I’m not sure what comes to mind when you hear Murray McLauchlan's 1981 song, “If the wind could blow my troubles away.” It came to my mind again after the CFFO Policy Tour discussion on “Peace of Mind,” held online in March. Members shared a meaningful discussion about concerns from their communities.
This week is Mental Health Week in Canada. Mental health is a major social concern, including in agriculture, and rightfully so. We are all subject to stress. You do not need to live on a farm for that. But some stressors are very unique to agriculture. The weather is high on the list; the health and wellbeing of our livestock and crops are close seconds. Then there are markets, trade talks and disputes. All these pressures can have negative effects on our mood, which in turn influences our relations with members of our farm family.
Mental health on farms has not gone unnoticed. Many are now familiar with the work of Dr. Andria Jones Bitten, who has done extensive study into stress among Canadian farmers. Farm Credit Canada has published a booklet called “Rooted in Strength.” It is a very good read, giving us insight on stressors and how we react to it.
Stress is nothing new. The dark night of the soul experienced by Mother Theresa was a revelation for many people. The prophet Elijah, forced to flee after a confrontation with King Ahab, was stressed to his limit. “‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he prayed. ‘Let me die’” (1 Kings 19:4). The God we love and trust can seem far away when we feel we cannot take anymore.
A new growing season has started, and many of us will spend our fair share sitting on a tractor seat, with ample time to think. This year, the stress may feel harder to handle. Perhaps you have not seen friends or family for a very long time. Perhaps you could not take your usual vacation this winter. Many will find having children at home during planting season is taking much needed time toward their care and adding worries for their safety. This year, if you feel overwhelmed by life itself, please take up contact with someone.