Group urges farmers to reach out, after two suicides
'I think in farming, that's been one of the things — you've tended to hide it, cover it up'
The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture is urging its members to take advantage of a program to help farmers and farm families with the stresses of their work.
"We've had two suicides this spring in the farming community that I'm aware of. Very sad cases," federation executive director Robert Godfrey told Island Morning's Mitch Cormier.
The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture has increased funding for its program providing counselling to farmers and their families by more than 50 per cent. The funding — provided by the province, Farm Credit Canada and the federation itself — has been increased from $13,000 to $20,000.
Earlier this year, the federation said it needed more money for the program or it might have to start charging fees.
The Farmer Assistance Program offers sessions with a social worker or psychologist to deal with issues such as stress, anxiety or family conflicts.
'Something there for people to call'
Federation president David Mol knew both farmers who died and had spoken to one of them in person less than a week before he died.
"I was in his barn and we had a great conversation," Mol said. He worries sometimes farmers just won't talk about it. "You've tended to hide it, cover it up. And too often cover-up means it's kept too late."
"In the farming community we're doing our part as much as we can to at least have something there for people to call, to access, and for people to talk to," Godfrey said.
Service is free
"I think if you look at how the stresses have evolved in life generally and particularly agriculture, it's timely because there used to be a bit of insulation in a farming community ... there was a level of support that I'm not so sure is out there anymore," Mol said.
On the other hand, he added, the farm community is aware of stresses and many gatherings or conferences now include discussions on the subject.
More than 80 people called the Farmer Assistance Program last year, Godfrey said.
"If you're looking for someone to talk to, this service is free," and confidential, he urged.
The number is (902) 626-9787.
Anyone needing emotional support, crisis intervention or help with problem solving in P.E.I. can contact The Island Helpline at 1-800-218-2885, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For more information about mental-health services on P.E.I., find resources from Health PEI here, or from the Canadian Mental Health Association P.E.I. Division here.
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With files from Island Morning