Stress line offers 24-7 service

Service transfer | Improved commodity prices and farming conditions mean fewer calls

Calls to Saskatchewan’s farm stress line are now being answered by Mobile Crisis Services 24 hours a day seven days a week.

As of July 4, the service was transferred to the non-profit community based organization from the agriculture ministry.

Rick Bjorge, assistant director of regional services at the Agriculture Knowledge Centre, said the change means farmers and ranchers have access to support at all times.

Producers who previously called the line could ask to be connected to Mobile Crisis Services or leave a message for someone to call back.

Bjorge said the ministry took a look at what core services it should be providing.

“Mental health was something that could fit better with another organization,” he said.

Mobile Crisis Services has been providing intervention since 1974 and has a staff of mainly social workers trained to deal with a wide range of issues.

“They were chosen because they definitely have the expertise in mental health and counselling and had been providing after-hours service (to the line) since 2009,” Bjorge said.

Glenda Jenkins, executive director of Mobile Crisis Services, said calls often come from rural people who are experiencing stress, anxiety and financial concerns.

The worker answering the phone tries to understand the caller’s concern and then find out why the person is calling at that point and what might help.

She said if someone is in immediate danger or contemplating suicide, the RCMP are called because some callers over the years have been desperate.

“Sometimes they just need someone to talk to,” Jenkins said.

Mobile Crisis has a large database of therapists and counsellors from across the province for those who want to pursue long-term counselling. She said the agency will refer people to counsellors as close to home or as far away as they would like if they are uncomfortable with seeing someone local.

One week into the new arrangement, Jenkins added there hadn’t been enough calls to get a sense of what might be bothering farmers this summer. Over time, the agency will collect statistics to determine when the most calls come in, what the most common issues are and what interventions work best.

The farm stress line was implemented in 1992. Calls to the line have been declining recently. Last year there were about 330.

Bjorge said calls could be declining because of the rise in commodity prices and resulting optimism, fewer farmers or the fact that they are accessing other services.

Two ministry employees were given 60 days of notice that their jobs would be eliminated.

The government says the move will save it $100,000 per year. It is providing a $15,000 annual grant to Mobile Crisis Services for taking on the farm stress line.

The toll free number remains the same at 800-667-4442.

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