Mental health issues continue to be a struggle in agriculture

Madyson Dempsey would like to see more education made available about the mental health issues facing farmers. | Supplied photo

Mental health is an important issue for the agricultural community. As someone who struggles with my own mental health, I know it is a big problem that affects people in many ways.

When you think of farming and agriculture, the words wheat, farmers, animals and food come to mind. People do not think about the stress, hard work or the impacts that farming has on mental health.

Farmers, and those working in the agricultural industry, are considered a vulnerable group when it comes to mental health. Long hours, working in isolation, unpredictable weather that affects the quality of the crop, animal disease and trade concerns are only some of the issues that can impact the mental stability of farmers and their families.

In Canada, rates of stress, poor mental health and suicide are much higher among people who work in the agriculture industry as compared to the general population.

About 35 percent of farmers meet the classification for depression, 58 percent of farmers meet the classification for anxiety, 45 percent of farmers report high stress and 68 percent of farmers are more susceptible than the general population to chronic stress.

The many constant demands, pressures, and time constraints that come with this line of work often make farmers and producers put their work ahead of their well-being. It is estimated that Canada’s farm community sees 20 to 30 percent more suicides compared to other sectors.

As more research is conducted in the area of farmers and mental health, it has become apparent that there is a lack of resources available to farmers regarding how to take care of their mental health and mental well-being. Not only is there a lack of resources available, farmers face a sort of shame of having poor mental health within their own community.

It has also become abundantly clear during the past few years that farmers need resources, support and education to help take care of their mental health. Unfortunately, those three critical resources are currently limited for Canadian farmers.

There is some great work being done by a reputable and rural organization called Do More Ag. It is a not-for-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada.

All funds go toward educating the agriculture industry on mental health, breaking the stigma that exists, creating a community of belonging, support, and resources, as well as ensuring research in this field can continue.

Do More Ag, as well as the Farm Aid Hotline (800-327-6243 or farmhelp@farmaid.org) and the Farm Stress Line (800-667-4442) are great resources for help.

My wish for the future is that the rates of stress, bad mental health and suicide go down. I wish that more education becomes available and that help reaches the people who need it. I hope to see the shame of having mental issues fade because farmers are only human, and sometimes the stress of working hard with many things out of their control isn’t easy.

Keeping good mental health and stable well-being is so important. I know that farming is a guessing game, which makes it hard to keep your head high, but it is always OK to talk to people you trust or get help. In the future, I hope to see the farming community become a more accepting and healthier industry.

Madyson Dempsey is a Grade 11 student from Milden, Sask. She wrote this paper as part of her participation in the Sun West Distance Learning Centre’s Agriculture and Sustainable Food Production 20 course. It has been edited for length.

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