Wife shares story of losing husband to suicide after farming struggles

PLATTE, S.D. (KSFY) - The challenges farmers have faced this year have been many: deepening uncertainty because of U.S. trade policy, extreme weather that delayed spring planting, hampered summer growing and pushed back the fall harvest.

As a result, an increasing number of farmers are reacting to that stress by ending their lives.

The Dykshorn family has spent months holding on to their faith to get through this. Five months ago they lost a father and husband.

Chris Dykshorn's wife is speaking out to make sure this tragedy doesn't continue happening. The Dykshorn family cares for cattle, sheep, and hogs while harvesting corn and soybeans.

The family’s three-legged dog, Diesel, gave the full grand tour around the property Thursday. Constant wet weather led farmer Chris Dykshorn to a lonely place he'd never been before. He reached out to the family for help.

"If he was reaching out, he's a very quiet man, I knew that he was really struggling," Wife, Amber Dykshorn said.

From April blizzards to swollen rivers he wasn't able to start planting right away on top of machinery problems. That's when he started getting down on himself dealing with no sleep, anxiety and the pressures of taking care of a family.

"He had come into the house and basically got across to me that he'd just wish he'd die," Dykshorn said.

The couple constantly texted back and forth while he was out in the fields.

Chris: "I don't know how I’m going to sleep tonight. This next week is going to be horrible because of bills. This is getting the best of me.”

And each day Chris’ light dimmed.

Chris: "The sun is shining but I’m still down. I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Amber knew he was struggling.

"He was frustrated, sad and upset and at that point, I knew I needed to pray," Dykshorn said.

An appointment was scheduled at Avera Behavioral Health where he got medication to help with his moods, but the texts continued coming in.

Chris: "I’m failing and I feel like I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked for, for the past how many years?"

Amber's neighbor called her to tell her they had found her husband slowly breathing.

"What happened? What happened? And then he said ‘oh Amber Chris shot himself’ and immediately I said I’m on my way," Dykshorn said.

Chris was still breathing, but barely holding on.

"I grabbed his arm and just pleaded with him to just fight because I knew I couldn't do it without him, but he didn't have any more fight left in him," Dykshorn said.

Chris used the Avera Farm Hotline to try to get some help with his mental health. With the farm struggles continuing to fall on his shoulders it just wasn't enough.

Amber's hope is that by sharing her story it will help someone else in this same situation. The Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline are free, confidential and available at all hours of the day. You can call at 1-800-691-4336.