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Sask. Polytechnic mental health project moving into next phase

Sask. Polytechnic mental health project moving into next phase

Researchers spent the first year collecting data

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A project designed to identify the features needed for a mental health support system for the ag sector is moving into its next stage.

Michelle Pavloff, research chair for rural health and principal investigator with Sask Polytech, and her team, have spent the last year collecting information for the Farmer and Rancher Mental Health (FARMh) initiative.

“We’ve conducted interviews, had a survey open and have been requesting photographs from farmers about their perception about farm culture,” she told “We asked about barriers to mental health supports and the kinds of supports they would find most valuable.”

More than 100 farmers have participated in the survey.

A preliminary look at the data shows farmers and ranchers defined farm culture by family interaction or other characteristics.

This is backed up by the received photos, Pavloff said.

“A lot of the pictures we got are of family, or animals, or landscapes,” she said. “To define farm culture, it seems to be of a very personal definition for the people who experience it.”

Participants identified three barriers surrounding mental health services – a lack of availability, a lack of awareness of available support and a lack of support available to farmers and ranchers.

But an additional item stood out unexpectedly, Pavloff said.

“Over 80 per cent of respondents said they wanted other agricultural producers who are trained in mental health to create a one-to-one support network,” she said. “I wasn’t anticipating that.”

Phase two of the project, which will run in 2022 and 2023, will include coming up with ways to reduce these barriers, Pavloff said.

“We’re working with the Massage Therapy Association of Saskatchewan where rural registered massage therapists will be assessing anxiety and depression with their clients,” she said. “Those farmers and ranchers can receive a letter from a doctor on our team to bring to their family doctor or nurse practitioner to open up the conversation about having some challenges.”

FARMh is also working with Seniors Centers Without Walls Saskatchewan, YOUth Matter Canada, Cargill and Do More Ag.

Once Pavloff and her team have had a chance to examine data, she hopes to present her findings in Ottawa and Australia.

“We’ve been invited by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada to talk about farm culture and what practitioners need to know when providing care to farmers and ranchers,” she said. “I know researchers in Australia are also trying to care for farmers so I thought it would be a great opportunity to work together and perhaps do some international research.”

Pavloff’s team will continue to accept survey information until the end of January.

Anyone wishing to participate can email Pavloff or phone her at (639) 414-FARM (3276).

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