New ag group focuses on mental health

Soon after Kim Keller found out that a farmer had died by suicide, she took to social media to call on the agriculture community to do more for mental health.

The response from others who shared their personal struggles was huge, she said, and discussions on the topic have only grown since.

“The entire industry was invested in wanting to talk about it,” said Keller, a farmer near Gronlid, Sask. “So we decided we wanted this to be a focus for many, many years to come. We realized there needed to be a single organization that drove the conversation, so we decided to do it.”

She partnered with Lesley Kelly and Hinanshu Singh to create the Do More Agriculture Foundation, which they launched at FarmTech in Edmonton Jan. 30.

Keller said the initiative aims to make people aware of mental health issues on the farm. By doing that, they hope to break the stigma so more people feel comfortable talking about it.

They are sharing their own stories at conferences or on social media as a way to let others know that it’s OK to have feelings of anxiety, stress, depression or loneliness.

Kelly said she was depressed after giving birth to her second child, and that her husband, Mathieu, also experienced anxiety and feelings of isolation following that.

“My husband and I both have shared our mental health journeys and it’s who we are and it’s made us stronger and closer together,” Kelly said. “We want to normalize this conversation because it’s our every day and we wanted to showcase that we are a regular couple that has its peaks and valleys. No one is alone in this.”

Singh said it seems like more people in the industry have become open to talking about their mental health.

“Looking at what it used to be like, I think there has been a big difference,” he said. “Mental health was something that people felt uncomfortable talking about, but now I think we’re seeing more and more wanting to come forward, even those in the older generation who might portray that they are tough.”

Keller said she hopes by spreading awareness, and by encouraging farmers to talk about it or offer help, that there will be a reduction in suicides.

“Improvement in those numbers would be fantastic,” she said.

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