AgSafe is making the mental health and well-being of farmers, ranchers, and growers in British Columbia a top health and safety priority.
AgSafe is the workplace health and safety association for B.C.’s agriculture industry. Recent funding support from United Way Fraser Valley and B.C. Ministry of Agriculture is enabling AgSafe to bring mental wellness counselling opportunities for individuals and groups at no cost to the province’s agricultural producers and their families affected by COVID-19, wildfires and floods.
Agricultural work is associated with unique stressors that are potentially hazardous to mental wellness. The work, and the life, is strenuous and often solitary. Farmers and ranchers regularly feel the expectation to work hard, be strong and resilient. As a result many rarely ask for help when they feel anxious or depressed.
“There is such a stigma around mental health, that producers, like many people, tend not to open up and talk to someone about what they are feeling. After the past two years, many are feeling pretty burned out,” says Wendy Bennett, Executive Director of AgSafe.
“That’s why AgSafe is working to create safe spaces and resources that are specific to agriculture. The mental wellness practitioners we work with live and work in the agricultural community. Many are farmers and know what farmers go through.”
The mental wellness resources for B.C.’s farmers, their families and workers available through AgSafe include the Avail app, a personal well-being assistant that offers resilience check-ups and connects directly with mental health professionals and resources.
AgSafe, recently collaborated with the Canadian Mental Health Association of BC to provide reference information for use by crisis line operators when communicating with individuals working in, or associated with agriculture.
The organization is also launching a series of Mental Health Lunch & Learns – 30 minute webinars hosted by mental health practitioners engaged by AgSafe. Initial topics include Healthy Habits, Fatigue, Chronic Stress and Trauma.
Facts and findings
In 2018, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph surveyed 1,100 farmers in Canada and found nationally:
- 35% of farmers met the classification for depression
- 45% reported high stress
- 58% met the classification for anxiety
- 68% were more susceptible than the general population to chronic stress
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