farmer in field

Your Mental Health Matters 

 

“Ready for seeding yet?“

 

It’s a common question this time of year in any coffee shop, grain elevator, or implements dealer in farming communities throughout North America. 

Springtime on any farm is a busy hive of activity. There’s machinery to inspect, service, and repair. There are seeding plans to finalize, and orders of fuel and inputs to take care of. But as we prepare to start another active crop year, we’d encourage you to check in with yourself. Ask yourself the following question: 

 

“Is my mental health ready for seeding?”

 

On our farms, we are often thinking about the safety of ourselves, our families, and our employees. For those of us who grew up on family farms, exercising safety and caution around machinery, animals and specific buildings and structures become second nature. But what about one of the biggest threats to health and safety: our mental health? 

As farmers we tend to pride ourselves on being tough and resilient, always living to fight another day, seed another year, move through our challenges with a quiet stoicism and without complaint. However, our profession and lifestyle are facing what could be considered a mental health crisis; it’s something we want you to keep top of mind. 

 

According to a 2016 study from the University of Guelph

  • 35% of farmers meet the classification for depression;
  • 58% of farmers meet the classification for anxiety;
  • 45% of farmers report high stress;
  • 68% of farmers are more susceptible than the general population to chronic stress, which can lead to physical and mental illnesses.

While data isn’t readily available, some sources estimate that suicides among farmers are 30% higher than other occupations in Canada. 

 

The most vital tool in any farm operation

 

What if we took even a portion of the time and energy we invest into our equipment, facilities, and land and invested it into our mental health? We know that ignoring knocks and pings in our equipment isn’t going to serve us down the road, so as farmers we need to pay attention to the warning signs and our inner voices telling us to slow down as our wellbeing is the most important tool on the farm.

 

Here are some of the signs and signals that your mental health could at risk: 

  • Are you making careless mistakes
  • Do you resent your farm or family? 
  • Do you fantasize about quitting farming?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Are you unmotivated to work or work too much?
  • Do you find yourself excessively procrastinating about things that you know are important?
  • Have you lost your sense of humour or find yourself in a negative mindset?
  • Do you cope with drugs or alcohol to relax or reduce stress?

Source: Farm Credit Canada 

 

At Verge, we are encouraging everyone to be mindful about their mental health. Be the first to break the stigma of internalizing stress, worries, fears, and anxieties and instead encourage others to ask for help and talk about their struggles. 

It is a sign of strength; not weakness to open up to friends, family, a community member or a fellow neighbour about your challenges. It’s the first step in alleviating compounding emotions. You’ll be surprised to discover that others are going through similar experiences. When in doubt, talk to a professional. They can help you work through past traumas, current challenges and can provide you with the tools needed to manage stress in all areas of life. Finding balance paired with a sustainable lifestyle will improve your happiness, health and purpose in life.

 

Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA):

 

Your fellow team at CASA has teamed up with provincial partners from across Canada to share, communicate, and create COVID-19 resources to keep farms healthy and safe. Here are a few topics of discussion we recommend. 

 

  1. Making Transitions – Maintaining relationships when the family farm is transitioning to the next generation can create unique challenges
  2. Maintaining Healthy Relationships – “ Relationships provide us with identity, purpose and direction. In essence, relationships and therefore community is a life giving, life defining, life nurturing process.”
  3. Living With Stress – It is important to understand the components of stress. Stress is a normal reaction to situations that are perceived to be challenging
  4. Dealing With Conflict – Conflict is part of life. In all relationships, we experience conflict. Conflict can be positive if managed properly.
  5. Farm Stress Inventory – Farming has ongoing situations that cause stress. Common farm stressors are finances, daily hassles, and lack of control over the weather, heavy work overloads, and conflict in relationships.
  6. Farm Stress Management Plan – A management plan to reduce stress.

 

To learn more visit source CASA

 

We wish you a safe and successful #plant21 and remember that YOU can break the cycle. Start by taking a stress test provided by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

 

Additional Farm Mental Health Resources: 

Courtesy of the Canadian Mental Health Association

 

  • The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has compiled this Mental Health for Farmers – First Aid Kit. It includes information on self-care, crisis phone lines, distress centres, stress mitigation resources, and other mental health supports.

 

  • The Do More Agriculture Foundation (Do More Ag) is a not-for-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada. Its website has a detailed list of national resources including crisis lines, suicide prevention information, addiction supports, and training and education programs. Do More Ag’s blog also has helpful tips and other information on how to support your mental health and well-being

 

  • Farm Credit Canada’s Rooted in Strength campaign brings awareness to mental health in the agriculture industry with information on stigma, self-care, how to help a family member, ways to identify you may be dealing with a mental health concern, stories from real farmers who have lived experience and got help, and a list of provincial helplines.

 

  • 4-H Canada’s Healthy Living Initiative provides tools and resources to its 7,600 volunteer leaders to support the well-being of 24,000 4-H members. Its website includes a section with mental health resources, developed with the support of Kids Help Phone, which includes information on self-care, building a support system, accessing resources, supporting a loved one, and understanding bullying.