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.
Mental Health News
Ontario Expands Virtual Mental Health Services During COVID-19: Free Internet-Based Programs Help People Cope with Unprecedented Situation
TORONTO ― Starting today, the Ontario government is expanding virtual mental health services to help thousands of Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak. These Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs were developed in partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell and will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to Ontarians across the province.
The details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, during National Mental Health Week.
“Even though this virus has taken a heavy toll on our everyday lives, we are doing everything we can to keep people healthy, physically and mentally,” said Premier Ford. “By expanding access to free virtual and online mental health supports, I want those who are struggling to know that we are here to support and help you cope with the stress, isolation and anxiety during these extraordinary times.”
As part of the government’s $12 million commitment to mental health during COVID-19, the emergency funding is helping mental health agencies hire and train more staff, purchase the necessary equipment and technology they need to help patients, and support the creation and enhancement of virtual and online supports for mental health services including:
- Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Clients can self-refer to programs through the various service providers listed and be guided through their client journey to find the appropriate supports they need. Online iCBT is supported by therapists and available in English and French.
- Supports for frontline health care workers: Online iCBT is available to frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or post-traumatic stress disorder. Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care, as well as weekly online peer discussion groups and access to confidential support from a clinician.
- Virtual mental health support services: These include BounceBack telephone coaching and workbooks, and Kids Help Phone for children and youth.
“In order to help stop the spread of this deadly virus our frontline workers are working long hours in stressful situations and people across the province are doing their part by staying home, in many cases alone,” said Minister Elliott. “We know these actions are not easy and can cause stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. That’s why we are providing virtual mental health supports, allowing people to get the help they need while still physically distancing.”
The province has also established a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services. Its members include representatives from across Ontario’s mental health and addictions sector, who are working collaboratively to focus on maintaining services during the outbreak. The Response Table is identifying concerns and implementing quick solutions, supporting virtual care strategies, sharing best practices, and connecting with other COVID-19 regional and provincial tables to ensure any issues impacting the province’s mental health and addictions system are quickly resolved.
“Ontario’s mental health and addictions organizations are working around-the-clock to ensure individuals and families have access to the critical mental health and addictions supports they need,” said Minister Tibollo. “I applaud these mental health professionals for their commitment, dedication and compassion during these unprecedented times.”
At Ontario.ca/coronavirus, people can find information about the different virtual mental health and wellness options that meet their unique needs, including online therapy.
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.
Ontario Mental Health Line
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 and Crisis Ontario
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.
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 https://gfo.ca/farmerwellness/support-resources.
Do More Ag Foundation
For additional information, check out OFA’s Mental Health Resource Sheet.
OFA is joining other agricultural stakeholders, researchers from the University of Guelph, and mental health professionals in calling for the establishment of a Centre for Farmer Mental Health and Wellness. This Centre would provide a well-organized, systematic approach to developing easily accessible, evidence-based resources and interventions for farmers and rural residents. It could also provide an opportunity to coordinate interdisciplinary research into the diverse mental health and wellness issues faced by the whole agriculture and agri-food system. OFA believes this is crucial first step towards addressing the needs of a historically under-represented group.
OFA provides partnership and funding to several projects in support of mental health and wellness in agriculture.
- Lennox and Addington Farmer Wellness Program with Deb Vanberkel of Cultivate Counselling Services. For more information on the program, visit farmerwellnessprogram.ca.
- The Do More Ag Foundation – a Canadian not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing mental health literacy and access to funding for Mental Health First Aid.
- OFA jointly hosted a Mental Health in Agriculture workshop with L&A Farmer Wellness Program for attendees at the Ottawa Valley Farm Show in March 2019.
- OFA has provided funding and has representatives on the University of Guelph stakeholder working group for mental health in agriculture. The working group is developing the ‘In the Know’ mental health literacy programming for rural and agricultural communities.
- Partnership with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to address key safety issues affecting Ontario farmers, agriculture employees and farm families.
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 wellbeing.
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.