Applied research project launches mental wellness network and toolbox to support farmer and rancher mental health
Based on research findings, Farmer and Rancher Mental Health (FARMh) launches mental health resources for the agriculture community
January 26, 2023 – The Farmer and Rancher Mental Health (FARMh) initiative began with a goal of creating a farm-culture friendly mental health support system. Based on research findings from phase one, the patient-oriented research project recently helped launch a mental wellness network for those in Saskatchewan’s agriculture community. Researchers continue to use data from phase one to build a mental wellness toolbox.
Since the launch of the FARMh initiative in January 2021, the applied research team has collected data from over 100 farmers and ranchers on effective mental health supports, their experiences and their recommendations on accessing this kind of help. This information was used to launch the SaskAgMatters Network, which is bridging the gap between agriculture producers and mental wellness supports.
“In our interviews, some of the most common mental health supports requested by agriculture producers included access to mental health professionals trained in farm culture, a peer support network with other agriculture producers and mental health training for rural health care providers,” says Dr. Michelle Pavloff, Sask Polytech research chair for rural health and principal investigator. “The SaskAgMatters Network is helping to meet some of these requests.”
The SaskAgMatters Network offers free mental health support services for Saskatchewan agriculture producers or their support person. Each individual is eligible for six free one-hour sessions with trained and registered mental health professionals that have a background in farm culture. Approximately 10 producers have accessed free counselling sessions through the SaskAgMatters Network in the past two months.
“In times of stress, the SaskAgMatters Network is providing agriculture producers across Saskatchewan with affordable and accessible mental health resources,” says Pavloff. “I’m so proud we are already using our integrated knowledge mobilization strategy to take action. Our research is being used to support farmers and ranchers today. If someone needs help, there is a website (saskagmatters.ca) and people available for them to talk to. They can do it now. They don’t need to wait.”
Data from phase one will continue to be used to create the FARMh toolbox. “Every farmer and rancher has a toolbox that organizes and stores their important tools, making them easily accessible when needed,” says Pavloff. “That is our goal with the FARMh toolbox, to organize mental health tools and resources in a convenient place that is accessible when needed.”
Unique stressors exist in farming and ranching. The FARMh toolbox will provide tools to address these stressors based on FARMh research findings, which include financial concerns, weather, workload, government, family, isolation and public opinion. The FARMh team will continue to develop the toolbox throughout phase two of the project. The toolbox focuses on farm culture and will include resources such as free counselling, a peer support network, suicide intervention and more.
Building a network and creating a toolbox were phase two goals of the FARMh research project. With the SaskAgMatters Network launched, researchers will now focus on filling the FARMh toolbox with mental health supports and resources. Phase two will end in 2025. Phase three will evaluate the network and toolbox and adjust the program and resources as needed.
The FARMh initiative research project is funded by Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Saskatchewan Centre for Patient Oriented Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. For more information on this project visit saskpolytech.ca/farmh.
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