Ottawa/ Fraser Valley (with files from CP, CJME) – We all deal with day to day issues that drive us nuts. Our job is bugging us, our boss doesn’t understand, our pay is low and not keeping up with the cost of living.
Farmers seems to be forgotten in many of these equations. These are the people who till the land and basically, feed us. They feed the world.
This past Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food tabled a report on the mental health challenges faced by Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers. This is the Committee’s 16th report.
The report, Mental Health: A Priority for Our Farmers, includes 10 recommendations to better prevent the onset of mental health problems in Canadian farmers and better support those who face these challenges. This report was adopted unanimously, and some Committee members also presented a supplementary opinion to this study.
While the Prairie Provinces have farm stress phone lines set up, when you look through the Province of BC mental help lines, there are resources for suicide prevention for youth and adults, but nothing earmarked for farmers and ranchers in BC. Use of the Prairie Farm Stress Line has doubled since 2017.
(Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia. Call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-Suicide) or visit http://crisiscentre.bc.ca.)
FVN asked Fantasy Farms Owner Gary Moran if he knew of a Farmer’s Crisis Line in BC: “Not that I am aware of but I do remember reading about this some time ago and crazy enough, I was out working in the field planting pumpkins and this is always a time of year when money is tight.”
“The thought came to me about the plight of farmers where the crop you are planting now could make or break some farms and not to beat the drum to death were I say thank goodness for the Ag Tourism we do have and all the more reason to fight to keep what we have or had and then push to expand it.”
Unpredictable weather and environmental conditions, market fluctuations, debt and changing regulations are just some of the many uncertainties that put a lot of stress on farmers. Many feel isolated, work long hours and sometimes experience stigma, especially on social media, which intensifies their existing stress level.
Pat Finnigan, Chair of the Committee, said that “the hearings gave the Committee further insight into the various initiatives to support producers who face mental health challenges in Canada. The current initiatives, however, do not meet the mental health needs of farmers. Access to mental health care remains limited in rural areas, health professionals do not have a proper understanding of the unique challenges of farming, and current efforts to help farmers are not coordinated across the country.”
The Committee recommends that the federal government coordinate, at the national level, current initiatives and various research and prevention efforts focused on the mental health of farmers. The Committee also recommends providing more resources to address the root causes of mental health issues by promoting public awareness about the value of farming and giving the sector adequate economic support.