TORONTO – Ontario farmers will benefit from two new mental health programs — including free counselling — funded with $7-million in provincial and federal dollars through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Announced Nov. 22, the ‘Guardians Network’ and a new initiative modelled after the successful Farmer Wellness Program pioneered by mental health specialist Deborah Vanberkel will launch early in the new year.
Developed in consultation with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and other experts, the new programs are supposed to run for a “multi-year” period.
The government says they will help “protect Ontario’s progress in the fight against COVID-19” by providing farm families with free counselling services and tailored support and resources for at-risk farmers.
They’re touted as the direct result of numerous roundtable discussions, and other engagements with farmers about their mental health concerns. And they’re intended to enhance other government-led mental health initiatives, such as an expansion of the In the Know program.
“These new agricultural mental health programs expand resource availability to help Ontario farmers and employees if they’re struggling with their mental health,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
“I very much understand and appreciate how stressful running a farm can be, working 365 days a year and dealing with unpredictable weather, commodity prices and increasing costs of production,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Add in the pandemic, and these pressures are having a real effect on the mental health of farmers and their families. That’s why our government is providing the necessary funding for these programs, and is committed to doing everything we can to help address these challenges and support mental health in our farming communities.”
“We’re very pleased to further our partnership with OMAFRA through delivery of additional, much-needed mental health supports for farmers and their families,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “Building on the delivery of our farm mental health literacy program In the Know, the expansion of this important wellness program and introduction of a suicide prevention network will protect and enhance the mental well-being of farmers and the farm community.”
“The mental wellness of Ontario farmers is one of our biggest priorities, so we are excited to partner with CMHA Ontario and our provincial and federal governments to raise awareness about these two programs,” said Peggy Brekveld, President of Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “The targeted initiatives will be invaluable to farmers and throughout the agriculture sector.”