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Saskatchewan farmers, producers breaking stigma on mental well-being

Research out of the University of Guelph show that in 2021, one in four Canadian farmers felt like their life was not worth living.

As stressors like weather and disease continue to affect farmers and producers year after year, the spotlight turns to their mental well-being.

“Constantly seems like we’re just fighting; it’s that drag that keeps getting pulled down,” said Steven Donald, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) Director – District One. “That’s just something as producers, we always have that fight.”

Farmers and producers across the country having to deal with several factors just to make a living.

“As producers we do find ourselves sometimes getting fairly secluded and withdrawn from people because we spend lots of time looking out the window of a tractor or a sprayer or a combine,” said Donald.

The amount of workload, increased costs and changing weather year after year can wear producers down. But trying to break the stigma of speaking up and asking for help has not been easy.

“We’re a very stoic industry; there’s the saying ‘cowboy up’ for a reason and while showing emotion is not a weakness, that is what we’ve likened it to over the years,” said Meg Reynolds, the executive director of The Do More Agriculture Foundation.

The Do More Agriculture Foundation helps connect industry partners with mental health resources. Reynolds says while challenges will always be present, many strides have already been made.

“We’re normalizing that conversation, people are more comfortable talking about it,” said Reynolds.

In Saskatchewan, 146 calls were made to the province’s farm stress line during the first half of the year, with most calls relating to anxiety, stress and financial concerns.

Resources like the province’s farm stress line go a long way and that one phone call can be the difference in understanding what you are going through and accessing potentially lifesaving supports.

“We still have a lot to do where we just normalize it within ourselves meaning that we are comfortable to first acknowledge that something’s going on with our mental wellness and then accept that there is that piece there that we could use external help with,” said Reynolds.

The Do More Agricultural Foundation website provides links for resources, wellness tips and a variety of other supports.

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