Telephone mental health service launched for farm families in Ontario

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Mental health counselors trained to better understand the specific day-to-day challenges Ontario farmers face are just a phone call away.

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Mental health counselors trained to better understand the specific day-to-day challenges Ontario farmers face are just a phone call away.

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The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture this week launched a new province-wide telehealth service specially designed for farmers and their families. Accessible in English and French, the service – available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – is operated by LifeWorks, a Toronto-based human resources and technology company.

“Providing farm families across the province with free advisory services and helping connect at-risk farmers with tailored support and resources is a highly valued service in rural Ontario,” he said. said Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “The availability of mental health services has been a major barrier between farmers and their mental well-being. The hotline is a first step in a process that will add more access points over the coming weeks and months for Ontario farmers and their families to take positive steps to support their mental health.

Sara Wood, president of the Perth County Federation of Agriculture and a cash crop and chicken farmer north of Mitchell, said she looked forward to the program reaching farming communities across the province, especially now that prices for Turbulent commodities, supply chain issues, labor shortages, loneliness and isolation increasingly affect members of the agricultural industry.

That’s not to mention the added stress of the pandemic felt by many families, especially when schools are closed and children are learning at home.

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“Income is never guaranteed on the farm. It’s still based on the market and what we can sell, ”said Wood. “We feel deeply obligated to make sure that society has food – and high quality food – because that’s what we value. But when you also try to educate your kids and do everything else, it all adds up.

Having access to counselors who understand these issues is an important way to break down barriers to mental health services in farming communities where traditionally this type of service has not been used well, Wood added.

“A lot of farmers are very proud and they don’t want to… talk about these struggles,” she said, adding that providing access to family members who may not have realized that their loved ones are in trouble is “enormous”.

“There is nothing wrong with asking for help, talking to someone and discussing your problems, because if you are feeling it, there are probably other people who are feeling it as well. “

Although experts have said the ongoing pandemic is intensifying mental health problems for many Ontarians, including farmers, Brekveld said the telephone counseling service for farm families was in fact under development before the outbreak. COVID-19 crisis. A pilot project was first initiated by the chapters of the federation in Eastern Ontario before recent funding from the provincial and federal governments allowed it to expand.

Use of the telephone line is free for up to four sessions per number per year. It will soon be followed by a website and smartphone app with other self-guided support resources.

“The commissioning of this hotline is an important first step in a larger, multi-year program that will facilitate access to much-needed mental health services,” said Brekveld. “I hope farmers will see that their mental health is just as important as their physical health. The farm’s most important resource is the farmer.

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