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Do More Ag brings mental health education to rural communities

Do More Ag brings mental health education to rural communities

Communities have until Oct. 30 to apply for Community Fund programming

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A Canadian ag industry group is preparing to bring mental health education to rural and remote communities across the country.

The Do More Agriculture Foundation is accepting applications for its Community Fund.

The fund helps bring mental health professionals with industry experience to these communities to deliver free mental health training and workshops.

“Our target audience is private, individual producers,” Adelle Stewart, executive director of Do More Ag, told Farms.com. “The intent is to normalize the conversation about mental health and improving the capacity to support each other as (producers) begin their journey through mental health education.”

The fund is in its third year.

In year one, Do More Ag brought training to 12 communities across Canada. That number grew to 24 communities in 2020 and the organization’s goal is to reach about 40 locations in 2021.

Over the first two years, more than 600 farmers in 36 locations received training.

Farm Credit Canada and other industry groups have provided funding over the years to help people in rural communities receive this training, Stewart said.

For the 2021 tour, communities can choose which training program attendees will receive.

The Mental Health First Aid course is a two-day, 12-hour course developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The program teaches attendees how to recognize the signs of mental health issues, how to provide help and how to guide someone towards professional help.

The course is delivered in person, in English or French, to a minimum of eight and maximum of 25 people.

The other training program is Talk, Ask, Listen.

This half-day in-person workshop or online webinar is more focused on mental health within the ag community.

It teaches attendees how to prepare and have conversations with fellow farmers about mental health, signs and symptoms of mental illness and self-care strategies.

A program dedicated to mental health within the ag sector is something farmers wanted, Stewart said.

“Based on producer feedback, we heard that two days is too long to be away from the farm and the mental health first aid course isn’t ag specific,” she said. “And a (Farm Management Canada) report from May said farmers are more likely to learn from mental health education that’s tailored to ag.”

Since Do More Ag started its Community Fund, there’s been a shift in the way the industry addresses mental health.

More individuals are willing to share their stories compared to years past, Stewart said.

“We’re starting to provide a platform of safety to chat about this issue and we’re seeing individual producers carry the conversation themselves, which is what we’re here to do,” she said. “Not everybody is ready to have that conversation, but we’ve definitely seen that more people are.”

Communities have until Oct. 30 to apply. Representatives from selected locations will be contacted shortly thereafter to begin the planning process.

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