Despite growing awareness of mental health in the agriculture community, stigma is still a barrier to finding support.
The 2019 Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food found that 45 per cent of Canadian farmers were experiencing high levels of stress. However, 45 per cent stated that even if they needed help they wouldn’t ask for it because of this stigma.
As this issue persists, new mental health initiatives are underway to better serve Canada’s agriculture industry.
In January, the Do More Agriculture Foundation, also known as Do More Ag, announced its role in a new research project. The goal of this project is to evaluate current mental health resources, education and awareness within Canada’s agricultural community.
This research, Do More Ag stated in a Jan. 11 press release, will “identify current gaps in mental health resources for the industry as a whole, specifically the gaps that exist for traditionally underrepresented and marginalized groups such as: women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, 2SLGBTQI+, persons with disabilities and racialized communities.”
The organization plans to use this research to determine how best to continue promoting the importance of mental well-being for everyone involved in agriculture.
“In order to change the culture in agriculture to one where all individuals are supported and empowered to take care of their mental well-beings, we must also create a culture and industry where all are welcome, lifted up and the specific needs of each individual and group are addressed,” said Do More Ag Executive Director Megz Reynolds.
Surveys, interviews and focus groups will help inform the overall evaluation, with a final report planned to be released later this year.
Partnering with Do More Ag on this project are Wilton Consulting Group and Openly, and psychotherapist and registered social worker Bonnie Taylor will act as the project’s Farmer Mental Health Expert Advisor.
Funding for this project is provided in part by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriDiversity Program.
Research to lead new organization’s efforts
In late 2022, a new not-for-profit organization entered the Canadian agricultural mental health space.
The Canadian Centre for Agricultural Wellbeing (CCAW) was created “to conduct cutting-edge research to develop evidence-based community-informed programming and education to address wellbeing-related challenges amongst Canadian farmers,” as stated on its website.
Presently, CCAW has partnered with the federal government and groups such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Farm Management Canada and Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.
One of the organization’s first initiatives is bringing TELUS Health on board as its exclusive provider of clinical support and technology.
The goal of this partnership is to provide mental health support to farmers who haven’t asked for help before, those dealing with emergencies, and those unable to access provincial or federal mental health care.
“Collaborating with TELUS Health means that we have the infrastructure to provide clinical support and much needed technology for education and community programs to support the wellbeing of farmers and the agricultural community across Canada,” said Dr. Briana Hagen, CEO and Lead Scientist at the CCAW.