by Jakob Vogel, B.Sc (Agri.)
As we usher in the New Year, we reminisce the ups and downs of the past year. Although the tendency on social media platforms is to advertise how great our lives are and how thankful we are for our triumphs over the past year, we often hide away the struggles, worries and concerns we have just bubbling inside of us all.
Make no mistake, I am no specialist on the subject, but I know and acknowledge the struggles related to battling poor mental health. Not so long ago, the topic in general was taboo but the silver lining, is that the discussions in urban populations is breaking down! Unfortunately, once again in agriculture, we are often overlooked and we ignore the stress that is put upon ourselves as producers and other members of the industry.
Ironically enough, earlier this past fall, a suiting time for such a video to be released as we all work ridiculous hours to finish to harvest, finish fall tillage, fall seeding etc. I stumbled onto very warming video footage of Prince Harry speaking to a group of farmers and the importance of mental health. He made some very good points that I think apply to our Canadian producers as well. The most important, in my opinion being, that farmers are the backbone to rural economies, schools and communities. For any community to thrive, we need a good sturdy backbone.
Although the stigma around mental health is more fluidly discussed by society, in the Ag industry, we tend not to discuss it much. My question is – why?
Is it a point of weakness that we do not want our neighbours knowing? That we are struggling because the cows are not milking as we had hoped? Because we decided not to get crop insurance and regretted it after harvesting the corn crop? Because the solid market we were banking on has changed in the blink of an eye and your new best friend is the bank?
In addition to not discussing it much, our access to the necessary resources are sparse. This adds to the issue as we easily get in the habit of putting it on the never ending ‘To Do List’ which constantly has more pressing items to complete near the top.
Witnessing the impacts, it can have (not only on family members but friends involved with this wonderful industry…) the continued stigma and negativity around mental health needs to end.
As we unite with other farmers across the county in order to support Canadian Milk, Canadian Beef, etc, we should also be standing united when it comes to our physical and mental health. In agriculture, it is very rare that we have a break. A weekend off, a vacation let alone a nap in the afternoon to unwind for a few hours seems almost unheard of, especially during the spring and fall! Although producers are famous for being resilient, we need to become more self-aware of the issues that we deal with on a day to day and seek out the help we need, even if all it is, is a listening ear over a cup of coffee.
Editor’s note: Coming up this month is the annual Bell Let’s Talk compaign. The campaign launched in 2011 and aims to end the stigma against mental health issues. Last year the campaign set a new record with 138,383,995 messages across social media platforms. During the campaign Bell donated $0.05 to Canadian mental health programs for every interaction. Last year alone they raised $6,919,199.75. Help further the cause by joining in this month; and if you need help, speak up. Ontario mental health help line: 1-866-531-2600; Quebec French services help line: 1-866-277-3553.