The overall sustainability and health of agricultural sector is dependent on our producers and their mental wellness. As many challenges faced within the sector cannot be controlled or eliminated, stress, anxiety, social isolation and burnout can be inevitable.According to a national study conducted by the University of Guelph, 45 per cent of producers have high stress and 58 per cent of producers met the requirements for anxiety.
At BFO, we want to help start the conversation surrounding mental health because our producers’ well-being is important to us. We want you to know you are not alone and there are accessible resources available to help you or someone you might know who is struggling.
If you or someone you know is in urgent distress, please dial 9-1-1 or visit your local emergency department.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture's (OFA) Farmer Wellness Initiative
Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in English and French, farmers can call 1-866-267-6255 to speak to a counsellor and access up to four (4) free counselling sessions with a mental health professional. Developed and launched by the Canadian Mental Health Association - Ontario Division in partnership with the OFA, this service is available to all farmers across Ontario, including members of their family, and is provided by LifeWorks.
The program is a comprehensive, fully integrated mental health support package that includes:
- 24/7/365 Service intake handled by a designated and fully trained team who understand day in the life of a farmer, available in English & French, creating a true partnership and unique care model.
- Access to ongoing mental health support services and resources, available up to 4 sessions per issue per year, for all farming families across Ontario through multiple modalities; the telephone line will soon be followed by a website and an app containing thousands of self-guided support resources.
- Integration with provincial and local level resources to provide members with the best level of support available to them, at the first request.
The support line will enter callers into an intake process to arrange counselling sessions with a mental health professional available by phone, virtually, or in-person subject to public health restrictions. All information received through counselling sessions is confidential and in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004).
Watch for more tools and resources launching soon as part of the Farmer Wellness Initiative.
A mental health literacy program for farmers and the agricultural community
In the Know is a mental health literacy program developed at the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) created specifically to educate the agricultural community. With support from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, several CMHA branches in rural and agricultural communities offer this training.
The free, four-hour mental health literacy workshop is designed to fit with farmers/producers limited availability owing to rigid daily schedules, distilling critical information and incorporating agricultural community culture. The workshop was developed in collaboration with stakeholder groups, including various agricultural sectors, mental health literacy trainers, government and representatives from social work, psychology, epidemiology, and education.
In the Know is meant for farmers, producers and persons with whom they have regular contact. This may include, but is not limited to, family members, peers and allies in the agricultural industry such as veterinarians, breeders, seed or feed salespeople, financial institutions, accountants or community members who have direct contact with farm owners/operators.
Interested in taking In the Know?
BFO is pleased to offer two (2) In the Know mental health literacy workshops in March 2022. These workshops will both be held virtually, with hopes that we will be able to help facilitate some in-person workshops later in the year. The beauty of virtual this time around though is that your location doesn’t matter! The workshops are open to beef farmers, their families and anyone supporting beef farmers across Ontario.
Each virtual workshop has a limit of 20 participants so be sure to reserve your spot early!
Workshop #1: Wednesday, March 16, 2022 – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (with a lunch break!)
- Click HERE to Register for March 16th
Workshop #2: Monday, March 28, 2022 – 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. (there will be a break!)
- Click HERE to register for March 28th
Check out the Do More Ag/FCC Video.
Mental health is a very complex and dynamic topic. Your optimal mental health is located on a spectrum between mental wellness and mental illness. However, many aspects of your life can affect where you sit on the spectrum. Public Health Ontario has created the resource below to help Ontarians understand how critically important mental health is.
Understanding personal mental health can be quite difficult, making it challenging to fully know which supports might be the best fit for you. To assist with this, the Canadian Mental Health Association has created two tools: the Mental Health Meter and the Stress Index. In addition, the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario has developed “Check Up from the Neck Up,” a tool designed to help you identify and understand the significance of the mental health symptoms you are experiencing.
Farming poses its own set of significant stressors which may vary from operation to operation. The Canadian Agriculture Safety Association (CASA) has developed a tool, unique to producers, to help inventory the number, type and severity of on-farm stressors.
In response to your Farm Stress Inventory score, you can complete the Farm Stress Management Plan also created by CASA. This plan will help you to identify the barriers to overcoming your stressors, possible stress relief strategies, applicable resources and supports, as well as the events that may lead up to a stressor.
In addition to the Stress Management Plan, the Agricultural Health and Safety Network has created Daily Chore: Handling Stress on the Farm. By using this comprehensive tool, you will learn about the physiological, emotional and behavioural symptoms associated with stress; the farm-related stressors; and the coping methods to aid in reducing stress.
After assembling your stress management plan, its best to talk to someone. Having a conversation with a family member, friend or health professional will help lift some of that weight off of your shoulders. It is okay to express how you are feeling and discuss how it impacts your daily activities. If you would like to talk to someone about finding mental health supports and programs in your community, please call ConnexOntario, a free 24/7 confidential service.
Visit the ConnexOntario website or download the ConnexGo app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
We understand it can be extremely difficult to ask for help. If you need a safe and judgement free space to talk, please call Crisis Services Canada. Not only are Crisis responders there to listen, but they are trained to keep you safe and supported. Crisis responders are available 24/7, 365 days per year to support those experiencing suicidal thoughts, the loss of a loved one, or concerns for a family member or friend with suicidal thoughts. Connecting with someone during thoughts of suicide can be life-saving.
If you would like to have a supported and confidential face-to-face conversation, please visit your nearest Distress Centre. Distress Centres are located across Ontario, offering a safe space for open conversations about your mental health. Distress Centres also provide support services for youth, suicide survivor programs, telephone check-in calls and mental health crisis lines. To navigate the Distress Centre nearest to you, please click HERE.
Mental health comes in all shapes and sizes, affecting everyone differently. However, when urgent distress arises, its best to be prepared. Through the Do More Agriculture Foundation and Farm Credit Canada, communities can offer a Mental Health First Aid certification course at no cost. The two-day course will equip the audience with tools necessary to support an individual during a time of urgent distress or a worsening mental health concern.
The entire agricultural sector shares the concern of making producer mental health and well-being a priority. Please see the links below to refer to resources and supports offered by other agricultural organizations and associations.
Your health and well-being can fluctuate from time to time, but it is important to always make sure it is a priority. If you want to continue your learning about mental health, please visit the links below.
Building and maintaining a social support network, and having access to variety of resources can ultimately change the outcome of a mental health crisis. Even when a crisis is not apparent, no one should have to suffer in silence. Below is a list of resources offering peer-to-peer support and self-guided tools to help improve your overall mental wellness.
Other Helpful COVID-19 Resources:
The information provided above is general and should not be a substitute for professional advice. Concerns about mental illness should be discussed with a medical doctor or mental health professional. BFO has compiled the resources listed above from various sources. BFO does not own the rights to any of the resources listed above.