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Feds adopt ag industry mental health report

Feds adopt ag industry mental health report

By Jonathan Martin

The federal government has accepted a report outlining the “mental health challenges that Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers face.”

The draft report, which the standing committee on agriculture and agri-food started work on in April 2018, is titled Mental health: A priority for our farmers. It will be used to formulate a “comprehensive response” to what researchers describe as the “red zone” of anxiety in which a “disproportionately high” number of farmers are living.

The report will likely be presented once the House of Commons resumes the week of May 27, Ariane Gagné-Frégeau, Committee Clerk for House of Commons, told Farms.com.

Opposition has until May 16 to offer input on the report’s contents, she said.

Over the course of 17 meetings, the standing committee heard from 58 witnesses from multiple areas across the ag industry.

Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, Canada’s leading researcher into farmers’ mental health, presented some of her findings to the committee on Sept. 27, 2018.

“Forty-five per cent of our farmers scored in the high stress category,” she told the committee. “Fifty-eight per cent met the scale's definition for anxiety, and 35 per cent met the definition for depression. Burnout was also a concern in our farmers. Burnout is measured on three subscales: high emotional exhaustion, high cynicism and low professional efficacy. Finally, resilience is a state of being that promotes wellness and decreases the impacts of stress.

“Unfortunately, two-thirds of our farmers scored lower than the U.S. general population” on resilience.

Jones-Bitton, along with multiple other witnesses, presented recommendations to the committee based on the realities they’ve seen in their cross-sections of the industry and the research their organizations have done.

The standing committee will take the input from the witnesses, as well as committee members’ policy discussion papers and earlier research. The committee will make legislative recommendations to the House of Commons, partnered with any suggestions by the opposition.

Farms.com will provide updates as the story develops.

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