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Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program receives gov’t support

Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program receives gov’t support

The investment will allow the organization to expand its footprint, Gerry Friesen says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A Manitoba organization dedicated to providing mental health assistance to the province’s ag community received support from the provincial and federal governments.

At Ag Days in Brandon on Jan. 16, Premier Wab Kinew announced the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program (MFWP) would receive $450,000 over three years from Manitoba and Ottawa through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

It’s “important to have specialized mental health resources available specifically for producers and their families, and why we are proud to partner with the federal government on this key initiative,” the premier said, Pembina Valley Online reported.

Representatives with the MFWP appreciate the support.

This funding will allow the organization to expand its footprint in the community, said Gerry Friesen, the MFWP’s chief administrative officer and one of its founding members.

“On Jan. 1 of this year we expanded our programming to providing counselling sessions to farm employees,” he told Farms.com from Ag Days on Jan. 18. “Now we can look at bigger and better things because we know there’s a large ag community out there who require support.”

What exactly further programming looks like isn’t known yet because the funding announcement came on short notice.

But continuing to raise awareness about the organization’s existence is likely part of the equation, Friesen said.

“The big thing we have to continue to work on, on a day-to-day basis, is let people know who we are and what we do,” he said. “Even here at Ag Days I chat with people who have never heard of our program. We need every farmer, family and employees to know we’re here for them in Manitoba.”

MFWP launched in March 2022. It provides six no-cost counselling sessions with farm-focused counsellors.

Since it launched, the number of farmers using it to access support has increased each year.

This indicates a willingness to speak about mental health that perhaps didn’t exist before, Friesen said.

“I really think the stigma around mental health in agriculture is lessening, and more people within ag are open to the idea of talking about this subject,” he said. “That’s awesome because talking about mental health is the first step to getting support. I started talking about my mental health journey about 13 years ago and I’m still on this journey.”

If anyone needs immediate mental health support, they can dial 9-8-8, Canada’s new national mental health hotline.

Farms.com has also put together a list of available mental health and suicide prevention resources.


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