Farmers are a minority in Ontario, living within a context that frequently limits access to mental health services and resources, continues to carry cultural and social stigmas around the subject of mental health, and can often be socially isolated or remote. Historically, government programming and assistance has focused on economic support and business risk management. There is, however, a significant deficit in the support available to farmers when it comes to their mental health. As a minority group in Ontario, under-represented in the study of mental health, OFA believes farmers’ mental health deserves special attention and the investment of long-term, dedicated funding from all levels of government.
OFA strongly believes both the federal and provincial governments must work collaboratively to fully implement the 10 recommendations from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture Report, Mental Health: A Priority for our Farmers. These 10 recommendations also reaffirm OFA’s longstanding positions on the need for broadband internet service across rural Ontario, the need for government to consider the impact of new regulations on agriculture, and the need to defend farmers’ right to practice.
The Ontario farm community needs accessible and culturally relevant mental health resources and training to promote wellness and build resilience to withstand the enormous occupational stresses they face. We have a tremendous opportunity to build a sustainable approach to research, develop evidence-based programming, and create awareness and support specific for farmer mental health.
OFA supports farmers and farm families towards balanced mental health and acknowledge the causes of mental health challenges are many, complicated, and do not come with a quick or easy solution. OFA understands the challenges of farming and that they can take a toll on our mental health and well-being.
OFA recognizes the challenge of mental health in agriculture is a complex and multi-factorial issue and believe it requires a comprehensive and coordinated, long-term approach. Through advocacy and support, OFA will work to help reduce the barriers to improved mental health and resilience within our agricultural community.
OFA wants to ensure you and your loved ones have the resources necessary to cope with struggles and crises to help prevent more lives from being lost.
If you or someone you know is in distress and needs help, there are people and resources available that can help. If you’re in an urgent crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911 immediately.
A telehealth line to provide mental wellness support to all Ontario farmers and farm families is now live.
Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in English and French, farmers needing immediate support can call 1-866-267-6255 to speak to a counsellor.
Through the Farmer Wellness Initiative, the provincial and federal governments are funding access to free counselling sessions with a mental health professional for all farmers across Ontario, including members of their family. The mental health professionals have received training to understand the unique needs of Ontario farmers. The program is open to all farmers regardless of farm organization membership.
Developed and launched by the Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario Division in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, this service is provided by LifeWorks.
This comprehensive, fully integrated mental health support program includes:
- 24/7/365 Service intake handled by a designated and fully trained team who understand a day in the life of a farmer, available in English & French, creating a true partnership and unique care model.
- Counselling sessions to be held in-person, virtual or by phone, depending on availability and at the request of the caller.
- Access to ongoing mental health support services and resources for all farming families across Ontario through multiple modalities; the telephone line will soon be followed by a website and an app containing thousands of self-guided support resources.
- Integration with provincial and local level resources to provide members with the best level of support available to them, at the first request.
The support line will enter callers into an intake process to arrange counselling sessions with a mental health professional available by phone, virtually, or in-person subject to public health restrictions. All information received through counselling sessions is confidential and in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004).
This initiative is funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program in partnership with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600
Live information and referral specialists are standing by. Call 24/7 for information and referral.
You can also use a chat online, email, and access additional resources from
Distress Centres are available across Ontario offering confidential, private support for anyone who is in distress or crisis.
At a Distress Centre you can find a listening ear for lonely, depressed, and/or suicidal people, usually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many centres also have Suicide Survivor programs, support services for youth, telephone call out programs for seniors and vulnerable people, mental health Crisis Lines services and much more.
A complete listing of regional centres and contact information is available at www.dcontario.org/centres.
For additional information, check out OFA’s Mental Health Resource Sheet.
Grain Farmers of Ontario Counselling Directory
This resource includes access to a provincial Therapist Directory prepared by Grain Farmers of Ontario, which includes a list of psychologist and social workers that are practicing in Ontario, with a farming background or experience in the industry.
By clicking on each practitioner, you can read their bio and see information regarding their practice. If no practitioner is in your area, most listed offer other methods of communication such as video chat, email and phone calls.
To access the directory, visit gfo.ca/farmerwellness/support-resources.
For more details, visit www.domore.ag/resources.
As part of the report on Healthy Minds, Healthy Farms: Exploring the Connection Between Mental Health and Farm Business Management, Farm Management Canada has developed a media kit filled with easy-to-use resources for promoting mental health awareness in agriculture. Click here to access the media kit.
The Farmers’ Toolbox was created by the Listowel Agricultural Society. It features testimonials in video clips that tell the story of farmers moving from hopelessness to reaching the point of seeking help.
For more details, visit www.thefarmerstoolbox.com.
8 Domains of Well-Being…COVID-19 Style
The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to make significant changes professionally and personally, in a very short period of time, while also attending to our feelings around the disease. For many of us, we may be having trouble partaking in usual activities that support our well-being. This resource was designed to help stimulate ideas for well-being activities during COVID-19. Access the 8 Domains of Well-Being resource here.
Crisis Management Tools by Farm Life
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and farm businesses work to navigate these unprecedented times, the topic of farm business and contingency planning is increasingly on the minds of farmers. Through OFA’s partnership with Farm Life, we are providing resources for farm businesses offering tips, checklists and tools to help navigate this process. Access the resource here.
Managing farm stress during COVID-19
To help our OFA community stay connected with up-to-date information and resources, we have put together the following information to assist any farm seeking help with significant stress, or requiring mental health support.
We want you to know that we are here for you, we understand, and we are working hard for you. Access the resource here.
Partnerships and Projects
OFA provides partnership and funding to several projects in support of mental health and wellness in agriculture.
Farmer Wellness Program with Deb Vanberkel of Cultivate Counselling Services
If you’re an OFA member and live in Hastings, Lennox and Addington, Northumberland, Prince Edward or Lanark County, you (or a family member) can access up to four sessions with a mental health professional through the Farmer Wellness Program. For more information, visit farmerwellnessprogram.ca.
‘In the Know’ Farmer Mental Health Awareness Training – Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division and the University of Guelph
OFA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division to help deliver ‘In the Know’ and address key mental health issues affecting Ontario farmers, agriculture employees and farm families. These half-day sessions, developed at the University of Guelph, are designed to increase mental health awareness and create support specific for farmer mental health.
OFA has provided funding and has representatives on the University of Guelph stakeholder working group for mental health in agriculture.
Local Federations of Agriculture
At the grassroots level, county and regional federations of agriculture have been leading the way on hosting workshops and Mental Health First Aid training.
Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
Partnership with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) to address key safety issues affecting Ontario farmers, agriculture employees and farm families.
OFA collaborated with WSPS and industry stakeholders to launch a video through Fields to Forks on the many factors to consider for planning a safe day of work. The video features farmers encouraging each other to use extra caution and advance communication when planning to work alone, and enlisting help when you’re overwhelmed. Watch the video here.
Mental Health Matters Campaign
To help raise the profile of farmer wellness in 2020, OFA launched two campaigns through CTV Bell Media featuring farm voices speaking about the importance of seeking help in times of distress and planning for support to avoid the dangers of working alone when overwhelmed.
Watch the videos and learn more about the campaign at ofa.on.ca/mental-health-matters.
Ontario Government’s COVID-19 Response for Mental Wellness
For information, visit www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-support-people#section-4.
Access self-led telephone or online therapy for stress, anxiety and depression
BounceBack is a free skill-building program that adults and youth 15+ can access over the phone. With the guidance of a coach, you’ll work through a series of workbooks at your own schedule, to gain practical skills to better manage low mood, anxiety, worry or stress. You’ll learn things like how to improve your mood by changing the way you think or respond to things. Learn more at bouncebackontario.ca.
Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT)
Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) is a practical, short-term program delivered online. It helps people develop skills and strategies to address symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. It can also help people cope with situations related to COVID-19covid 19, such as isolation, pressure caring for family and community members, information overload and stress.
If iCBT is right for you, you will be supported by a therapist online to:
- work through modules
- complete readings and exercises
- learn coping and resilience skills
To learn more and get services, contact either: