Many agriculturists are experiencing stress levels they haven't dealt with since the 1980s. The National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC) wants to help.

The Marshfield, WI-based non-profit program is providing an Internet crisis hotline listing to help farmers deal with stressful economic times. The listing is a compilation of farm crisis hotline resources in the Upper Midwest and Plains states. The list can be found on NFMC's Internet web site at www.marsh or by calling one of the phone numbers below.

"We wanted to place crisis hotline information in the hands of farmers in hopes they will contact counselors," says director Paul Gunderson. "Our goal is to have people talk to someone."

Check Out These Numbers Users can consult the NFMC Internet address listed above, or call one of the following telephone numbers:

Illinois - Farm Resource Center: 800/851-4719.

Iowa - Iowa Concern Hotline: 800/447-1985.

Minnesota - Minnesota Farm Advocate Program: 800/967-2474 (in state), 651/296-1484 (out of state).

Nebraska - Nebraska Farm Hotline: 800/464-0258 (in state).

North Dakota - Mental Health Association in ND: 800/472-2911.

South Dakota - Farm Crisis Program: 800/691-4336.

Wisconsin - Wisconsin Farm Center: 800/942-2474.

Look For Symptoms Stress, says Sereanna Dresbach, an Ohio State University health education specialist, is a physical and mental reaction to change.

"It's a normal reaction and we have coping skills to deal with it. But when does it get to be too much?" she asks.

Here are some indicators: --- Change in sleeping patterns (e.g., insomnia or inability to get out of bed).

--- Change in eating patterns. Some people begin eating more. Some can't eat at all.

--- Sliding back into old, bad habits such as smoking, chewing tobacco or drinking alcohol.

--- Impaired decision making skills.

Often, people in rural areas tend not to seek help for problems, Dresbach says.

"It's seen as a sign of weakness, but actually it takes strength to reach out and ask for help," says Dresbach. And often, she adds, the coping mechanisms people have relied upon in the past just don't work.

She suggests looking for local mental health resources. Marriage or family therapy is often helpful, as well. And, don't forget ministers or other clergy.