April 6, 2020

Lend a helping voice: Removing the stigma of mental health in farming

By Shane Roger

­­­­Spring is a beautiful and optimistic time of year; one with new life, new goals, and a new growing season ahead. For farmers however, this can be one of the most stressful times of the year. As we move into the start of #plant20 across North America, farmers are getting into the fields to plant their 2020 crops in an approximate four-week window. While every planting season brings with it the stress of weather and time and availability of resources, this season brings it with it the added pressures of being an essential service provider during COVID-19. In many ways, the world is counting on farmers more than ever before. Not only is it a race against the clock, but it’s a race against mental health as well.

Top 10 stressors farmers face

Farming is one of the most stressful yet rewarding industries out there. FCC released a study in their publication Rooted in Strength: Taking Care of Our Families and Ourselves, indicating the top ten stressors farmers face on a sometimes-daily occurrence. These include finances/volatile markets, family disagreements, unreasonable personal goals, long hours/workload, lack of sleep, weather, administrative burden, machinery/technology breakdowns, handling dangerous goods, and livestock well-being.

Farmers have always been stereotyped as strong and resilient stewards of the land. The ones who work day and night through seeding in the spring or calving in the cold winters. Traditional values have taught farmers that mental health does not come before the wellbeing of a farm, with some upbringings extending that into emotion is weakness. However, as we move into 2020, that is beginning to change. It’s now time for the mental health spotlight to be on farmers and those tied to the industry.

It’s okay to not be okay

Slowly but surely, the stigma behind mental health and farming are beginning to fade. In many cases, mental health can be hidden amongst those they love the most. Some signs to watch for include anger, insomnia, memory loss, impaired judgment, immune-compromised, suicidal thoughts, and paralyzed decision making. Many farmers are starting to reach out to not only each other, but other resources including mental health help lines, the Do More Agriculture Foundation, Crisis Services Canada, and other community resources.

It’s time to come together as one

2020 is going to be the year when Canadian farmers cut the stigma and change the conversation around mental health. Whether or not you’re directly involved in farming, there are multiple ways to help out those that are. One of agriculture’s most valuable assets is the community. Pick up the phone and call your friends and family during this growing season, tell them you love them, that you know it’s a stressful time of the year, but you are always around to talk. Lend a helping hand when you can. Bring dinner out for the family and farm hands. It’s time to fully leverage our communities and become another voice for farmers, helping remove the stigma of mental health.

Shane Roger is an Account Manager for AdFarm out of Calgary, AB. He is a third-generation Saskatchewan farmer with a passionate voice on bridging the gap between consumers and agriculture producers.