P.E.I. introduces new program to support farmers’ mental health
By Top Crop Manager
Tragedy becomes real when it hits close to home, and – given the unique stresses and conditions faced by farmers – far too many in the ag community have been personally affected by the tragedies brought about by unmanaged mental health issues.
Bloyce Thompson, P.E.I. dairy farmer and minister of agriculture, recently announced a new website for P.E.I. farmers – www.farmerstalk.ca – a year after losing a friend and fellow dairy farmer. “He milked his cows and fed his cows and then he committed suicide. He cared about the animals and didn’t want to burden anyone else,” said Thompson at the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting in Charlottetown.
The website is there for farmers to use as a resource when the stresses of farming life begin to affect them or those close to them. It is part of the Farming Assistance Program, which is funded by the province, the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, and other contributors, such as Farm Credit Canada and Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL).
Thompson hopes to avoid similar losses in the future by having a space for farmers to share their experiences and difficulties with those who can best relate to them, as well as a variety of resources and numbers to call to discuss mental health concerns. Isolation is a reality of farming life, and this program hopes to create a greater sense of readily-accessible community to ensure farmers don’t feel alone.
Thompson said professional counsellors in the Farming Assistance Program took calls from 140 farmers in need of help in 2019.
“Every crop year, you have to invest work and money with no guarantee of a return. Weather can make or break you, and so can the marketplace. The result too often is that farmers face stress in silence,” he said.
“Farmers are tough, and we’re not going to say we’re not. But there is a time you just can’t take another hit.”