Saskatchewan

'I felt my only worth to my family was in my life insurance policy:' Sask. farmer testifies to dark moments

Megz Reynolds is speaking out about the stress and anxiety she and other farmers face in their line of work. This week, Reynolds spoke to a House of Commons standing committee that's studying mental health amongst farmers.

Megz Reynolds spoke to a House of Commons committee on farming, mental health challenges

Megz Reynolds and Liam Gauthier hug their girls on their family grain farm near Kyle, Sask. Reynolds is speaking out about the stress, anxiety and depression farmers struggle with. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Megz Reynolds says it's been a grim few years for her family, watching drought and early snowstorms in turn obliterate their crops.

Reynolds runs LPG Farms near Kyle, Sask., about 250 kilometres northwest of Regina, with her husband. She has been outspoken about the stress and anxiety farmers face in their line of business.

"It's hard. You sit there and you watch your crop — which is the only way you have of paying bills — the quality downgrades the longer that it sits in the field when it's ready, and that's stressful," she told Garth Materie, host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.

Earlier this week, Reynolds gave an emotional speech in Ottawa before the House of Commons standing committee for agriculture.

She spoke about the pain of watching a 10-minute hailstorm obliterate hundreds of thousands of dollars, saying it was the first time in her life she felt like a complete failure as a farmer, wife and a parent.

"It was the first time, and sadly not the last, that I felt my only worth to my family was in my life insurance policy," she told the committee, which is studying the mental health challenges facing farmers.

This year, she and her husband joked in a moment of black humour about just needing to come out of the harvest with average yields and average prices.

"And we've been unable to come up with either of those," she said of the abrupt end to the joke.

While Reynolds said she wished she was the only producer to feel this kind of anxiety, she knows that burnout, stress and anxiety are real for many others.

Nearly half of farmers face high stress: study

A 2016 survey from the University of Guelph suggests almost half of farmers live with high stress, with 45 per cent saying they fell into that category. Another 35 per cent said they struggled with depression.

Reynolds said after their first tough farming year, she and her husband both kept their stress and fears to themselves. Neither wanted to put pressure on the other, she said.

That's been a huge help, whether with friends, or on social media, to connect to others who've been where I'm and have made it out to the other side.- Megz Reynolds

"We both kind of blamed ourselves for the situation we were in, trying to figure out how we were going to pay our farm bills, all that fun stuff," she said.

Talking with her husband more openly, and sharing her feelings with others, is part of what helps Reynolds cope.

"That's been a huge help, whether with friends, or on social media, to connect to others who've been where I'm and have made it out to the other side."

She wants people to recognize these mental health challenges, as well as recognize the burdens farmers face trying to run a farm, while also having to take up secondary jobs to pay the bills for their farms.

"I think there's something wrong with this picture and that image needs to change, because it's a business. It's my business."

In Saskatchewan, farmers or farm families who want to reach out for help can contact the Farm Stress Line at 1-800-667-4442.

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