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Alberta researcher studying mental health in ag

Alberta researcher studying mental health in ag

Rebecca Purc-Stephenson wants to identify stressors farmers are facing

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A professor at the University of Alberta (U of A) is starting to study mental health in the province’s ag community.

Rebecca Purc-Stephenson, a psychology professor and research associate with the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, will spend the next two years identifying the stressors Alberta farmers are facing.

Farming “is one of the most stressful occupations there is,” she said in a U of A release.

In addition to learning what the stressors are, Purc-Stephenson wants to make more mental health resources available to farmers, families and veterinarians.

Members of Alberta’s ag community identified challenges in mental health service delivery, which Purc-Stephenson highlighted in a white paper she completed for the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA).

ARECA, along with the provincial government through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, is supporting the mental health research.

Purc-Stephenson also wants to help change the conversation about mental health in agriculture.

Farmers are allowed to ask for help if they need it, she said.

“We’d really like to shift the culture of farming to recognize that mental health is just as important as running the farm, and that it’s OK for farmers to talk about it and seek help when they need it,” she said.

Available research indicates farmers are under a significant amount of stress.

June 2022 findings from Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton in the University of Guelph’s department of population medicine show one in four Canadian farmers felt their life was not worth living or thought about taking their own life within the last 12 months.

These results follow a survey of 1,200 farmers completed between February and May 2021.

And 76 per cent of the surveyed producers were classified as experiencing moderate or high perceived stress. has compiled a list of mental health and suicide prevention resources for farmers and the ag community. has contacted Purc-Stephenson for comment on her upcoming research.

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