PEI

Farmers' mental-health program expanded to meet higher demand

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 almost tripled in recent years

Demand for the program from farmers is on the rise. (Brad Robertson/Facebook)

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.

Expanded access

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.

Counsellors with the service deal with a wide range of issues, says Robert Godfrey. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"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.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Angela Walker

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.