In a survey of 1,132 Canadian farmers titled “Stress, anxiety, depression, and resilience in Canadian farmers,” researchers at the University of Guelph found that the majority reported symptoms of mental health issues like high stress, anxiety, and depression. The more concerning statistic from that study is that 40% of the surveyed farmers said that they would feel uneasy seeking help because of what other people might think.
Untreated mental health issues among farmers are a threat to their ability to play a critical role in Canada’s economy. According to the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, “Agriculture and food account for 11% of Canada’s goods GDP and almost 10% of Canada’s total merchandise trade. Food processing is by far the largest manufacturing employer in Canada supporting over 250,000 jobs across the country.”
Farm Safety Nova Scotia recently created a special program to deal with the mental health needs of the province’s farmers. The “We Talk, We Grow” campaign is committed to “raising awareness and taking action to protect and nurture the mental health and well-being of Nova Scotia’s farming community and enhance and maintain a culture where mental health is valued, prioritized, and protected.”
In an interview with the Cooperator, Farm Safety Nova Scotia’s president David Newcome said, “There is still a stigma around mental health, and I believe that we are doing great work into reducing the stigma around mental health and being comfortable saying that you’re feeling anxious, or you’re stressed or you’re having hard times, whatever the case. We do still see a fair bit of stigma around seeking out treatment and trying to be more proactive about improving your mental health through professional resources.”
In response to an email request for information about how the Department of Health and Wellness was approaching farmers’ mental health issues, the department’s Media Relations Advisor Marla MacInnis wrote, “Many Nova Scotians are struggling with issues relating to mental health and addictions, particularly as we continue to deal with the realities of COVID-19 and its impacts. Nova Scotians experiencing mental health illness deserve access to necessary and regular support. As a province, we need to do better.”