Many producers have turned to the Farm Stress Line to help deal with some of the stress and feelings of isolation brought on by the job.
Acting Executive Director of Saskatchewan Mobile Crisis Services which oversees the Farm Stress Line, Jan Thorson, says that in the last quarter of 2020 the agency has seen an increase in calls, followed by a seasonal decrease.
“I can certainly say for the last quarter with what we have statistically available to us, yes we did see an uptake over the summer and into the fall. We don’t have our early winter statistics back yet, but I would suggest that there’s been a slight drop-off just because of the time of year and the stresses of farming aren’t as great in the winter in many cases. We suspect that will turn around again in the spring and we will see more calls to the line.” Thorson said.
The Farm Stress Line provides a service to producers in Saskatchewan who feel the pressure of their job and provides an opportunity to normalize their concerns.
“The Farm Stress Line is a gateway service. It’s a place to bring your immediate concerns, talk with a professionally trained counselor who can help you normalize some of the things you’re going through, and help you decide if you need more help. We have a resource bank of referrals that we can make for people if they feel they need more help. I think the main thing we do is provide normalization, assure people that this is a normal response to a very difficult situation across the globe. We encourage them to call us at any time as often as they need to if that will be helpful for them.” Said Thorson.
Concerns raised by producers were largely around the stress of being isolated during the pandemic. Thorson noted that the increase in isolation due to the pandemic has lead to increased depression amongst the producers who have contacted them.
“The main issues brought up to us are around mental health concerns, concerns about depression, isolation, those kinds of things. Family disputes and addictions too.”
Thorson explained that they have been implementing a new system to help track COVID-19 related concerns from producers as they currently do not have a system in place.
This new system as it’s implemented will provide Mobile Crisis Services with additional information and will better allow them to keep track of statistics.
“It’s not something that we track specifically with our statistics, but we made some changes so we will be able to do that, but it won’t be until down the road until we get that data back. But I think what’s been hard for farmers has been the isolation that the current health orders have produced. And I’d say that across the board for all our clients, that’s been very difficult for people, particularly people who live alone or do not have access to a friend or family group, don’t have great wi-fi or internet access.”
With the stress of COVID-19 at the forefront of many producer’s minds, Thorson reminds farmers of a few ways to deal with some of the stress.
“I would say, particularly during COVID, it’s very important to maintain contact with your friends or family, whether that be through telephone calls or zoom meetings. I would really encourage them to reach out to someone they’re close to at least once a day.”
Thorson also reminds producers to participate in some self-care, which can help reduce stress.
“Go easy on yourself, everybody is suffering right now and it’s okay to not be managing this as well as you may think you should be. Whatever you feel you need to do to make yourself feel better is fine unless it’s destructive. Eat properly, get some rest, exercise, all those things contribute to your overall well-being all the time and they’re particularly important during a pandemic.”
If a producer is feeling that they need additional help, Thorson says that they provide recommendation services to callers who feel they may need them. This service gets callers in contact with professionals who can better help them.
Thorson explained that they see seasonal increases and decreases in calls to the Farm Stress Line, but have been seeing more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Farm Stress Line is available 24/7 and can be reached at 1-800-667-4442
The Mobile Crisis Services also provides services for gambling addictions and a suicide hotline as well as a general crisis hotline for those who need it.
Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator