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Mental Health in Agriculture: It Starts With Me

The Do More Agriculture Foundation champions mental health care across Canada.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

– Socrates

There is nothing quite like the pain of witnessing someone that you love suffer and the feeling of powerlessness in making the mental anguish of another disappear. But here’s a little secret. No one always has it together. Every life is laced with adversity, sadness and grief. The belief that we need to manage on our own is changing, bringing us back together. There is great courage in sharing our stories.

The Do More Agriculture Foundation is a group of passionate community members that recognize the cause for mental health care, resources, services, and education, across Canada. We are a not-for-profit organization looking to reinvent the narrative surrounding mental health in agriculture to one where all producers are encouraged, empowered and supported to care for their mental well-being. The World Health Organization defines well-being as a state in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. 

In 2017, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton conducted research through the University of Guelph. The National Survey of Farmer Mental Health involved 1100 producers from across Canada to gather a better understanding of the culture of mental health in our industry. One of the striking findings was that 40 per cent of producers across Canada reported that they would feel uneasy about seeking professional help due to what people may think. 

In 2018, there were a number of suicides in our industry that rocked our communities to their bones. We cannot continue on this trajectory, we need to do more. Everyone has a story about how mental health has impacted them. We believe that the time has come for our stories to knit us tighter together, rather than push us further apart. 

In November 2018, Do More Ag launched its first national awareness campaign called “It Starts With Me.” The way that we change the conversations surrounding mental health is by participating in, and reflecting on, the conversations we are having in our own lives. “We each can have a positive impact and create change by making small adjustments to our internal and external language. We often don’t think about how the language we use can impact mental health,” explains Do More Agriculture Foundation co-founder Kim Keller. “This campaign aims to inspire reflection and encourage people to participate in their own way.”

We believe that the next steps include building capacity within our industry. The way that we can do this is equipping community members with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Through the support of Farm Credit Canada and Bridges Health, we created the Community Fund and have coordinated 12 Mental Health First Aid trainings across the country to equip community members with the skills to support someone who is developing or dealing with a mental health crisis. There were 115 communities that applied to receive funding for MHFA through the Community Fund and our hope is that we can continue to make these trainings available across the country. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, you are not alone, and there is support available. Reach out, start a conversation, and be kind. It starts with me. 

For more information about Do More Ag and to find a list of available resources, please visit our website at www.domore.ag. 

By Devyn Brook

Devyn Brook
(Colin Corneau photo)

Editor’s Note: Devyn Brook is a staff writer for Issues Ink and the community manager with the Do More Agriculture Foundation. She is also a student at the University of Winnipeg studying behavioural neuroscience. Devyn believes suicide prevention and mental health promotion are some of the most important social justice issues of our time. Her passion lives in engaging with the complexity of these conversations, to cultivate a deepened sense of courage and resiliency in our lives and our relationships. 

 

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