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Farm Credit Canada backs industry mental health push

Rooted in Strength — Taking care of our Families and Ourselves booklet is designed to help farmers across the country do just that

You wouldn’t dream of trying to feed the world on your own, so why carry the weight of the world on your own shoulders?”

That’s Cynthia Beck, a suicide intervention responder in Saskatchewan speaking in a series of videos she’s produced for a new Farm Credit Canada resource identifying how to stay mentally healthy when faced with the challenges of an agricultural and rural lifestyle.

Why it matters: A U of Guelph report found while most farmers said they would seek help for their mental health 40 per cent reported they would feel uneasy getting help “because of what other people might think.”

Rooted in Strength — Taking care of our Families and Ourselves has been mailed out to 165,000 rural mailboxes and is also available for downloading.

(Rooted in Strength — Taking care of our Families and Ourselves can be downloaded as a PDF here)

The resource contains real stories and expert advice and is uniquely geared to the farm community.

It was created to help all Canadian farm families look after their mental health, say FCC officials.

“Our desire is to help lift the stigma around mental health by promoting awareness, encouraging dialogue and enabling people throughout the agriculture industry to seek support if they need it,” writes Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO.

“As strong and resilient as those who make a living growing food are, these struggles aren’t meant to be faced alone and no one should be expected to tough it out without help.”

Rooted in Strength includes a broad range of resources such as phone numbers to reach crisis services across Canada. Farmers tell personal stories about recognizing their own difficulties and why they sought help for them.

“Mental health is part of our overall health. Like physical health, we need to care for it,” says Saskatchewan farmer and entrepreneur Kim Keller whose story of her own diagnosis with anxiety is included in it.

Keller is also co-founder of Do More Ag and was in Manitoba recently speaking at Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference with co-founder Leslie Kelly about the campaign’s advocacy work and efforts to make it easier for the farm community to talk about mental health.

Another resource included in the resource is ‘My Dashboard’ a green-to-red zone chart to help gauge where one may be on the spectrum from optimal mental health to to mental illness.

Signs of good mental health include being rarely sick, able to focus, feeling motivated and taking regular breaks, while skipping social activities, impaired decision-making, addictive behaviours and worrying excessively are indicators mental health isn’t optimal.

Farmers were also asked to share their own strategies in Rooted in Strength for what they do to stay mentally healthy.

‘Plan my work so it can be completed in a reasonable time frame,’ and, ‘set achievable goals,’ were some. ‘I make sure I talk to people,’ and, ‘Get away from the farm — even for an hour,’ were others.

As Beck points out in a video segment on isolation, keeping to oneself can take a heavy toll.

“Psychology research shows that loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health,” she says. “For those of us who live and work in agriculture it can be fairly easy to be isolated, simply from where we live. Maybe we have family and friends around us but we choose to keep our thoughts or our problems to ourselves.

“If you are having trouble dealing with life or business stressors, do not isolate yourself.”

Mental well-being is the combination of:

  • How you feel about yourself, the world and your life
  • Your ability to solve problems and overcome challenges
  • Your ability to build relationships with others and contribute to your communities
  • Your ability to achieve your goals at work and in life

— Rooted in Strength Adapted from hr.UBC.ca

The Rooted in Strength video can be viewed at farms.com.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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