John McFadyen the Executive Director of Mobile Crisis Services manages the Farm Stress Line.
McFayden reviews, “Mobile Crisis Services, we are in our 45th year, and in 2012 the Minister of Agriculture met and contracted with us. To take over the Farm Stress Line and they saw us as an agency that could provide better services, because we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So the farm stress line is a 1-800 number that is free and confidential. And our staff provide crisis counseling to farm families or those that support our farm families in our rural community.”
Statistics stating farmers are more likely to have suicidal tendencies and McFadyen shares, “Well, I think that it is because they (farmers) are more isolated, they don’t have access to the resources like people living in urban areas. Farmers are kind of the CEO’s of a big company, farms have grown and to continue farming you have to increase your land, which increases responsibility. Plus, they have all the people behind them, their families, support workers, and they have all the pressures of managing a large operation. So issues around what to plant, financial situation, and they also have all those same issues with their families and support systems. They have to deal with tragic events that happen, domestic issues, bereavement, all those same stresses. And when you're faced with stresses, whether it's with your farm operation or with your support system and your family, it's important to deal with those.”
With today as National Suicide Prevention Day McFadyen states, “Everyone has mental health issues, your mental health is good when your relationships are good. And when your relationships are not good your emotions are stressed, your making more impulsive decisions, it distracts you from your day to day operations. And then farmers become more at risk in relationships when they're accomplishing those task safely.”
In regards to the stigma of Suicide Awareness, “I think that’s certainly the case, theirs been a lot of work done this last year with going to the different Ag farms to Saskatoon, Yorkton, Regina, and Weyburn and talking with a cloud of partners. And sharing information, educating about mental health, about stress and how its okay to talk about it. Reduce the stigma around mental health.”
When a farmer calls the support line in crisis McFadyen says, “Our operators provide them with crisis counseling, when they're calling the farm stress line, the crisis counselor gets them to talk about what’s worrying them. They then identify the most significant problems they need to address, with those problems what are the things that they can control? They do problem-solving with them, about what resources are available to them. And there pointing them in the right direction, as far as to seek help as to address those things. Whether its a financial issue, technical issue that the Ag knowledge center can help them with, or a financial crisis that we partner with other agencies to provide counseling.”
As farming is a highly stressful job on a seasonal basis Mcfadyen has a solution, “Well, usually from the time of seeding to the end of harvest, with the flexible hours that they can call. It allows them to contact us at times where it is good for them. As opposed to having to call between 9-5. That flexibility is important for farmers who have undefined hours.”
“The biggest challenge is awareness, and I think we’ve made some head rows into that during the last year. And hopefully, during this coming year, we’ll make more head rows and get those who need help, reaching out for help," he shares.
And McFadyen closes with, “The hardest part is picking up the phone and making the call, but when you make the call, the crisis workers on the other end of the line are very skilled and they will help you walk through what’s worrying you and beginning to talk about it reduces stress. And that’s the first step.”
For help, you can contact the Farm Stress Line at 1-800-667-4442 anytime.