Union president worried about depression – and suicide – in farm country

The president of the North Dakota Farmers Union is concerned about depression – and suicide – in farm country.

Mark Watne said he’s been talking to a number of groups – including NDSU Extension – about the issue. Watne said low commodity prices, coupled with what he called a “challenging” harvest and trade disputes, have been having an impact on farmers’ attitudes.

"They've had their land for generations," Watne said. "And they will be seen as the person who may or may not be able to keep the land in the family. That's extremely stressful. And some get to the point where they can't deal with the stress."

Watne said he’s talking with a number of groups, including NDSU Extension, to get a “volunteer force” of people who can recognize depression in farmers, and convince them to seek help.

"We don't want to miss some people who may not be willing to get some help," Watne said. "If we do some of this work, we can get a lot of people across the state that can see something, and encourage people to get help before something serious happens."

Farmers Union Insurance has also donated $20,000 to FirstLink, which runs the suicide helpline in North Dakota. That line can be accessed by dialing 2-1-1.