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Farmers' mental health to be surveyed for University of Guelph study

A study by the University of Guelph wants to understand the prevalence of depression and burnout in farmers, including in western Canada.

Researchers believe farmers are reluctant to discuss their mental health

Researchers expect to find higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to the general population, due to stress and isolation. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

Researchers at the University of Guelph want farmers in western Canada to participate in a study on how they deal with depression, anxiety and burnout — but also their resiliency.

"Unfortunately in the farming communities, often times mental health issues aren't dealt with — or thought of as a sign of weakness and tied to a poor work ethic," said Andria Jones-Bitton, a researcher on the producerwellness.ca survey.

"So it's not surprising to me that people might be reluctant to come forward and talk about that," she added.

Producers are under a lot of stresses — the weather, debt, and disease outbreaks that are out of their control, Jones-Bitton told CBC's The Homestretch.

She says farmers are often isolated, particularly in the winter months.

Jones-Bitton says she expects to find higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to the general population.

She believes farmers could use some additional resources.

'Tough' guys

However based on her experiences with farmers, Jones-Britton thinks she will also find "some pretty remarkable levels of resiliency."

"We're talking about a highly resilient, tough population that just kind of gets things done when they need to get done," said Jones-Britton.

"So I think we're going to be dealing with a highly resilient strong population who are also facing some pretty unique pressures."

The online survey is anonymous and farmers can participate until Jan. 31.

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