The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Courtesy Photo

By Terry Tinkess
AgriNews Staff Writer

OTTAWA – The fourteenth annual Bell Let’s Talk Day took place on January 24, and  The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food issued a statement to mark the day.

“For the hard-working members of the agricultural sector, farming isn’t just a job – it’s a way of life that supports their families and communities,” said MacAulay. “Our producers and processors take tremendous pride in their work to feed Canadians and folks around the world, but extreme weather events, trade disputes and fluctuating prices can all add to life’s everyday stresses.”

It is taking its toll. In Canada overall, 4,000 lives are lost to suicide each year. That number doesn’t even come close to the number of spouses, children, friends, and other family members impacted by a suicide event.

A poll of 1,000 farmers conducted by the University of Guelph in 2023 revealed that 57 per cent met the criteria for anxiety, 34 per cent for depression, and that 62 per cent experienced psychological distress. The goal of Bell Let’s Talk, and other similar programs is to bring the subject of mental health out of the shadows and remove the stigma associated with it. You don’t need to suffer alone and in silence, there is help available.

“If you’re struggling with your mental health, or if you just need someone to talk to, AgTalk by the Do More Agriculture Foundation is here to provide support,” continued Minister MacAulay.  “AgTalk is a mental health support community for members of the Canadian agriculture sector that is a free and anonymous platform, available in both English and French. There, you can share the challenges you’re facing with others who truly understand them. More agricultural-specific resources can also be found on Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Mental health in agriculture webpage.

“I want folks to know that they’re not alone,” added MacAulay, “and as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, I’ll continue working with my provincial and territorial counterparts to bring forward new programs to address the unique mental health challenges faced by those in the sector.

“Don’t be afraid to start the conversation and seek help if you need it. Your mental health is just as important as any other part of your operation, so treat it with the same amount of care.”

It is well understood that if you don’t take care of yourself, it is difficult to take care of anyone else. So many rely on the efforts of the agriculture community, that it only seems fair that the community be there to offer support in return, when needed.