‘Producers face a number of factors that are out of their control, many of which can have a negative impact on mental health’
Following a recent province-wide Innovation Challenge, Innovation Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, has released a new tool that helps farmers monitor their mental health.
The mobile app Avail was developed by Saskatoon-based Bridges Health, It offers producers a confidential system for actively recording and analyzing their mental health, accessing online resources such as articles and videos and finding and accessing care providers in their communities. The app encourages regular check-ins and allows producers and their care providers to find patterns in the data they log.
“Mental health in the agriculture industry is a priority for the Government of Saskatchewan, and we know farmers and ranchers face unique challenges when it comes to accessing mental health services,” said Jeremy Harrison, minister of Innovation Saskatchewan. “Avail helps address many of those concerns, and provides a made-in-Saskatchewan solution for producers looking for support in tracking their mental health.”
The government noted the Farm Stress Line received more than 1,000 calls in 2019-2020, showing that producers are looking for resources to maintain their mental health.
“Producers face a number of factors that are out of their control, many of which can have a negative impact on mental health,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said. “This tool allows producers to take an active role in monitoring their mental health and accessing supports.”
For winning the 2020 Innovation Challenge, Bridges Health received $10,000, as well as a 16-week residency to develop Avail. They presented Avail to government and industry offices during a digital presentation last week.
“As a company founded and based in Saskatchewan, the agriculture sector touches both our business and our families,” Leon Ferguson, Bridges Health vice president. “We are honoured to have this opportunity to work with government and partners to develop and advance this mental health and overall wellness tool.”
Recently, Bell Let’s Talk Day marked its 11th edition Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau released a statement urging Canadian farmers to check up on and talk about their mental health.
Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island is renewing the Farmers Talk program for a second year. The program helps hundreds of the province’s farmers and their families find help to deal with the mental and emotional stress associated with farming life.
FarmersTalk.ca encourages farmers, producers and family members to open up about the challenges they face, to support each other, and to reach out for help with any mental health struggles.
“In the last year farmers have dealt with the impacts of COVID-19, faced a national economic downturn, and weathered an extremely dry growing season,” said Bloyce Thompson, minister of agriculture and land. “This has been a stressful year, but the Farmers Talk site has provided guidance when people seek help for their mental and emotional health.”
More than 250 counselling sessions were provided free of charge last year to members of PEI’s agricultural community through Farmers Talk and the Farmer Assistance Program, offered by the PEI Federation of Agriculture.
FarmersTalk.ca was developed by the Department of Agriculture and Land in cooperation with Island farm organizations and provincial mental health services.
The resource builds on other support available through the Farmer Assistance Program, which offers six free sessions to farmers, their families and their employees dealing with mental health issues.
Previously, 48 per cent of Canadians reported needing some form of mental health support, according to Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index for the month of October.