Stressed farmers: Access mental health support when you need it

  • 2 min read

Farmers struggling under the weight of more and complex challenges don’t need to feel alone, and mental health professionals urge them to reach out to others.

Weighing on Canada’s agriculture sector has been many burdens relating to weather, trade issues and now, the added stress of COVID-19.

These combine to create “a perfect storm of uncertainty that is creating its share of stressful thoughts, worry and fear,” says Jackie Ralph of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Know the signs

The increased emotional strain isn’t always obvious.

Notice if you’re feeling overwhelmed for extended periods, and whether that feeling improves or gets worse as a good personal check-in, Ralph says.

Notice if you’re feeling overwhelmed for extended periods, and whether that feeling improves or gets worse.

“Do I dread getting out of bed, already anxious about what can go wrong today before my feet have even hit the floor?” Ralph asks. “Are my relationships at home being affected? Are these worries altering my sleep and eating patterns?”

It’s also good to know the difference between fatigue and physical and emotional exhaustion: “Exhaustion can mean that even the thought of brushing my teeth is overwhelming.”

Ralph adds physical symptoms can include unexplained aches and pains and an inability to catch your breath.

Reach out

Producers experiencing any of these symptoms shouldn’t bottle up their feelings, says Adelle Stewart, executive director of the Do More Agriculture Foundation. She encourages them to find someone to talk to.

“That could be a friend, neighbour or spouse, but can also be a professional on the other side of a telephone crisis line, and in an emergency, the hospital or 9-1-1,” Stewart says.

Ralph advocates peer support and recommends making time to communicate with other farmers.

“What better coping tool than connecting and getting a chance to hear from others in a similar situation?”

Resources

Resources vary by province, but one service that exists across Canada is 211.ca, which offers chat and telephone crisis intervention, Stewart says.

Ralph notes CMHA is the only agency in the country with a presence in every region, with branches providing similar core services.

Also, tap into mental health first aid training and tips like Rooted in Strength from Farm Credit Canada, she says.

Bottom line

Farming is a stressful business. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to someone — family, friends, peers, or professionals — but don’t shoulder your entire burden alone.

Article by: Richard Kamchen