The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing in new initiatives to support and promote mental health in Ontario’s farming and rural communities. These initiatives will improve the mental health services available to Ontario’s agricultural sector and help ensure farmers, their families and their employees have additional places to turn when help is needed.
Three initiatives will receive over $430,000 in funding as the governments continue to focus on ensuring farmers, agri-food workers, and rural communities have access to the mental health support they need. These projects will provide more data on farmer and rural mental health in Ontario to ensure available supports meet unique community needs.
“Many farmers and employees have faced great challenges through the pandemic, which only add to the stresses they may face every single day,” said federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau.
“Agricultural mental health programs, such as these, will give Ontario farmers and employees more tools to help them address their challenges. It’s important that farmers and workers know that they should never hesitate to reach out if they’re struggling with their mental health.”
“Owning and operating a farm can be very stressful. The combination of the unique challenges of farming with the additional stresses of COVID-19 have made mental health challenges for many in the farming and rural communities more difficult,” said Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.
“Thanks to mental health champions like Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, our government is investing in the well-being of farmers, farm families, farm workers and everyone living in rural communities and we’re building on current knowledge, supports and resources to help them address mental health challenges”.
“In a year unlike any other, there has been an increased demand for the expanded availability of mental health services and supports that address the unique needs of Ontario’s agricultural workers,” said Tibollo.
The funding initiatives include:
- Survey on farmer mental health and agricultural literacy of mental health professionals: Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton (Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph) will conduct a targeted survey to better understand the current state of farmers’ mental health in Ontario and Dr. Briana Hagan will consult with agricultural and mental health professionals to develop an agriculture literacy program and information for a mental health care audience. This project will help mental health care providers improve the delivery of mental health services to the farming community and tailor these services to the unique needs of the community.
- Community and workplace supports for the mental health of international agricultural workers in Ontario: Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) will research existing mental health services and supports that are tailored to needs of international agricultural workers employed on Ontario farms and recommend strategies to improve mental health and well-being services and psychosocial supports available to agri-food workers.
- Survey on mental health impacts of disruptive events in rural Ontario: Dr. Leith Deacon (School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph) will collect community data on challenges and experiences faced by vulnerable populations and highlight successful initiatives in rural communities to make recommendations on ways to support the development of appropriate response plans for COVID-19 and future disruptive events.
In spring 2021, the Ministers of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Mental Health and Addictions in Ontario held a roundtable to discuss key challenges to farmers’ access to mental health services. Participants cited the main challenges faced by farmers and rural communities include lack of access to mental health services in their communities, the lack of understanding of agricultural literacy by mental health providers, ongoing stigma around mental health issues, significant costs for existing resources, and the need for more emphasis on prevention.
The funding will support initiatives that help address concerns raised at the roundtable and builds on Ontario’s existing investments in mental health supports for the agri-food sector. Through resources such as the online mental health first aid kit, and funding mental health training for frontline staff of farm and commodity organizations, Ontario is helping farmers, farm families and farm workers access resources when facing tough times. Ontario is also helping the sector through farm financial assessments, enhanced risk management programs, and the Ontario, Agricultural Information Contact Centre (OMAFRA) where comprehensive support information is available.