by Debra Pretty-Straath
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Debunking myths about mental health in agriculture was a hot topic at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s (OFA) recent annual general meeting. The workshop, Down on the Farm: Myths & Reality of Mental Health in Agriculture, was delivered by the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to a packed room of OFA members at the annual meeting.
Mental health is an important topic, especially in agriculture where many farmers often work alone or with family members. Our industry is unique due to the countless and often uncontrollable stressors farmers face every day. Weather, commodity prices and equipment failure are just the tip of the iceberg.
Mental health impacts all of us and the stigma still runs deep. A recent study on the mental health of Canadian farmers found 35% of them report feelings of depression.
OFA’s workshop helped participants understand why it’s so important to talk about mental health more openly and discuss how the illness can impact farmers. Unfortunately, stigma and attitudes surrounding mental health are still huge barriers, especially in the workplace and in agriculture, making it difficult for those struggling with their mental health or caring for someone who is. The workshop addressed nine myths including ‘farmers don’t get depressed’, ‘mental health is an excuse for poor behaviour’ and ‘personality flaws cause mental health’.
We all have so much to learn about mental health and how it can impact us in agriculture. The fact that many rural communities lack services to help remains a serious problem. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to foster a greater understanding of mental health, how we can help and where to go for help. Visit www.thinkmentalhealth.ca to learn more about mental illness and awareness in Ontario workplaces, including agriculture.
Thank you to those who attended OFA’s workshop – our well-being includes mind and body health. As farmers, we often pride ourselves in the long hours we work, our strength, our entrepreneurial spirit and our resilience. Mental wellbeing begins with starting a conversation, and watching out for each other.