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More mental health support coming for farmers

Programs offering counselling, resources expected to launch in early 2022.

A pair of new programs designed to help farmers struggling with their mental health is expected to launch across Ontario in the new year.

The provincial and federal governments announced on Nov. 22 they’re setting aside $7 million through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership for the initiatives, which will provide farming families with free mental health counselling services and connect at-risk farmers with tailored support and resources.

Few details are currently available about the initiatives, but one is the Guardians Network, while the second is a program modelled after the Farmer Wellness Program, which was created by mental health specialist Deborah Vanberkel.

The programs will be developed in consultation with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and other mental health sector experts.

"The farming community has demonstrated great strength and resilience throughout the pandemic, but mental health challenges often go unseen,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, in the release.

“If you are struggling, the first step is to reach out, because you are not alone in facing these challenges. These new agricultural mental health programs expand resource availability to help Ontario farmers and employees if they're struggling with their mental health."

The announcement comes in addition to other supports that were recently announced, including $385,000 in late September to expand In the Know, a workshop that educates farmers about how to recognize signs of mental health struggles.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion federal-provincial investment to strengthen and grow Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector.

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