The following piece is from our sister publication, the Alberta Seed Guide.
Over the next two years a researcher at the University of Alberta is working to identify the biggest stressors farmers are dealing with to help get them more mental health help, a Nov. 7 news release said.
Rebecca Purc-Stephenson, a psychology professor and research associate with the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities at the U of A’s Augustana Campus is conducting the research.
“We’d really like to shift the culture of farming to recognize that mental health is just as important as running the farm, and that it’s OK for farmers to talk about it and seek help when they need it. And we want service providers to know how to communicate with farmers and what their stressors are,” she said.
“While we won’t be able to eliminate the ongoing work stressors farmers face, we can help them build resilience so they feel more capable of coping.”
The research is being done in collaboration with the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) and supported by $524,500 in funding awarded to the group by Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
The study will explore needs, gaps and challenges in mental health service delivery that were identified by farmers and mental health workers in a white paper that Purc-Stephenson co-wrote for ARECA, the release said. Her research will also help build resources for AgKnow, a website created by ARECA through its Alberta Farm Mental Health Network that farmers and others in the agriculture industry can access for information and help with their mental health. She aims to collect and share the stories of farmers who have experienced stress, as well as establish a peer support program.
Purc-Stephenson’s research will explore some of the main worries farmers shared in the white paper, including the trauma of livestock epidemics, the release said. Farmers and veterinarians will be interviewed about their “lived experience of depopulation,” when partial or entire herds of food animals have to be destroyed due to contagious disease outbreaks, she said.
The research will also focus on another stress point: transitioning the business to the next generation, the release noted. One of the studies will also ask therapists who have worked with farmers to identify strategies that help make their clients comfortable about communicating.
Purc-Stephenson’s research also includes assessing the current quality and quantity of programs and services available to Alberta farmers and their communities, then rechecking it in five years to see whether their research-based mental health intervention is effective, the release said.
A post-doctoral fellow will help with all of the research, along with Augustana students, she added.