The first AgCulture session takes place Sept. 29
By Diego Flammini
An industry organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada is launching its own mental health literacy program.
The Do More Agriculture Foundation’s AgCulture program is designed for registered social workers, psychologists, mental health nurses and equivalent practitioners with at least five years of experience.
The first virtual session is scheduled for Sept. 29.
The program is geared at teaching these professionals about agriculture and the challenges farmers face to help them deliver better support to the ag community.
“We’re looking to build a therapeutic relationship and bridge the gap between a mental health professional who hasn’t had any experience on a farm and producers,” Adelle Stewart, executive director of Do More Ag, told Farms.com. “We know that farmers and ranchers are about 40 per cent more likely reach out for support when the person they’re talking to understands the unique stressors of agriculture.”
Someone who understands the challenges farmers face will facilitate the program.
Lauren Van Ewyk, a social worker and sheep farmer from Courtight, Ont. is delivering the course content.
She’s heard from clients about past experiences seeking out support with negative results.
“I had one client tell me he went to see someone because he had lost the family farm,” she told Farms.com. “And his therapist’s response was to say it isn’t that bad and to save up more money to buy another farm. Or you can’t just tell a farmer to take a vacation. These are some of the many experiences that speak to the need for this kind of program.”
Another challenge related to mental health in farming and rural communities is accessibility.
Not enough professionals work in these communities, Van Ewyk said.
“The number of counsellors operating in these areas related to the population isn’t what we’d see in urban areas,” she said. “Almost 70 per cent of farmers across Canada fit the classification for anxiety but aren’t able to access the necessary supports.”
The AgCulture program will feature basic and more complex ag topics.
This will help provide course attendees with a good foundation of challenges associated with ag, Van Ewyk said.
“We’re introducing the concepts about what stressors farmers are facing,” she said. “We’ll talk about things as basic as the difference between a hectare and an acre. From there we have to make sure the suggestions and strategies we use are meeting expectations but are also geared towards farmers.”