The New Year is bringing a new service to Ontario farmers, with the launch of a telehealth line to provide mental wellness support.
The program includes four free counselling sessions for farmers and family members, with money coming from the provinical and federal government.
The mental health workers involved have completed training to help them be more prepared to address the strains that face farmers.
The line is open 24/7 at year, at 1-866-267-6255. It’s a program that has been developed in a partnership with the OFA and the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“The Government of Ontario is proud to fund the Farmer Wellness Initiative and to partner with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to help deliver an important program to provincial farmers,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Peggy Brekveld, president of the OFA said that the mental health concerns of farmers is a key focus of the organization. There are more steps to come in future years, she said.
Other materials will be made available through a website and an app with many resources.
The support line will enter callers into an intake process to arrange counselling sessions with a mental health professional. That could be 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).
OMAFRA and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada support the program.
“Availability of mental health services has been a big roadblock standing between farmers and their mental wellness,” Ms Brekveld said. “The telephone line is a first step in a process that will add more access points over the coming weeks and months.”
Mental health issues are a more mainstream concern. One of the Winter Courses offered through Grey Bruce Ag Services in Markdale is called “In The Know.” Jackie Ralph of CMHA Grey gives what’s described as a basic mental health literacy program, developed at the Ontario Veterinary College specifically for the agricultural community. It’s being held on Jan. 18, 2022 as a webinar.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald