Health and wellness preparedness

This page was adapted with permission from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Mental Health Toolkit resource.

Table of contents

  1. Encouraging farmers to practice self-care
  2. Introduction
  3. Stress mitigation resources for farmers
  4. If you need immediate help
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

Encouraging farmers to practice self-care

 

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham's message on the importance of mental wellness

 

Introduction

Recovering from the effects of disaster can seem overwhelming. Recovery does not happen overnight, it is a journey that will take some time. For some with minimal impacts the journey may be relatively short, while for others it may be a long and winding road that takes several years.

Owning a farm business in general can be very stressful. If you are struggling with the impact of these stresses, you are not alone.

The government of British Columbia cares about the well-being of producers and processors, workers, and their families and recognizes that they face unique challenges that can lead to health and wellness issues.

There is help out there whenever it is needed. Reach out to a friend or use an anonymous service to share your experience and feelings with people who care. You matter, and you're important. We're all in this together.

This guide has been adapted from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ “Mental Health for Farmers – First Aid Kit”.

Stress mitigation resources for farmers

Resources available to farmers and their families to help reduce stress and improve their well-being:

Stress

Stress is the body's response to a real or perceived threat. That response’s purpose is to ready the body for a reaction to the situation; whether it is facing it head-on or fleeing. This “fight or flight” response is commonly referred to when we encounter stress that our body perceives as requiring immediate action.

Some stress can be a good thing. It can motivate us to focus on a task or take action and solve a problem. In this situation, stress is manageable and can even be helpful.

When stress is unhelpful, people may feel overwhelmed or feel like they can't possibly fix the problem. It can be very hard to concentrate, make decisions, and feel confident when the amount or intensity of stress reaches an unmanageable level.

Working in the agricultural industry can be both rewarding and stressful. Farm workers and processors have a unique bond to their work which can make it difficult to identify and manage stress and accommodate the necessary self-care.

This infosheet outlines resources that are available to producers and processors that may help them manage stress. If you would like more information on the signs of stress and strategies to deal with stress please visit:

Financial stress

Financial stress can affect any business in any sector.

The agriculture sector is unique in that there are many factors outside the business owner’s control such as extreme weather events, crop losses, animal disease, or declining market prices. Despite best efforts to mitigate these risks, they can cause significant financial stress for workers and their families.

Programs are available to support farmers and food processors to start, grow and innovate their business and more effectively market their products: Agriculture and seafood programs - Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

Agrishield is a comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation platform for Canadian farmers developed under the leadership of Farm Management Canada. This tool can help you identify and assess risks, create an action plan, and access resources and tools to help manage risks.

The BC Wildfire Recovery for Agriculture guide is a disaster recovery workbook containing steps for the process of disaster recovery. While wildfire specific, this guide has many tips and resources that apply to a wide range of disasters.

Having a trusted farm business advisor/consultant is a useful resource for any farmer. A farm business advisor/consultant can analyze aspects about the financial health of your farm and provide suggestions on how you can improve your financial situation and what options are available to you.

OMAFRA has created a factsheet called "Choosing a Business Consultant" which  outlines what questions you should ask any potential consultants as well as any agreements that should be signed.

Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, BC producers who are experiencing financial difficulty may qualify to access business planning services and coaching from a qualified business consultant to undertake financial analysis and specialized business planning; and to strengthen business management knowledge and skills and/or develop an immediate and long-term recovery plan.

The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries offers several programs that encourage economic growth and recovery: Agriculture and seafood programs - Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

The Farm Debt Mediation Service offers financial counselling and mediation services to farmers who are having difficulties meeting their financial obligations. It is a free and voluntary service for both producers and for creditor(s).

The service helps bring producers and their creditor(s) together with a mediator in a neutral forum to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

For more information about the program please call 1-866-452-5556 or visit Farm Debt Mediation Service.

 

Animal welfare

Caring for animals is a 24/7 job. When you are under stress, sometimes it can be difficult to manage all of the day-to-day farm activities, including providing adequate care for your livestock

Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) provides a variety of animal welfare resources, protocols, and training. They provide and animal health emergency workbook that applies to several kinds of disaster emergencies.

 Health and wellness

Good mental health is a positive sense of well-being, and  the capacity to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.

Over the course of any person's life it is highly likely that they will experience depression or other mental wellness issues themselves or have close contact with someone who does. In Canada, one person in five will experience a period of significant mental unwellness in their lifetime. The two most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety.

Stressors (negative or positive) such as job loss, death of a loved one, decline in health, divorce or a new relationship may all cause distress for a person. One will often have reactions that are considered normal or reasonable according to the situation. These can become more serious  when the length, intensity, or effect they have on the person's life are considerable and prolonged.

AgSafe is a provincial organization that strives to create a safe and healthy work environment in BC agriculture through outreach and an active program of education, training and consultation in all regions of the province. This resource assists employers with finding and researching the available mental wellness resources in their area. 

Avail is their new wellness app that provides access to practitioners for checkups and a library of resources.

Do More Ag is a not-for-profit organization focusing on health and wellness in agriculture across Canada.

By championing the mental wellbeing of all Canadian producers, Do More Ag is changing the culture of agriculture to one where all producers are encouraged, supported, and empowered to take care of their mental wellbeing.

For more information about Do More Ag, and the resources they have on health and wellness, please visit: Crisis Contacts — The Do More Agriculture Foundation.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) is working towards making agriculture a safe and healthy environment to work and live in by helping producers and community partners to see and manage risk. The specific stress-related resources that CASA has created include:

The vision of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is to make health and wellness possible for all. CMHA has collaborated with agriculture industry leaders to develop this web resource to make it easier for farmers to find support when and where they need it.

Visit  CMHA British Columbia website for  information and resources about health and wellness in the agriculture industry.

eMentalHealth.ca  is a website dedicated to improving health and wellness in youth and families.

Through this online portal, you can find health and wellness help in your area and access infosheets on a wide range of topics including stress, understanding mental health disorders, and strategies for caregivers.

The Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map provides listings for all mental health and substance use services provided by the provincial government, provincial health authorities, and non-profit agencies across British Columbia. Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map - Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

Mental Health Helpline

Crisis Line Association of BC:

  • Suicide lines (Toll-Free 24 hours): 1-800-784-2433
  • Mental Health Support (24 hours): 310-6789

 

Conclusion

Stress is inevitable, especially if you work in an often volatile and unpredictable industry such as agriculture. Effective management of stress and its impacts on mental health are important considerations for farm families as they can negatively impact individuals, families, businesses, and communities.

The resources outlined above are provided as information to help farmers, farm workers and their families better understand what resources are available to help reduce stress and improve their well-being.

Bibliography

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2017). Stress. Retrieved November 15, 2017, from Canadian Mental Health Association

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2017). Mental Health First Aid. Retrieved November 15, 2017, from Mental Health Commission of Canada