MPs study mental health services for farmers

An advocate for better mental health support for farmers says the House of Commons agriculture committee’s decision to study the issue is a good step forward.

Kim Keller, a Saskatchewan farmer who co-founded DoMoreAg, said she hopes the committee work will complement research that has already been done, such as that at Ontario’s University of Guelph.

“I just hope they keep the producer in mind,” she said.

Keller and others have been at the fore of a movement over the last couple years to draw farmers’ mental health challenges out of the shadows.

The agriculture committee decided at a recent meeting to tackle the subject after it completes its current work on how to support exports.

The motion from Liberal member Pierre Breton said the committee will meet with producers to understand the issues they face and best practices that could be shared, review current supports and identify gaps.

Keller said there is a lot to uncover.

“Initially, what I’m hoping for is a base line of what’s available and also what are the things producers are looking for and how they want to receive support,” she said.

She said she hoped DoMoreAg would be invited to present to the committee because it has widespread industry and producer support.

Stewart Skinner, an Ontario hog farmer who speaks and writes about his own mental health experiences, said he believes community plays a big role, particularly when it comes to delivering front-line care.

“Eastern Canadian farmers are lucky that we are only an hour away from a service,” he said. “Couldn’t imagine what it would be like in a more isolated situation out West.”

Skinner said people have to know how and when to intervene and then help others get professional help. Developing that capacity at the local and individual level will be critical.

The committee is expected to begin its study after May 23. A report to the House of Commons, including recommendations, will follow.

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