By Jonathan Martin
The provincial government has announced an annual $174 million boost to Ontario’s mental health services.
Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, told reporters this morning that the money would go to front-line service centres as part of the government’s 10-year $3.8-billion mental health and addictions strategy.
The announcement kicked off Mental Health Week, during a particularly stressful time for Ontario farmers.
Between the introduction of a new federal carbon tax, the ongoing trade war with China and 2018’s DOM challenges, the announcement is a welcome one among agriculture-focused mental health groups, even if Elliot made no direct statement about assisting farmers.
“Any support that goes out to rural communities at all is fantastic,” Deborah Vanberkel told Farms.com. She’s a registered psychotherapist and dairy farmer in Napanee, Ont. “There are hardly any mental health services aimed at agricultural producers in this country.”
Rural Ontario’s mental health care is fragmented, inaccessible and chronically underserviced, reports the Canadian Mental Health Association.
On a good day, farming is a high-stress job. In total, 58 per of Canadian producers meet the classification for anxiety, 45 per cent have high stress and 35 per cent suffer from depression, a 2015 study by the University of Guelph found.
“These results are concerning and represent a major risk to the Canadian agricultural sector as poor mental health and well-being have negative implications for the individual farmer, as well as their families, livestock, production, and financial bottom lines,” the study reads.
Vanberkel helped found the L&A Farmer Wellness Program, which is designed to provide accessible mental health services to farmers in Lennox and Addington County. It’s only in its pilot phase, but Vanberkel said she hopes members of the Addington and Lennox Federation of Agriculture start making use of its free services because “there’s nothing else around that serves producers.”
During the government’s announcement, Elliott said that she and her colleagues consider mental health a priority.
“All Ontarians deserve access to mental health and addictions services they need when and where they need them,” she said.
Further announcements will come later this week.