Governments Protecting the Mental Health of Ontario Farmers

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Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The governments of Canada and Ontario are protecting the mental health of farmers and their families by investing more than $7 million dollars through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to launch two, new multi-year mental health initiatives that are specialized to support those in the agriculture sector.

The Guardians Network and a new program modelled after the successful Farmer Wellness Program pioneered by mental health specialist Deborah Vanberkel, will help protect Ontario’s progress in the fight against COVID-19 by providing farm families across the province with free counselling services as well as help connect at-risk farmers with tailored support and resources. These initiatives are expected to launch early next year and will be developed in consultation with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and other mental health sector experts.

As part of the Government of Ontario’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to build a modern, connected mental health and addictions system that serves all Ontarians, the two new initiatives will improve the agriculture sector’s access to supports that better meet their needs.

These programs are the direct result of numerous roundtable discussions, and other engagements with farmers about their mental health concerns. The design seeks to further enhance numerous other government-led mental health enhancement actions, such as an expansion of the In the Know program.

Quotes

“The farming community has demonstrated great strength and resilience throughout the pandemic, but mental health challenges often go unseen. If you are struggling, the first step is to reach out, because you are not alone in facing these challenges. These new agricultural mental health programs expand resource availability to help Ontario farmers and employees if they’re struggling with their mental health.”

– The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“I very much understand and appreciate how stressful running a farm can be, working 365 days a year and dealing with unpredictable weather, commodity prices and increasing costs of production. Add in the pandemic, and these pressures are having a real effect on the mental health of farmers and their families. That’s why our government is providing the necessary funding for these programs, and is committed to doing everything we can to help address these challenges and support mental health in our farming communities.”

– The Honourable Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

“For the past 20 months, Ontario’s farming community have been forced to adapt to the many challenges and incredible pressures brought on by the pandemic, leading to significant impacts on mental health. This investment will ensure our farmers and their families have faster, easier access to the highest quality mental health and addictions supports that meet their unique needs, when and where they need them.”

– The Honourable Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

“We’re very pleased to further our partnership with OMAFRA through delivery of additional, much-needed mental health supports for farmers and their families. Building on the delivery of our farm mental health literacy program In the Know, the expansion of this important wellness program and introduction of a suicide prevention network will protect and enhance the mental well-being of farmers and the farm community.”

– Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario

“The mental wellness of Ontario farmer’s is one of our biggest priorities, so we are thrilled to partner with CMHA Ontario to raise awareness about the Farmer Wellness Program and The Guardians Network. These targeted initiatives will be invaluable to farmers and throughout the agriculture sector.”

– Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Quick facts

  • The Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments that supports Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. This includes a $2 billion commitment that is cost-shared 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially/territorially for programs that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories.
  • On August 12, 2021, Minister Thompson also announced $430,000 in funding for surveys and research to help ensure mental health supports for rural and agricultural communities are able to meet their unique needs.
  • On September 27, 2021, Minister Thompson also announced $385,000 to expand the In the Know mental health literacy program to help reduce some of the stigma around mental health, encourage more open discussion, and help connect the farm community with the resources and support they need.
  • Ontario farmers can also access the government’s Mental Health for Farmers – First Aid Kit online.