Do More Ag is ready to support however it can
By Diego Flammini
A three-digit mental health hotline is expected to launch this fall.
Beginning Nov. 30, Canadians needing mental health assistance can dial 9-8-8 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and connect with a trained responder who can provide support in English and French.
“It’s huge for Canadians to have a number that’s easy to remember,” Megz Reynolds, executive director of the Do More Ag Foundation, told Farms.com. “Not only for people who need help, but also for people who recognize someone is struggling.”
For context, to reach the Canadian Mental Health Association’s national hotline now, someone must dial 1-833-456-4566, or 1-866-277-3553 in Quebec.
Some farmers may not seek mental health support because responders may not be familiar with the unique challenges in ag.
Farm Management Canada’s Healthy Minds Healthy Farms report, for example, found “farmers are more likely to participate in support programs offered by providers familiar with agriculture and that cater to the unique needs of farmers.”
That’s where Do More Ag comes in.
The organization has been engaged with the parties involved in getting 9-8-8 off the ground, Reynolds said.
“I’ve had conversations with people doing the research gathering about the specifics of agriculture,” she said. “And we’ve opened the invite to the people who will be working the phones to participate in our AgCulture course free of charge.”
The course helps educate mental health professionals who may not have extensive or direct experience on the farm.
The 9-8-8 hotline could help further the progression of the conversations about mental health in Canadian agriculture.
Over the last few years, researchers have collected data about mental health in ag and the industry has received more overall mental health resources.
“It’s incredible to see the industry respond to the importance of mental health,” she said. “You’d be hard pressed to go to an industry event now and not hear a presentation about mental health. “We’ve done a great job of breaking down the external stigma, but we have a long way to go to break down the internal piece where individuals acknowledge and accept that maybe they’re struggling with mental health.”
Reynolds hopes the industry gets to a point where discussions about mental health are part of everyday conversations.
That work starts now if the ag sector wants to help the next generation, she said.
“Like anything in farming, we’re trying to leave it in a better place for the next generation, and mental health is no different,” she said. “The more we talk about it now, the more comfortable others will be to talk about it in the future.”
The U.S. transitioned away from a 10-digit hotline to 9-8-8 on July 16, 2022.
Since that time, the number of calls, texts and chats to reach support has increased by 30 per cent, data shows.
If you or someone you know requires mental health support, Farms.com has compiled a list of mental health and suicide prevention resources.