DURHAM — The Durham Region Federation of Agriculture (DRFA) is ensuring better access to mental health counselling for its member farmers. Two experienced mental health practitioners who know the pressures of rural and farming life are assisting the organization with the endeavour, under a new partnership arrangement with the local Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) affiliate.
“Through these partnerships, OFA members in Durham Region have access to mental health counselling with professionals who are uniquely qualified due to their understanding of the stressors inherent to the agricultural industry,” the DRFA says in a statement announcing its participation in the Farmer Wellness Program.
Durham Region joins six other counties with the service. The Farmer Wellness Program operates in Northumberland, Hastings, Prince Edward, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac and Lanark counties.
Four counseling sessions are offered at no charge to those making use of the program. Sessions are strictly confidential and timed to accommodate farmers’ unique schedule and workload by being available during the day, evening and weekend. There’s additional flexibility as participants may choose office or home appointments, or telephone or video chat.
The program is rolling out amid heightened concern and awareness about farmer mental health.
Farmers have a very demanding lifestyle that includes long and irregular hours, social isolation, physically demanding work, and constant pressures such as weather, market fluctuations, and economic uncertainties, the DRFA points out.
Respondents to a national survey in 2015 by the University of Guelph indicated that: 58% of farmers experience symptoms of anxiety; almost half have high levels of stress; and 35% have signs of depression. Forty per cent also indicated a reluctance to get help because of fear about what others would think.
DRFA members may access the service by contacting the providers, Candice Beach, RP, at firstname.lastname@example.org 416-655-4285; or Marnie Wood, email@example.com 705-331-9076.