Farmer To Farmer Workshop Series Expanded

Aprogram launched last year to help farm families cope with stress and depression is being expanded.

What started as an umbrella project of the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services, formerly the Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line, last year will offer an expanded range of workshops at soon-to-be-announced locations and times this year.

“We saw from our experience with our first project that there is a need to continue,” said Gerry Friesen, project co-ordinator for Farmer to Farmer.

Last year the program held five workshops, three in Brandon and two in smaller Manitoban communities. There were approximately 20 participants at each workshop.

The workshops are generally geared towards men, although women who attend benefit as well. Friesen said men more often ignore the signs and symptoms of stress and depression. “Traditionally men have not looked for help. Generally they immerse themselves in their work,” said Friesen.

“Farm stress continues to be both prevalent and highly stigmatized, and there is a real need for ongoing outreach, information and skill building,” said Janet Smith, program manager for the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services, in a recent press release.

The second phase of the program is also being supported by the United Way. “We appreciate the funding from the United Way in recognition for this worthwhile cause,” Smith said.

A 2009 report for the Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line notes farming has been identified worldwide as one of the most stressful occupations, with one of the highest rates of workplace injuries and death, including suicide. It says farmers in rural areas are less likely to reach out for help and there is a shortage of readily available mental health services in rural settings. Pride and the nature of the agriculture industry are cited as additional reasons farmers do not seek help.

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