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Canada and Ontario fund new ag mental health supports


November 24, 2021
By Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing more than $7 million dollars through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) to launch two new, multi-year mental health initiatives that are specialized to support those in the agriculture sector.

The Guardians Network and a new program modelled after the successful Farmer Wellness Program, pioneered by mental health specialist Deborah Vanberkel, will provide farm families across the province with free counselling services, as well as help connect at-risk farmers with tailored support and resources. These initiatives are expected to launch early next year and will be developed in consultation with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and other mental health sector experts.

“The farming community has demonstrated great strength and resilience throughout the pandemic, but mental health challenges often go unseen. If you are struggling, the first step is to reach out, because you are not alone in facing these challenges,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food. “These new agricultural mental health programs expand resource availability to help Ontario farmers and employees if they’re struggling with their mental health.”

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“I very much understand and appreciate how stressful running a farm can be, working 365 days a year and dealing with unpredictable weather, commodity prices and increasing costs of production,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Add in the pandemic, and 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, and is committed to doing everything we can to help address these challenges and support mental health in our farming communities.”

As part of the Government of Ontario’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to build a modern, connected mental health and addictions system that serves all Ontarians, the two new initiatives will improve the agriculture sector’s access to supports that better meet their needs.

“Building on the delivery of our farm mental health literacy program In the Know, the expansion of this important wellness program and introduction of a suicide prevention network will protect and enhance the mental well-being of farmers and the farm community,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario.

“The mental wellness of Ontario farmers is one of our biggest priorities, so we are excited to partner with CMHA Ontario and our provincial and federal governments to raise awareness about these two programs,” said Peggy Brekveld, President of Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “The targeted initiatives will be invaluable to farmers and throughout the agriculture sector.”

These programs are the direct result of numerous roundtable discussions and other engagements with farmers about their mental health concerns. The design seeks to further enhance other government-led mental health enhancement actions, such as an expansion of the In the Know program.