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'Farm stress is real. Suicide is real': Tweet sparks conversation on mental health
Last week, Kim Keller learned about the recent suicide of a farmer and decided it was time to speak up.
She tweeted, “farm stress is real. Suicide is real.”
#Ag we gotta do more.— Kim Keller (@kimkkeller) June 24, 2017
I rcv'd a msg yesterday that kept me up thinking of how we do more. Farm stress is real. Suicide is real. 1/
The tweet quickly spread across Saskatchewan, sparking a conversation about mental health in the agriculture industry.
“It’s amazing to see so many people sharing their stories, their experiences,” Keller said, adding it’s also been great to see stories of farmers supporting each other.
According to Health Canada, one in five Canadians will suffer from mental health issues this year.
“It’s certainly a touchy subject,” Todd Lewis, president of Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan(APAS) said in a phone interview.
Lewis said it’s something many people don’t like to talk about despite that many lives it’s touched.
But still, Lewis said it needs to be addressed, and it will be at the next APAS meeting. The association has booked a speaker to talk about mental health issues.
Long hours alone, and a lack of control could contribute to mental health concerns for farmers. Unlike most occupations, farmers rely on Mother Nature for success.
“Services are slim and can have long wait periods,” Phyllis O’Connor, executive director of the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association said.
“But we do our best to have people linked up with the support services the need and sometimes that’s only someone to list to. Quite often we get people calling who just want to talk.”
One resource farmers can turn to is the Farm Stress Line. Open 24 hours, seven days a week, the line has trained counselors and can direct people to other resources. Last year, 28 per cent of their calls were related to mental health.
The University of Regina also offers free e-counseling across the province. The service has been in place since 2010 and has served 2,000 clients. Nearly half of their clients are from rural Saskatchewan.
Keller said she hopes to keep the conversation going. Premier Brad Wall invited her to meet with the ministry of agriculture to discuss her concerns and what the ministry can do to support producers.
Until then, Keller has this advice for farmers across the province:
"Talk and share and when you ask someone how they're doing, really listen because you'll be surprised what you hear when you actively listen to someone and you care about what they're saying.”