Blake Ellis/ Local Journalism Initiative
“It is ok to not be ok.”
That from Joanne Fuller, coordinator of the Farmers Wellness Initiative, as she made a presentation at the Lambton Farm Safety Association annual general meeting.
Farming can be a difficult profession, leading to many mental health issues from burn out to depression to anxiety, said Fuller.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, along with the Canadian Mental Health Association, is offering the Farmers Wellness Initiative, which was launched in January 2022, but did not get fully underway until June.
The program offers all Ontario farmers and their families free 24 hour mental health support.
Fuller says when a person calls 1-866-267-2655, they go through an intake process and are matched with a counsellor.
Counselling is then offered over the phone, through virtual means or in person, said Fuller.
Anything you discuss does not have to be related to farming. You do not need to be an Ontario Federation of Agriculture member to use the service.
In a national survey of farmers conducted in 2016, it was found 35 percent meet the classification of depression, while 58 percent of respondents were experiencing high stress with 16 percent battling with chronic stress.
Forty percent were also uneasy with seeking professional help.
The pandemic has made those statistics worse, said Fuller, pointing to a 2021 survey where 76 percent of farmers were experiencing moderate of high levels of stress.
Suicide is two times more likely to happen, compared to the national average.
Since June, the number of farmers calling for help grows monthly. She said call volumes were rising in August, September and October, then levelled off in November and December. Now those numbers have continued to rise in January.
There are a lot of calls from people between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age, said Fuller. There is an even split between male and female callers.