FFA Member helps to combat farm stress with own event


After attending the South Dakota Farm & Ranch Stress Summit in 2019 and learning about how many farmers face mental health issues, FFA member Kayle Lauck hosted her own event; “Let’s Talk: Learn How to Identify Stress & Support our Producers”.

“I’ve realized that farmers are often the first people to lend a hand to someone else in need, but they don’t always extend that same courtesy to themselves,” says Lauck, a junior at McCook Central High School in Salem, S.D., and reporter for the McCook Central FFA. “I wanted to develop something in my community that was aimed at helping farmers combat their stressors while also reducing the stigma around mental health in the agriculture industry.”

Lauck’s event featured booths sponsored by regional health system Avera Health, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota State University Extension. Additionally, a meal and presentations were provided by local farmers and former FFA member, Karl Oehlke, a physician assistant with Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates. Oehlke, who created Avera’s Farm and Rural Stress Hotline, spoke about the details of mental illnesses that ag producers might encounter, including depression and anxiety.

“Events such as the one Kayle has spearheaded serve multiple purposes in the ag sector,” Oehlke says. “First, to eliminate stigma and show individuals struggling with mental health issues that they are not alone, as many still feel the topic is one that should be kept silent. Second, to educate producers on how to access care they may be interested in but have been afraid to ask for. Last and most important, to try and mitigate self-harm or suicide in the ag profession and increase overall functionality through various levels of treatment.”

Funds raised through Let’s Talk: Learn How to Identify Stress & Support Our Producers benefited the Farm and Rural Stress hotline. Luack says that was made possible by a variety of sponsorships and donations, as well as a Day of Service mini-grant from FFA.

“Organizing this event was part of my SAE project, but it’s so much more than that to me,” Lauck says. “I’m hopeful that these kinds of events will become more common across the nation.”

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