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Sask. farmer encourages others to discuss mental health

Sask. farmer encourages others to discuss mental health

Sheldon Hill started to blog about his mental health struggles

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Sheldon Hill admits he’s had suicidal thoughts.

“It seemed like there was no way out and then I started having suicidal thoughts where I’m thinking about how people would react, how my family would be and if they’d be better off without me,” the beekeeper and honey producer from Porcupine Plain, Sask., told “It was frightening.”

These thoughts came about because of multiple challenging years.

Financial struggles, hive loss and weather issues for the past four years meant the farm’s future was in jeopardy. When he wasn’t farming in Saskatchewan, Hill was in Alberta working full-time in the oil patch earning money to invest into his farm.

He lost that job just six months before the pandemic began.

Sheldon Hill and Stella Sehn
Sheldon Hill and Stella Sehn.

And because he was working so much, he missed time with his family.

“I’d go straight from the farm to the oil patch working 12-hour days for 30 days straight,” he said. “It was years and years of burning the candles at both ends, overworking myself and not expressing how I was feeling.”

Hill’s wife Stella Sehn is raising three children and runs the value-added side of the couple’s business, Sweet Pure Honey, from home in Medicine Hat, Alta.

With his wife’s support and encouragement, Hill started his Smokey Beekeeper blog to keep customers up to date about happenings on the farm.

In January he documented his mental health struggles.

“I needed to get if off my chest and unburden myself,” he said. “And also because I live in a rural area it’s a huge task for me to access in-person professional help.”

Since that post, Hill has received multiple messages from people thanking him for sharing his story.

“The private messages are very touching,” he said. “They really make you realize that you’re not alone and everybody is going through something.”

Hill hopes sharing his mental health journey will inspire others in the ag sector to do the same.

And it doesn’t have to be a large production to be impactful, he said.

“Even if you just write it down on a piece of paper or talk to someone you trust, you’ve acknowledged the issue and you’ve let it out,” he said. “I think a lot of times we’re afraid of being judged but I want everyone to know that it’s okay not to be okay.”

For anyone who may need mental health support, has compiled a list of Canadian mental health and suicide prevention resources.

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