National Newswatch

Commons agriculture committee to add to campaign to make farmers aware.


OTTAWA –Farm Credit Canada is taking the lead in a federal outreach to farmers to recognize the pressures they face and to seek help if they’re feeling overwhelmed by them.

Todd Klink, FCC’s Executive Vice President and CMO, told a news conference just outside the House of Commons Nov 20 that his organization will champion mental health awareness with support from Agriculture Canada, 4-H Canada and Farm Management Canada.

“Agriculture is a growing and dynamic industry that offers many exciting opportunities,” he said. “But we know there are also times when things don’t go as expected and, in agriculture, stress can be compounded by exhaustion, a sense of isolation and not always having access to local support resources.”

That’s when farmers have to stop suffering in silence and seek help, he said. “Part of breaking down the stigma relating to mental health is for individuals to courageously share their story.”

FCC and its partners want to help remove the stigma around mental health “by enabling people throughout the agriculture industry to seek support if they need it,” he said.

Klink said that FCC contributed $50,000 to the Do More Ag Foundation to fund 12 mental health first aid workshops that attracted applications from more than 100 communities. “To me, this demonstrates the need rural communities see for additional support.”

FCC will contribute $50,000 commitment to a new Healthy Living program that 4-H Canada will provide to 25,000 of its members. He said Cargill, Corteva, and United Farmers of Alberta had also supported mental health programs.

Ron Bonnett, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, saluted mental health “starting to get the attention it’s needed for some time. The more tools we can give communities, whether it’s 4-H, farm advisors, or other service providers, the better chance we have to get help to people that need it.

“These kind of investments have the potential to make a real and immediate difference, while also helping raise awareness and get rid of the stigma that mental health issues are about weakness,” he said. “Too many producers have suffered in silence for too long, resulting in immense stress and grief for farm families and rural communities across Canada.

“This is one step amongst many that are needed, and we hope that it will drive further momentum behind the continued need for more research and evidence-based supports in this area.”

Jean-Claude Poissant, the parliamentary secretary for agriculture, kicked off the news conference by recounting his own mental battles while farming in his Quebec constituency. “We need to keep working on this issue for our families, our friends, and our communities.  By increasing awareness, reducing risk factors, improving access to quality mental health services and eliminating the stigma often associated with mental illness, we can support mental well-being.”

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said, “Farming can provide an amazing lifestyle with great rewards, but it can also be hard on mental health. Farmers and their families often face high levels of stress because of forces that are beyond their control, such as weather, disease, commodity prices, and trade.”

His department is working with Farm Management Canada to support a project that will explore the link between mental health and the impact on farm business management decisions, he said

The FCC and other initiatives “will support industry efforts to better understand and address the mental health needs of the agriculture industry,” he said.

Heather Watson, Executive Director of Farm Management Canada, said, “Our 25 years’ experience tells us there is a positive correlation between mental health and farm business management. We’re excited to explore this connection further with the support of Agriculture Canada to gain insight into how we can support mental health through better management, and how better management can support mental health.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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