EDMONTON — Farm safety discussions should extend beyond safe grain handling and equipment risks to include mental health challenges in agriculture, said Russel Hurst of Crop Life Canada.
“We need open, empathetic, respectful conversations,” he said.
A featured presenter at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association annual meeting in Edmonton Oct. 2-5, Hurst said CASA is well positioned to do this as part of its role in fostering safe and healthy farm communities.
“We can get fixated on tractor rollovers and grain auger incidents,” he said.
“When it comes to farm safety, it isn’t always missing fingers or missing limbs, but it can be mental issues as well.”
He said the rigours of farm life in harvest pressures, uncontrollable weather, financial challenges and family dynamics all affect mental health.
“They may not have a missing finger that people can see,” said Hurst.
CASA chair Wendy Bennett said it’s not an area that the organization has formally addressed but may in the future.
“As more and more people get past the stigma, I think it becomes a real necessary topic of conversation,” she said.
Bennett suggested not identifying it as mental health issues but as farm stress to allow greater acceptance by older farmers, who are perhaps more reluctant to broach the topic.
That might permit an entry point into a gradual conversation, she said.
Other starting points could include accessing the appropriate people to facilitate those discussions and providing links to mental health resources that are already in place in communities.
“To let farmers know that they’re not alone if they’re dealing with depression or anxiety.”
Bennett said that much of it is related to job fatigue.
“They get overwhelmed by so much to be done and they have to do it.”