ST. AGATHA — The Ontario government is committing more than $385,000 to expand “In the Know”, a mental health literacy program tailored to support the well-being of the farming community. Expanding In the Know to more communities will improve the quality and access to mental health services available to Ontario’s agricultural sector to ensure farmers, their families, and their employees have additional places to turn to when help is needed.
Farmers work hard to feed the province and support the economy. However, stigma around mental health and lack of services in rural Ontario are big contributing factors as to why many people in the farming community dealing with a mental illness choose not to seek help.
“I know first-hand how stressful owning and running a farm can be, and this has been a particularly difficult year and a half for farmers. In addition to normal stressors — including the changing weather, commodity prices, pests and diseases — farmers have had to deal with the added complexities of COVID-19,” said Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson through a press release issued Sept. 27.
“Our investment to expand the In the Know program will help more people in the province’s farming community access the supports they need to when they need it,” Thompson added.
The In the Know program is a mental health literacy program tailored to the needs of the agricultural community offered at 16 Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branches in rural and agricultural communities by approximately 30 facilitators. The expansion of the program to more branches will help improve access to mental health supports in rural areas, reduce the stigma around mental health, encourage more open discussion, and help connect the farm community with the resources and support they need, ministry officials state.
“In a year unlike any other, there has been an increased demand for more mental health services and supports that address the unique needs of Ontario’s farming community,” said associate minister of mental health and addictions Michael Tibollo. “Through the expansion of the In the Know program, more Ontarians in the agricultural sector will have targeted, reliable access to the highest quality mental health care that they expect and deserve.”
Training more specialists
The release states that farmers have indicated in previous roundtables and conversations that they are more likely to open up about their mental health if they feel their counsellor or other mental health support understands the agricultural sector and the realities of farming. With the funding announced Monday, CHMA Ontario will also train and educate more mental health specialists on how they can better support farmers and the unique challenges they face.
In the Know was developed as a result of research at the University of Guelph funded, in part, by the Province of Ontario.