The local ag federation urges producers to use mental health support services
By Diego Flammini
The Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture (PEIFA) is taking steps to help local producers struggling with mental illness.
The ag group increased the annual funding for its Farmer Assistance Program by $7,000, bringing it up to $20,000. The free service provides confidential and professional counselling to farmers, their families and others in the industry.
The decision comes after PEIFA noticed an increase in calls to the program.
More than 80 farmers reached out for help last year, and the provincial ag community recently lost two of its members.
“We’ve had two suicides this spring in the farming community that I’m aware of,” Robert Godfrey, executive director of the PEIFA, told CBC’s Island Morning Wednesday. “We’re doing our part as much as we can to at least have something there for people to call.”
Stress management has become an integral part of a farmer’s toolbox.
And larger conferences may include speakers and discussions about mental health to help push the topic into the forefront, said David Mol, president of PEIFA.
Speaking about mental health is the only way to ensure people get the help they need, Mol added.
“Too often cover up means it’s kept (hidden) too late,” he told Island Morning.
Members of the broader Canadian ag industry have also devoted their time to support mental health initiatives for farmers.
The Do More Agriculture Foundation is dedicated to educating the industry about mental health and how to break the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
The topic of mental health is still relatively new to ag, said Kim Keller, one of the founders of Do More Ag.
"This is a fairly new conversation for many of us in the industry," she told Farms.com today. "Producers are among the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health challenges, and we need to start talking about it in order to make the changes within our industry to have a positive impact."
"We can't keep losing farmers to things we can change by simply having a conversation."
The organization’s website also lists provincial and national resources.