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Ontario invests in farmer mental health program

Ontario invests in farmer mental health program

The provincial government is committing more than $385,000 for In the Know

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The Ontario government is helping to expand a mental health program for farmers.

Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, announced a government investment of more than $385,000 to support the In the Know mental health literacy program.

Ensuring farmers have access to adequate mental health support is important, Thompson said.

“I know first-hand how stressful owning and running a farm can be, and this has been a particularly difficult year and a half for farmers,” Thompson, a dairy goat farmer from Bruce County, said in a Sept. 27 statement. “In addition to normal stressors including the changing weather, commodity prices, pests and diseases, farmers have had to deal with the added complexities of COVID-19.”

In the Know is a collaboration between the University of Guelph, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

University of Guelph researchers in the department of population medicine, Dr. Briana Hagen and Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, started developing the program in 2017.

The four-hour workshop is designed to fit within a farmer or producer’s availability. It provides education on topics including stress, depression, anxiety, substance misuse and how to start conversations around mental health.

Research from Dr. Jones-Bitton in 2016 found 45 per cent of surveyed farmers reported high stress, 58 per cent reported having some level of anxiety and 35 per cent had depression.

Expanding In the Know will help more farmers access mental health support when they need it, said Peggy Brekveld, president of the OFA.

“We are thrilled to partner with CMHA to expand this important initiative,” she said in a statement. “The mental wellness of Ontario’s farmers is one of our strategic priorities, so we truly value this opportunity to increase awareness and help-seeking behaviour as it will be invaluable to farmers and throughout our sector.”

The funding for In the Know comes about a month after the Ontario government announced over $430,000 in funding for three initiatives supporting the mental health of farmers and other rural residents.

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