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Alberta NDP wants mental health supports for farmers

Alberta NDP wants mental health supports for farmers

Alberta needs its own 24/7 mental health hotline, the party’s ag critic says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Alberta’s official opposition is calling on the provincial government to help provide mental health resources for the province’s farmers.

The province’s ag sector needs its own 24/7 mental health phone line, and the provincial government needs to help facilitate its creation, NDP Agriculture Critic Heather Sweet says.

Saskatchewan, for example, has the Farm Stress Line and Manitoba farmers can access Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services.

Alberta does have a free mental health help line available, but agriculture’s unique challenges warrant its own line staffed with people who understand the industry.

“Dealing with drought is a different conversation than if you’re talking about something different,” Sweet said while visiting a Lethbridge County farm on Aug. 12, Global News reported. “We want to make sure farmers and ranchers have access to a mental health specialist that understands farming and ranching.”

Sweet’s demand for the government to act is an extension of one from the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).

In 2019, the organization passed a resolution to lobby the provincial government to create the mental health hotline.

In January 2020, the RMA said the government’s response was “unsatisfactory” because lawmakers hadn’t provided ag-specific mental health resources.

The Alberta government understands the issues farmers are facing this year.

“There is no question that the agriculture business is unpredictable and can be a stressful way of life,” Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry, told in an emailed statement. “Financial pressure, the COVID-19 pandemic and dry conditions this growing season have only increased the pressures on farm families.

“Many Alberta farmers and ranchers are facing hardships this year, and Alberta’s government has stepped up with programs, resources and supports to help them bear this burden.”

In addition, the Alberta government has taken other steps to support farmers including providing immediate payments of $94 per head to help cover feed and water access costs, doubling the low yield threshold to encourage grain farmers to divert cereal or pulse crops to be salvaged for livestock feed and reducing crop insurance premiums by 20 per cent.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, has compiled lists of resources available in Alberta and across Canada.

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