Kitchener-Waterloo

Ontario expands mental health support program for farmers across province

The province is investing $385,000 to help expand In the Know, a mental health literacy program that teaches farmers how to detect mental health issues and ways to cope with stress. This is possible through the guidance of trained facilitators. 

Program developed by researchers at the University of Guelph

Left to right: Mark Reusser, vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Mike Harris, MPP for Kitchener Conestoga, Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. The officials gathered in St. Agatha on Monday for the funding announcement. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

More help is on the way for Ontario farmers in need of mental health support. 

The province is investing $385,000 to help expand In the Know, a mental health literacy program that teaches farmers how to detect mental health issues and ways to cope with stress. This is possible through the guidance of trained facilitators. 

The program, which was designed by researchers at the University of Guelph, is offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association. The additional funding will help train more facilitators to improve access to mental health supports in rural areas. 

"Farmers work 365 days a year to keep food on the table for families like yours and families like mine. And for that, we owe them our gratitude. But working 365 days a year means working through pandemics, extreme weather and fluctuating markets. Yet our farmers push on," said Mike Harris, MPP for Kitchener Conestoga, at the funding announcement in St. Agatha on Monday.

"While that level of dedication is admirable, it also takes a toll on their mental health."

Harris was joined by provincial officials including Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Earlier in the summer, Thompson had announced nearly $430,000 in funding for research to help ensure adequate mental health resources for rural and agricultural communities.

Pandemic challenges

The additional help comes amid a difficult time for some farmers who have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, that has brought on challenges including a disruption in business.

"The pandemic has been hard on everyone, including farmers. In fact, they may have been suffering even more than the general population," said Mark Reusser, vice president with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, on Monday.

"Recent research from the University of Guelph confirms that farmers face high rates of anxiety, depression, stress and burnout, and they also tend to have lower than average resilience and coping skills, making them more vulnerable to workplace stress. Dealing with the stigma surrounding mental health is a real problem for farmers," he added.

The province said farmers have previously indicated that they are more likely to talk about their mental health if they feel the trained professional understands the agricultural sector. This funding will help mental health professionals better understand the unique challenges farmers face.

To those who feel they are struggling, Reusser said: "There is no shame in admitting that you need help. There is no shame in asking for help. There is no shame in receiving treatment."

Here are some mental health resources:

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