Farm business management activities have a positive correlation to mental health, according to a new study from Farm Management Canada.
“Farm business management practices offer a significant opportunity for managing the stresses of farming in a way that contributes to positive mental health,” said Heather Watson, executive director of Farm Management Canada in a news release on May 19.
“While management practices cannot eliminate stress entirely, they can play a significant role in reducing stress and promoting positive coping mechanisms,” she added.
The study, conducted by Farm Management Canada and Wilton Consulting Group, included a survey of over 1,700 farmers.
Farmers surveyed reported several changes in behaviour to try and cope with stress, many of which were undesirable like working more hours, losing sleep, and avoiding friends and family. However, some farmers reported more frequent management behaviours like focusing more on financial numbers and assessing or planning for alternative outcomes when stressed.
The study gives an opportunity to improve education around the benefits of business planning with a focus on mitigating risk. Building support teams to help provide advice can also lighten the burdens of decision-making. When difficulties arise, it helps to know that a team of peers, family members and advisers are there for support.
The report gives four themes to capture how Farm Management Canada and the agricultural industry can better support farmer mental health in Canada:
- To continue raising awareness around the impact of stress and mental health issues on farmers;
- To support mental health literacy for farmers and those supporting farmers;
- To deliver business management advice, tools and training that focus on risk management and preparedness; and
- To advocate for and expand farmer-specific mental health support services.
These research findings are critical for informing government policy, resource allocation and business management and mental health service providers, the news release says.
“Agriculture is more than just a business — it’s human experience filled with passion, dedication and a sense of satisfaction. However, there are also times when the pressure and anxiety of running a farm operation or agriculture-related business can be isolating and overwhelming,” said Marty Seymour, director of industry relations with Farm Credit Canada. “Together, we can advance our understanding of mental health challenges in agriculture.”