Tending to Farmers’ Mental Health

“I better understand now that tending to my own self and my own mental health is equally as important as tending to the fields.”

This farmer’s statement is a powerful testament to the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program (MFWP) shared in the Spring 2023 issue of CAA magazine.

After accessing the free, confidential, one-on-one counselling offered through the MFWP the farmer expressed, “A true highlight of the 2022 growing season for me was finding out about and using the counselling services provided by MFWP. Not only was it encouraging to hear that such a program exists, my sessions with Kim provided me with valuable perspective and insight towards how my own mental health is connected to the health of my farm.”

The unsolicited feedback was valuable confirmation for the MFWP board that they were providing a useful and needed service.

This impactful program was created by farmers for farmers to offer a safe, flexible way to get help. Why? They understand the many challenges that come with farming. They know how difficult it can be to know where to turn for help when stress on the farm begins to feel overwhelming.

A 2021 survey of farmer mental health found 76 per cent of farmers said they were currently experiencing moderate or high perceived stress. Suicide ideation was twice as high in farmers compared to the general population.

Research has found three main reasons to explain why many farmers do not seek the support they need: a lack of accessibility to mental health supports and services, mental health stigma in the agricultural community and a lack of anonymity.

The MFWP has addressed these three concerns. Improving mental health, increasing accessibility to support and decreasing stigma are their pillars to achieve the goal of safe, strong, healthy farm families.

Since March 1, 2022 they have offered free, one-on-one, short term counselling to farmers and their immediate family members. This year, the non-profit organization would like to raise funds to support 160 Manitoba farm families, and increase awareness about the program with industry, farmers and health care professionals.

Currently four counsellors, all with an understanding of agriculture, are available — during the day, evenings or on weekends to accommodate farmers’ unique schedules. It can be in person, by telephone or video chat depending on preference.

With spring arriving late in Manitoba this year, anxiety and stress are already starting to build in the ag community. Whether it be the stress of farming, or any other life circumstance impacting mental health and wellness, having the MFWP available to farmers and their families in our province is invaluable.

Appointments can be booked online here or by using this QR code.

If you would like to support this much-needed service, donations can be e-transferred to info@manitobafarmerwellness.ca or mailed to:

Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program, 7 Kingswood Crescent, La Salle, MB, R0A 0A1

Click here for more information or call 1-204-232-0574

If you, or some you know, are in crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911.

24/7 support can be found by calling:

Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services

Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line

Klinic Crisis Line

More support/crisis services can be found here.