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FCSS’s Farm Family Outreach services provide targeted supports to farmers

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

A new program is bringing an informed and empathetic approach to the specific challenges faced by farmers in an attempt to connect those struggling with better mental health supports and services in the region.

Barons-Eureka-Warner Family & Community Support Services (FCSS) launched the Farm Family Services for farmers and their families and offers, “confidential support to farmers and their families, to connect farmers to local services, and provide resources that will assist them in their farming journey and enrich farm families’ lives.” While FCSS offers different programming for diverse demographics, the farming culture throughout the rural areas covered by the  Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS prompted the creation of the FARM family Services division at FCSS.

The program was born out of a need for supports specifically targeted toward the farming community.

Services include confidential supports designed for ease of access in mind to work towards breaking the stigma of surrounding mental health, provide a personal connection from service providers with insight into the farming lifestyle, and offer referrals to professional services.

“The Farming lifestyle has its own unique challenges, and we have found this necessitates unique supports,” said Farm Family Outreach worker, Emily Frieberg.

Challenges such as a diminished boundaries between work and home life as well as the complexities of working closely with family can make for additional stresses and challenges beyond the stress of the work itself. Considerations such as farm accidents or navigating the grief or loss of a family member is a particularly difficult situation when trying to keep the family business functioning.

Factors such as the lack of access extended employment benefits which may allow for prescribed rest or healing for farmers struggling to overcome mental health challenges can lead to people not reaching out.

As an outreach worker, Frieberg said her experience living on a farm in addition to her professional training and education inform her approach to delivery support services. “We are here to offer an informed empathetic voice,” she said.

In addition to the unique factors to consider when providing mental health supports and services to farmers, statistics show farmers face a higher risk for chronic stress compared to the general population.

According to data collected by the Canadian Mental Health Association, factors such as long working hours, working in solitary or isolated conditions, unpredictable weather which has immense impacts on crop yield, the uncertainty and impact of animal or crop disease as well as market volatility are ongoing considerations for farmers and people working in the agriculture industry. Over one third of all farmers meet the diagnostic criteria for depression while 58 per cent of farmers meet the classification for anxiety. Data also shows 45 per cent of farmers report high stress and 68 per cent of all farmers in Canada are more susceptible than the average non-farming Canadian to live with chronic stress, which carries a risk for developing further mental and physical illnesses.

Frieberg noted the often insular nature of farming, or farmers only speaking to other farmers can be a barrier when trying to access mental health supports. Although the program was brought online in Feb. 2023, Frieberg said the more people are aware such a program exists, the better.

“We want to get the word out there that these services exist for farmers in our communities.”

For more information on the Farm Family Services, visit https://fcss.ca/farm-family-outreach/

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