National Newswatch

New workshop boosted interest in the program.

 

Ottawa—A mental health program aimed at rural residents has received an overwhelming positive response from the agriculture community, say its founders the Do More Agriculture Foundation (DMA) and Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

In its recently concluded second year, the program drew more than 450 people from 24 communities across the country to its two training programs, which are offered free, says DMA Executive Director Adelle Stewart. The goal is to educate people in identifying mental health concerns and how to provide initial support to producers coping with difficult or unfortunate circumstances.

DMA’s priorities are to provide education, support and resources to the farm sector in partnership with FCC that increase mental health literacy, help change the conversation about mental health and build capacity within families and communities, she said. New in 2020 was a half day interactive workshop/webinar called Talk, Ask, Listen that specialized in mental health in agriculture, developed by DMA.

Stewart said a recent report, Healthy Minds, Healthy Farms by Farm Management Canada identified that “farmers are more likely to participate in support programs offered by providers familiar with agriculture and cater to the unique needs of farmers.” The new workshop aims to mental health training programs that are specific to the experiences of producers.

The workshop provides information on topics such as the signs and symptoms of mental illness, anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, what support looks like, how to have conversations with someone who may be experiencing a mental health challenge, how to support yourself, and self care.

In addition to the funding provided by FCC and local businesses across Canada, the program relies on community leaders to bring the program to their rural area by working directly with DMA and the facilitators to organize and promote the training, she said.

“We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support this year, not only from FCC but from many local and regional agri-businesses as well,” Stewart said. “The entire initiative wouldn’t be possible without the effort and support of the community leaders who applied to bring this training to their area. We are very excited to continue this partnership with FCC and agri-businesses across Canada to provide the industry with more training, mental health literacy, support and resources.”

She said one workshop participant’s feedback was, “Not only will I be able to use what I have learned today at work but in every aspect of my daily life. I will also be speaking with my four children on the highlights of this course and why it is so important not only for me but them as well. In today’s society mental health can be at any age.”

In total since the launch of the Community Fund in 2019, over 670 participants have completed the program.

Applications to bring the training to your community for 2021 will open in October. The fund is open to all rural agriculture communities across Canada. For more information about the fund go to www.domore.ag/how-to-do-more

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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