Farmers suffering mental health issues fail to seek help

Canadian farmers may stoically face crop failure, equipment breakdowns and disease but they are not immune to stress, depression, emotional exhaustion or burnout.

In a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 producers, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton discovered that 45 percent of those surveyed had high stress, 58 percent were classified with varying levels of anxiety and 35 percent suffered depression.

The University of Guelph re-searcher learned that significant numbers of farmers had high levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism, 38 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

“I have the utmost respect for farmers because they are savvy and have a strong work ethic,” says Jones-Bitton.

“I expected them to score off the chart when questioned about their ability to cope with adversity.”

The researcher says the culture of the industry may be the reason for mental health concerns.

“There’s a wide array of stress farmers face day in and day out and many are outside their control, such as weather and government policy changes. They also work in social isolation, which can be a factor.”

The survey’s findings come as no surprise to Elaine Froese, a mental health coach based in Boissevain, Man.

She says one in five Canadians struggle with mental health issues and farmers are not immune. In her practice, she assists producers to get the help they need.

“Sometimes farmers have depression-like symptoms but it might be something else,” Froese says. “One farmer had sleep apnea and a thyroid condition that was undiagnosed and that’s why he appeared depressed.”

Froese says that the nature of agriculture with large sums of money tied up in fixed assets and the attitude of handling everything alone creates stress.

“Farmers avoid conflict resolution,” she says.

That can lead to marital problems or generational difficulties if parents and children are farming together.

There was a sign of hope for Jones-Bitton when three-quarters of the respondents in the survey agreed professional mental health services can be helpful and almost as many said they would seek help.

“We’re going to find ways for them to receive it.”

The next phase of her research is to develop a mental health literacy program and a mental health emergency response program.

Manitoba is the only western province that continues to operate a rural help line.

Froese says that the culture of agriculture in small towns may also prevent farmers from seeking help because someone will see the truck parked at the doctor’s office. Families will keep their conflict internal so the neighbours don’t know there are problems.

“If you feel sad, get help,” says Froese. “Farmers will medicate sick animals, but they won’t get help for themselves. This needs to change. Mental health issues have always been with us and it’s good we are finally talking about it.”

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  • Elaine Froese

    Farm families need to reach out to get help for mental health issues. Don’t keep the stigma of depression alive, seek out resources to end your suffering in silence.
    Elaine Froese, Farm Family Coach

    • Harold

      A mental disorder; is when you ought to be depressed – but are showing signs that you are not. That is to say, that when oppressed, you are feeling expressed instead. Depressed is one of the many NORMAL human reactions to LIVING. Depression is in fact, a life sign indicating that the “antenna” to the brain IS connected. When oppression is real, depression is a normal response. It is rightful. Depression and silence, is a NATURAL occurrence when speaking to those with no ears, whose hands extended, are above yours. It is not a mental health issue. The oppression that a farmer faces today is very real.and stronger than in the past. Depression is a tool, that when used properly, is the root to action for eliminating the oppressors, which in opposition to, is the reason depression is heavily drugged and counseled – as a mental disorder.
      Boldly, Is it possible that the very institutions are the ones with a mental disorder? Have we felt depressed?

    • Harold

      In the “great depression”, who was suffering from a “mental disorder”,(depression) and what was the drug script to make it go away? Those who suffered “depression” were also at the hands of the oppressors. Depression was not a mental nor drug dependent disorder. Those who suffered in depression truly had their “antenna” connected to their brain, so much so, that they were able to recognize when changes had occurred.
      Today there are oppressors who farmers are powerless to go up against in this so called age of depression. (left out) The News clearly identify this fact.
      What is missing in Canada is a Canadian-union-of-unified-farmers force, where government and corporate are “persona non grata” on their boards; thus eliminating their social isolation. (called for in 1965 – the organized farmer, publication)
      Taking medication when you ought to be depressed due to oppression and lack of expression, is truly creating a mental disorder and the continuance to suffer in a drug induced silence. Farmers may choose not to find help because among all those entitled, they have proven that they are none. I cant say whether or not a Farmer is suffering from fiction and therefore needs counseling or Med’s, but maybe you can.

  • Kevin

    Sad that a mental health issue was seen as political by an extremist.
    Only first hand experience teaches clearly. Sad also that so few mental health proffessionals are qualified. A road walked mostly alone. More govt money thrown at the wall will not help.

    • Harold

      Its all about dummying up Canadians and encouraging their inaction.
      De-press-ion. DE- meaning NO + Press.
      How do you medicate or council – no press

      When pressed – and acting like one is not – could be considered a disorder if that action is causing them harm – against their personal knowledge. Otherwise it is acceptance to pressure.

      When a person is not pressed – but acting as they are – and causing themselves harm – then they are acting in the absence of truth.

      When a person is pressed – and acting as such – their actions are of the expected nature of oppression.

      The word Depression, is as the word Universe, as each word contains no identifiable object to be mindful of. No one suffers from depression. If a person is subject to oppressive taxes and there is no relief in sight, then one is pressed until relief. This pressure when used correctly, can be used as a tool for tax reform. If not used properly, Booze and street drugs can be as effective as Pharm drugs and counsellings.

      One may note that our leaders are never considered to be of those who are suffering from “mental disorders”. How do we explain our “Mess”. How do we explain the laws which have stripped all farmers of their ability to be totally self determining
      We lie to them and its a crime, and they lie to us and its politics. Which group will receive council in event of?

      This is written in defense of those who have earned the right to be [de] pressed.


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