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Ag mental health program celebrates first anniversary

Ag mental health program celebrates first anniversary

The Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program launched March 1, 2022

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A mental health resource for Manitoba’s ag community reached an important milestone earlier in the month.

The Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program (MFWP) celebrated its first anniversary on March 1.

“It’s been a really interesting year,” Gerry Friesen, a founding member of the MFWP and certified counsellor and mediator, told Farms.com. “Our initial focus was on raising funds and that came together relatively quickly. Then we recognized we had to pivot and work on building awareness.”

Manitoba farmers may have seen MFWP representatives at various farm shows throughout the province like CropConnect and Manitoba Ag Days, Friesen said.

And that awareness work will continue in year two.

In addition, the organization has set a target for how many farm families it wants to help in 2023.

The MFWP wants to raise enough money to support 160 farm families.

The 2021 Census of Agriculture counted 19,465 farm operators. Reaching each one is the ultimate goal, he said.

“I’d love to reach every single Manitoba farmer and make them aware of who we are and what we do,” Friesen said. “If they know we exist, then they have the opportunity to participate.”

The service provides farmers and their families with six free, one on one counselling sessions with a registered counsellor with a background in agriculture. Each session is one hour.

And farmers have been reaching out.

At the beginning of 2022, farmers started to call and engage with mental health professionals. A dip in how many farmers called occurred during the summer months, but it started to pick up again in the fall, Friesen said.

“Since January of this year the number of people we’ve talked to has jumped considerably,” he said.

The MFWP is one of multiple mental health services available to the ag community across the country.

The Do More Ag Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Agricultural Wellbeing are examples of others.

The number of mental health resources coming online for the ag community proves that farmers and ranchers want this kind of support. And it’s an area where the mental health organizations can root for one another, Friesen said.

“When you see all the support farmers now have, it solidifies the idea for me that this is well needed,” he said. “Last week the federal agriculture minister (Bibeau) made an announcement for funding (almost $170,000) for the Canadian Centre for Agricultural Wellbeing. And while that money didn’t go to us, we can celebrate the fact a federal minister made announcement like that because it shows mental health in the ag community is important.”

Manitoba farmers looking for support can contact the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program through its website.

Farms.com has also compiled a list of mental health resources for members of the ag community.


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