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Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program focusing on building awareness

The Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program has shifted its focus from fundraising to building awareness.

The program employs councillors in Steinbach, Winkler, Brandon, and Strathclair. Appointments are available in-person, by telephone or virtually.

CAO Gerry Friesen says the services they offer are specifically tailored to farmers.

"This program provides for six free counselling sessions for individuals. That gives them a little bit more, and I speak from personal experience here. When I was farming and went through a significant down period, being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Yes, stress lines are good. We have a lot of professionals out there, but the other piece that we found was missing, is that many of these professionals aren't that familiar with agriculture and how unique agriculture is and it takes an understanding to be able to provide that help with an understanding of what the clients are going through."Friesen believes the stigma surrounding mental health is starting to fade.

"There is more awareness that people are more open to talk about it. I know that when I first started talking about my own journey in 2010, there was a lot of hesitation on people's parts to actually engage in that conversation. Through organizations such as Do More Ag, Farm Credit Canada has had a big focus on mental health, and others, that awareness is growing and I've certainly noticed a change in the trend when I speak to groups of people. People are willing to start talking about it even publicly."

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