Agriculture This Week - Talking about mental health a positive thing

It is interesting how it can take just the right push to get people talking about an important issue, one that there had been little discussion about for far too long.

But that is certainly the situation when it comes to the issue of mental health in rural Canada, and in particular with those involved in farming.

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Farming is a stressful business, and producers need to know how to deal with those stresses effectively.

Kim Keller, a farmer and co-founder of Saskatchewan Women in Agriculture said a University of Guelph study shows the level of stress being faced.

Keller told those attending a panel discussion the Farm Fitness and Finance Forum at the Grain Millers Harvest Showdown in Yorkton in 2017, that the study showed 35 per cent of farm respondents faced depression, 42 per cent said they faced high stress on a daily basis and 58 per cent anxiety.

But perhaps the most concerning data was that 40 per cent also said they wouldn’t seek help, she said.

Keller said that resistance to find help has dire implications.

“In the (United) States farmers are twice as likely to commit suicide than the general public,” she said.

John McFadyen, executive director with Mobile Crisis Services picked up on the fact farmers often do not seek help. He related in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert about 10 per cent of the local population calls the help line annually.

“The Farm Stress Line receives 300 calls a year,” he said, adding the line serves a rural population of 250,000, which means a far smaller number of callers on a percentage basis.

The numbers are startling, but the first step to addressing the obvious need was to create infrastructure to get people talking about the issues so they can be addressed.

The process did receive a boost during the panel discussion as Paul Moore of Yorkton Auction Centre took the microphone relating some of the stresses he himself has faced, and then pledged $10,000 a year for the next five years to fund efforts related to raising awareness and helping farmers deal with mental health issues.

And since that panel in 2017, there have been a number of undertakings which suggest the issue is garnering new focus.

Bridges Mental Health Services was scheduled to present a two-hour compressed workshop to Canadian Western Agribition visitors “to compliment a wider mental health theme at Agribition. The free workshop will give attendees the basic skills to identify warning signs around mental health and arm them with strategies to become active in positive change for themselves and those around them. The goal is to raise awareness of mental health in agriculture while also helping build a community of support and resources for those affected, as well as a culture of agriculture to one where all producers are encouraged, supported, and empowered to take care of their mental well being,” noted a preview at www.agribition.com

And it was just announced in a prepared release Farm Credit Canada (FCC) “is collaborating with 4-H Canada and industry partners to create a national program that supports the mental and physical health of 4-H youth.  FCC will contribute $50,000 toward the National 4-H Healthy Living Initiative, which will be made available to more than 7,700 volunteer leaders and 25,000 4-H members across Canada. FCC has also partnered with mental health experts to create a resource for managing stress and anxiety on the farm titled, Rooted in Strength, and has produced a series of public service announcements to promote mental health awareness in agriculture.”

Finally the issue of mental health for farmers is being openly discussed, with funds being allocated to help find answers, which is exactly what has long needed to happen.

Calvin Daniels is editor at Yorkton This Week.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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