By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
As an industry, agricultural producers are in crisis.
According to a recent study conducted by Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton at the University of Guelph, 35 per cent of producers meet the criteria for depression, 45 per cent meet the criteria for having high stress, and 58 per cent meet the criteria for having anxiety.
The same study also showed that 40 per cent of producers from across Canada would feel uneasy seeking professional help because of what people would think.
“It [agriculture] is one of the most difficult areas to work in,” said Collin Millang, a former hog-operation farmer.
“The cowboy mentality is actually detrimental.”
Millang, now a pastor in a Central Alberta community, worked a family farm in his younger days, until the farm went bankrupt in 2005 and his family lost everything.
“I didn’t lose things and get depressed,” said Millang of his personal struggle and the stress of farming.
“I got depressed, and then lost everything.”
Millang is not alone in his struggles.
Everywhere you look in agriculture the stress is high. This season’s harvest has actually been dubbed, “The harvest from hell” by media outlet Global News, due to the early snow.
A CBC news article from Nov. 7th indicates that up to 20 per cent of the crops in Central Alberta remain unharvested, and may be lost completely, adding considerable stress to local farmers.
Millang was one of two presenters who spoke at the Battle River Research Group Healing Farm Families evening held Thursday, Nov. 21th.
The evening consisted of two presenters, a meal, and a question and answer panel.
Lesley Kelly of the Do More Agriculture Foundation and the popular ‘High Heels and Canola Fields’ Internet blog was the second speaker, and she spoke on how to break mental health barriers in agriculture.
During Kelly’s presentation, she touched on five ways to break down the barriers, beginning with noting that mental health is different for everyone.
Secondly, people need to recognize the warning signs of a mental health issue. Warning signs can be a pronounced change in personality, an increasing level of intensity, a difficulty making even small decisions, or many others.
“Say what you see,” said Kelly. Third, if a supportive person does see a concern, “Show you care.”
“Hurt people hurt people,” said Kelly during her presentation. “Actions speak louder than words. Put down your phone.”
“Be curious,” said Kelly. “Rephrase and summarize what you hear. And silence is okay.”
Finally, Kelly said that supporters need to “know their role.”
This can be something as simple as listening to what someone has to say or helping them make contacts with mental health specialists.
In helping a friend or loved one, people can’t lose sight of themselves, according to Kelly.
“Make yourself a priority,” said Kelly. “Nourish your social life. Go to peer support. Look after your physical health. Seek professional help if needed.”
Living in rural Alberta, that professional help can be a challenge to access, but not impossible.
Stettler Mental Health oversees the needs of Castor, Coronation, and Consort, however there is a range of outreach services available from addiction counselling, long-term adult therapy and a children’s therapist.
For more information, Stettler Mental Health can be reached at 403-743-2000.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, the provincial crisis line can be reached at 1-877-303-2642, or go to the nearest emergency room. In emergency situations, help can always be accessed by calling 911.