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Economy and Weather Stress Rural North Dakotans

August 19, 2009

FARGO, N.D. - Since 2004, the "211 ND" hotline has been a resource for North Dakotans who need confidential advice, information, referral and crisis management services - and this year, the need appears to be greater than ever.

Combine the economic recession with the weather calamities of this summer, and many local farmers and ranchers are in financial straits. Mental Health America of North Dakota operates the hotline, and Executive Director Susan Helgeland says they're answering more calls this year.

"We have experienced an increase, and half of our calls are from people in rural farm and ranch communities in North Dakota."

Helgeland expects the higher call rate to continue, and says if North Dakotans have questions about where to turn to deal with mounting bills and the related stresses, "211 ND" can help.

"If people just need to talk, we're free, we're confidential - all you have to do is dial 2-1-1. We do give out information on financial resources that might be available for the caller."

She says many callers not only need help with their stress levels, but also to deal with depression and thoughts of suicide associated with their money problems. She also observes that financial trouble seems to hit farmers and ranchers more deeply and personally, perhaps because of the thought of losing a farm that may have been in the family for decades.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - ND