According to recent studies completed by the University of Guelph, 40% of farmers interviewed reported that they do not feel comfortable reaching out for professional help with mental health due to others' perception, their peers (3). Rob Sharkey, the Shark Farmer podcast and sharkfarmer.com (4), asserts a culture of silence within the farming community regarding mental health. He suggests that farmers are expected to be tough and hardworking and that mental health is viewed as a weakness, and this perception makes it harder for them to talk about the issues they are facing. As someone who struggles with mental health, I want to implore you, if you are part of this 40%, to reach out and not bear the weight alone. Stigma is an unfortunate barrier throughout society. The ag industry is not averse to it, but we can begin to remove this barrier by getting help, raising awareness, and speaking out.
Fortunately, in recent years, some amazing people have been working to raise awareness and create resources to support mental wellbeing in the agriculture industry. The Do More Agriculture Foundation (www.domore.ag) is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on creating programs, building partnerships, and providing access to resources focused on mental health in agriculture in Canada. The organization's website provides a list of resources in each province; here, you can find local health professionals and organizations that offer support. The Canadian Mental Health Association (www.cmha.ca) offers services and supports across Canada, such as counselling, support lines, training for managing staff's mental health, and more.
Grain Farmers of Ontario offers webinars and connections to resources, visit their website, and select "Farmer Wellness" (5) to see current and upcoming offerings. The Canadian Agriculture Safety Association has a wealth of resources such as toolkits and blogs that cover specific issues related to stress and healthy relationships on the farm in their Mental Health & Stress section of their website (6). Another great resource is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs website; they offer a Mental Health for Farmers First Aid Kit on their website (7). Links for all these resources are provided at the end of this article.
The Mental Health Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-866-531-2600
What can you do right now to help yourself or someone around you who may struggle with their mental wellbeing? Here are a few suggestions:
Ask, are you okay? A recent mental health campaign launched in Scotland highlighted the power of a simple phrase, Are you okay? (8). If we do not ask, we do not know, and those who are struggling do not know that we care and that we are a resource. Sometimes simply reaching out to those around us and letting them know we are here can make a big impact. If you are struggling, reach out to someone you trust; if you know someone who may be struggling, ask them, are you okay?
1) Identify FIVE things you can see,
2) Identify FOUR things you can touch
3) Identify THREE things that you can hear,
4) Identify TWO things you can smell,
5) Identify your current emotion; is it different from when you began?