September 14, 2022 By Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) are proud to announce Agriculture Wellness Ontario, a suite of programs designed to ensure farmers are getting mental health support when and where they need it.
Agriculture Wellness Ontario programs currently include the Farmer Wellness Initiative, a free, individual counselling service; the Guardian Network, a volunteer suicide-prevention network; and In the Know, a mental health literacy workshop tailored to the agriculture community.
Farmers Wellness Initiative: Farmers across Ontario and family members working on the farm have access to free counselling 24/7/365 in English and French at 1-866-267-6255. Counsellors have received training to understand the unique stresses that face the farming community.
The Guardian Network: A community-based and evidence-informed volunteer suicide prevention program. Any individual over the age of 18 who is in contact with farmers through their work or place in their community and has successfully completed the training can become a Guardian.
In The Know: A free mental health literacy training program developed at the University of Guelph by members of the agricultural community for the agriculture community. Through this free, four-hour workshop, participants cover the topics of stress, depression, anxiety, substance use and how to start a conversation around mental well-being. The workshops are facilitated by one of CMHA’s mental health professionals using real-life examples from agriculture.
“We know that farmers experience chronic stress at a higher rate than the general population. The many constant and growing demands that come with farming can result in farmers putting their work ahead of their own well-being. With Agriculture Wellness Ontario, we are aiming to de-stigmatize and reduce barriers in asking for help,” says Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario.
“Between supply chain issues, climate change events, animal diseases and inflation, farmers have to deal with more and more stress,” says Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food. “While we are redoubling our efforts to break the stigma around mental health issues, producers must have resources tailored to their experience.”
The agricultural community plays a vital role in ensuring all Ontarians enjoy a healthy economy and local food security.
“Our government is listening to the needs of the agricultural community and appreciates just how stressful running a farm can be,” says Lisa Thompson, Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “From dealing with unpredictable weather, commodity prices or increasing costs of production, these pressures are having a real effect on the mental health of farmers and their families. That’s why our government is providing the necessary funding for these programs to help support the mental health of our famers and their families across Ontario.”
“As an organization, we are thrilled to be part of the launch of this program,” says Peggy Brekveld, OFA president. “Increasing our awareness and confidence discussing mental health will contribute to resilience for farm families and rural communities across Ontario. The targeted initiatives will be invaluable to farmers and throughout the agriculture sector.”
Research shows that farmers have much higher rates of stress than the rest of the population. Living in rural areas and stigma can make it more difficult for those in the agricultural community to seek help. Talking about mental health helps save lives.
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