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Mental health in agriculture partnership expands

Do More Agriculture and Farm Credit Canada are building on their mental health awareness and training efforts

The Do More Agriculture (DMA) Foundation and Farm Credit Canada (FCC) are extending and expanding their partnership to bring mental health awareness and training to rural Canada.

The two-day training program, developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, is aimed at developing community leaders, said DMA Executive director Adelle Stewart. The leaders are trained to identify mental health concerns and provide initial supports to producers at no cost to help them cope with difficult or unfortunate circumstances.

“We are so very grateful for the positive feedback, overwhelming interest and powerful impact this pilot project is having on the lives of so many producers and rural residents,” she said. “It’s thrilling to think of the reach we will have across Canada through this continuation and expansion of mental health literacy training in rural Canada, as well as the many more agriculture-focused workshops we will be able to offer our producers.”

As part of its leadership role in raising mental health awareness among producers, FCC provided $50,000 in funding to facilitate mental health first aid training for producers and agriculture industry in 12 selected communities across Canada. As a result, 236 rural residents are now certified mental health first aid responders and leaders. Next year, it will contribute $100,000 to the project.

Applications for training program funding will open later this fall and trainings will occur throughout early 2020. Interested communities will be able to apply online at www.domore.ag which has a wealth of information about mental health and agriculture.

“The training is aimed at raising mental health awareness and equipping participants with basic skills to provide assistance when help is not immediately available,” Stewart said. “The network of volunteers who can help has taken root and will continue to grow under this renewed and expanded partnership.”

FCC president and CEO Michael Hoffort said, “Mental health issues impact every segment of our society and those who work in Canada’s thriving agriculture and food industry are not immune. As a committed partner to this industry, we recognize the need for increased mental health support in agriculture, where people – often located in rural Canada – can sometimes feel isolated and don’t always know who to turn to for help.”

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the government “is committed to working with all partners to address the mental well-being challenges faced by Canadian farmers. By building a network of certified mental health responders, Do More Ag is contributing to mental health well-being and awareness of residents throughout rural Canada. The demand for this type of training is evident.” The government has committed $5 billion over 10 years directly to provinces and territories to improve mental health and addiction services.

In June, the Commons agriculture committee recommended 16 actions the federal government should take to help with the mental health crisis on the country’s farms.

Unpredictable weather and environmental conditions, market fluctuations, debt and changing regulations are just some of the many uncertainties that stress farmers, the report said. “Many feel isolated, work long hours and sometimes experience stigma, especially on social media, which intensifies their existing stress level.

“Access to mental health care is still limited in rural areas, health professionals are still not familiar with the unique nature of agriculture, and current efforts to help farmers are not consistent across the country,” the report said.

Following the FCC’s lead, the report said government should educate those “who work with farmers to detect the signs of psychological disorders and distress in order to refer them to resources that can help them.”

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