Mental Well-Being and Our Canadian Farmers

“I wonder how the farmers’ mental well-being is today, this week, this month, or this year?”

Has this thought ever crossed your mind?

It’s been a bit of a revelation for our team here at the Stigma-Free Society, so we thought we’d share some information on the farming industry and mental health in Canada.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, farmers and those working in the agricultural industry are considered a vulnerable group when it comes to mental health issues. Long hours, working in isolation, unpredictable weather that could yield a good or bad crop, animal disease issues, trade concerns and more – including the impact of Covid-19, can all impact the mental well-being of our Canadian farmers and their families.

To further our understanding of the current state of mental health and Canadian farmers, here are a few statistics that we should all be aware of:

  • 35% of farmers meet the classification for depression;
  • 58% of farmers meet the classification for anxiety;
  • 45% of farmers report high stress;
  • 68% of farmers are more susceptible than the general population to chronic stress, which can lead to physical and mental illnesses.

The above information was reported from a national survey conducted from the University of Guelph between 2015 and 2016.

The mental health of farmers has an impact on the global economy and global health. That sounds far-reaching, but take a moment to think about it. Farmer mental health not only affects the health of the individual, but it also affects farm productivity and animal health and welfare. Individuals working in the farming and agricultural industry contribute to about one-third of the global economy through their work. Therefore, poor mental health could have a negative impact on worldwide economic productivity and animal and human health.

What does all this mean?

It means that the mental health of our farmers is vitally important to our global well-being and overall health.

As more research is conducted in the area of farmers and mental health, it has become quite clear that there is a lack of resources available to farmers on how to take care of their mental health and mental well-being. Not only is there a lack of resources available, farmers face the stigma of mental health issues within their own population.

In an article written for CTV News, a farmer was quoted as saying:

“A farmer is stoic and doesn’t show signs of weakness and if you show signs of emotions, you are ‘less’ than, you are not a good farmer – and that’s simply not true,” said Lesley Kelly, another farmer from Saskatchewan.

The stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness in the farming and agricultural community is something that needs to be addressed.

Additionally, it has become abundantly clear over the past few years is that farmers need resources, support and education on how to take care of their mental well-being and unfortunately, those three critical recommendations are currently unavailable for the most part.

There is some great work being done by a reputable and rural organization called Do More Ag – so if you’re a farmer and you’re interested in learning more about mental health and mental illness, we recommend you start there.

The Stigma-Free Society will be reaching out to such mental health organizations in the coming months as we also want to make a positive impact in the lives of farming families and help improve their mental health with our work.

In the upcoming months, the Stigma-Free Society will be directing a lot of our energy in supporting our hard-working, stressed out and globally essential farmers and their families.

Stay Tuned!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS