Ontario funds expansion of farmer mental health program
By Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
On Sept. 27, the Ontario government committed more than $385,000 to expand “In the Know,” a mental health literacy program tailored to support the well-being of the farming community. Expanding In the Know to more communities will improve the quality of and access to mental health services for Ontario’s agricultural sector, ensuring farmers, their families and their employees have more places to turn to when help is needed.
“I know first-hand how stressful owning and running a farm can be, and this has been a particularly difficult year and a half for farmers. In addition to normal stressors – including the changing weather, commodity prices, pests and diseases – farmers have had to deal with the added complexities of COVID-19,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Our investment to expand the In the Know program will help more people in the province’s farming community access the supports they need to when they need it.”
In the Know is a mental health literacy program tailored to the needs of the agricultural community, offered at 16 Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branches in rural and agricultural communities by approximately 30 facilitators. The expansion of the program to more branches will help improve access to mental health supports in rural areas, reduce the stigma around mental health, encourage more open discussion, and help connect the farm community with the resources and support they need.
“In a year unlike any other, there has been an increased demand for more mental health services and supports that address the unique needs of Ontario’s farming community,” said Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions. “Through the expansion of the In the Know program, more Ontarians in the agricultural sector will have targeted, reliable access to the highest quality mental health care that they expect and deserve.”
Farmers have indicated in previous roundtables and conversations that they are more likely to open up about their mental health if they feel their counsellor or other mental health support understands the agricultural sector and the realities of farming. With the announced funding, CHMA Ontario will also train and educate more mental health specialists on how they can better support farmers and the unique challenges they face.
In the Know was developed as a result of research at the University of Guelph led by Andria Jones-Bitton. It helps to build resilience in the agricultural sector and is a stepping-stone to more in-depth initiatives. This funding is part of the government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy.