P.E.I.'s Farmer Assistance Program helpline keeps getting busier
‘Sometimes your truck needs a tuneup, maybe sometimes you yourself do’
P.E.I.'s Farmer Assistance Program has seen an increased number of calls in each of the last three years from people in agriculture seeking mental health aid.
And that's probably a good thing, says Robert Godfrey, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, one of the funders of the program.
"The stigma, in terms of seeking help, is starting to erode, which I think is a positive sign," said Godfrey.
"Just like sometimes your truck needs a tuneup, maybe sometimes you yourself do. It's there, it's important and we're really glad to see people are using it."
The service has been around since 2004, but funding for it has more than tripled in the last few years, to $40,000. The program is a free service offering short-term counselling, up to six sessions, for members of the federation and the National Farmers Union, as well as their families and employees.
As it has been for many, said Godfrey, 2020 has been a particularly stressful year on farms.
The pandemic came just as farmers were thinking about planting. It created a rush on fresh potatoes, a crash in the processed potato market and concerns about whether there would be any help available from temporary foreign workers.
That has probably also partly accounted for the increase in calls this year.
Farmers can contact the Farmer Assistance program by calling (902) 626-9787 or toll-free 1-800-736-8006.
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.
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With files from CBC Compass