Farmers need to talk about stress, depression, says #DoMoreAg co-founder

A national program launched Tuesday in Edmonton aims at fostering honest conversations about the mental health struggles faced by farmers and producers.

Do More Agriculture aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental health and agriculture

A worker carries an air filter during wheat harvest on a farm in Alberta. The founders of #DoMoreAg encourage farmers to speak openly about their stressful work. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Inspired by her family's own struggles with mental health issues, Lesley Kelly wanted to do more to break down the stigma surrounding stress, depression, and agriculture.

"Our culture is built on strength, resilience and perseverance, but that can also be a weakness," says Kelly, who operates a family farm near Watrous, Sask.

Kelly is one of the four founders of the Do More Agriculture Foundation, a national program that was launched Tuesday in Edmonton at FarmTech 2018, a conference on at the Expo Centre until Thursday.

Farmers and producers are encouraged to use the hashtag #DoMoreAg to share their mental health struggles.

Farming took a toll on family

Kelly says her own video about her husband Matt's stressful experience with farming has got a lot of positive attention since its release last July.

"Responses were heartfelt," said Kelly. "People were saying 'Thank you for starting a conversation within our family.' "

She said the pressures of taking over a new farming business, with its high financial stakes, took a toll on her family.

"You are working with things outside your control, like the weather and markets, and it's long days and long nights, sometimes working around the clock."

She hopes her video will encourage more farmers to seek the help they need to deal with mental health issues.

Stress, anxiety and depression

Farmers suffer from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than the general population, according to a survey conducted by the University of Guelph.

More than 1,100 Canadian farmers were polled between September 2015 and January 2016 about mental health issues.

Researcher Andria Jones-Bitton found that 45 per cent of respondents had high stress.

Another 58% expressed varying levels of anxiety, and 35 per cent struggled with depression.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of respondents felt there was a stigma associated with reaching out for help.


Josee St-Onge


Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan.