The government of Ontario recently announced $385,000 in additional funding for a program that equips farmers and agricultural sector workers with mental health literacy by breaking stigma and teaching the signs and symptoms of mental health deterioration.
In the Know is a program ran by the Canadian Mental Health Association, (CMHA) and was created by researchers at the University of Guelph.
Katrina Burch, team lead for mental health promotion and education services with CMHA, said the program was created in 2016 by Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton and her research team.
“It’s a four-hour training programme that's really focused on mental health literacy,” Burch said. “It’s sort of like understanding mental health, what it is, what are the signs and symptoms, and then how to either support someone, support yourself or access more formal support.”
Burch said farmers and agricultural sector workers face specific challenges in their industry that can contribute to deteriorating mental health.
“Weather and commodity prices really affect the agricultural sector in a different way than maybe other people (would be affected),” Burch said. “Long hours are another big stressor, as well as the physical stressors.”
She said having an injury can also be a major stressor for agricultural sector workers. The program helps these workers learn the importance of taking care of their mental health, in addition to their physical health.
“It's like, ‘Well if I have a physical injury, how does that impact my ability to you know get the work done’,” Burch said.” It’s also looking at mental health very much the same way, so sort of bringing that up to the forefront and letting people know that they're not alone.”
Last week, the provincial government announced additional funding to help the national program expand. Burch said CMHA is looking into additional staffing to create more localized programming.
“We've had a lot of uptake in our region so it'd be looking at really supporting on a more regional level,” Burch said.
She said that in addition to staffing, the funding will also help draw more people into the program and help agricultural health on a larger scale.
She added that anyone wanting to learn mental health literacy, farmer or not, can visit: here to learn more.