Farmers' mental-health program expanded to meet higher demand
Funding has almost tripled in recent years
The coalition of groups funding the Farmer Assistance Program has increased the amount of money available to help farmers facing mental-health issues.
Funding has increased to $32,000, enough for 320 counselling sessions.
The program was started in 2004 by the P.E.I. government and the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, and as recently as a couple of years ago total funding for it was only around $12,000, but the demand for services increased, and funding has grown rapidly in response.
"We were experiencing — especially last fall, for instance — a hard harvest, a particularly tough year for prices in certain commodities, and frosts, snow," said Robert Godfrey, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.
"We had some trade deals signed that didn't favourably go in the way of certain supply-managed commodities, and the need for further funding was there."
Demand may also be up because there has been a lot of talk about the program in the media over the last couple of years, said Godfrey, and because the stigma over mental-health problems is also waning.
The program is being expanded this year to include farm employees, and services will be offered free to members of the National Farmers Union, as they have been for Federation of Agriculture members. Last year National Farmers Union members were paying reduced fees.
The program is entirely confidential. Godfrey said he receives a report on the number of clients and the number of sessions offered, and the story of issues being addressed, which he said vary widely.
"Whether it's depression and anxiety or you're going through some marital problems or successional intergenerational problems, addiction," said Godfrey.
"Whatever the issue these counselors are qualified to help you as best they can."
The service is offered in collaboration by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, Amalgamated Dairies Limited, Farm Credit Canada, P.E.I. Dairy Trust Fund, National Farmers Union and the government of Prince Edward Island.
Farmers can access the program by calling 902-626-9787.
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With files from Angela Walker