CFFO: Mental Health Week in Canada

By Paul Bootsma

May 1st – 7th is Mental Health Week in Canada. Mental health is a condition that is more widely recognized and which needs further understanding for those experiencing this condition. Mental illnesses are health problems that affect the way we think about ourselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around us. They affect our thoughts, feelings, abilities and behaviours. Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses.

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Last summer a survey from the University of Guelph revealed that mental illness also affects the farming community. Farmers are among the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health, according to this survey from the University of Guelph by population medicine professor Andria Jones-Bitton. Stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion and burnout are all higher among farmers than among other groups, early findings of the survey show. The survey found 45 per cent of survey respondents had high stress, another 58 per cent were classified with varying levels of anxiety, and 35 per cent with depression.

I know many farmers across Ontario, and I would expect many would be surprised by these numbers, and I am concerned that the farming community may not take this issue seriously enough. The effects touch our families, friends and farms, including the animals that farmers care for. The challenge is for those affected to acknowledge it in themselves and then seek assistance.

In many ways, farmers have a characteristic of self-survival, which may be good, but can also keep them from looking for help that can so often assist in overcoming these illnesses. As farms have changed over the last decades, the lifestyle of farming has also changed and that simple, outdoor lifestyle that we all seem to desire seems to been lost. Farms have become big businesses and are managed as such, so there are additional mental challenges every day.

There should be no discrimination for acknowledging that one needs help to overcome challenges in our lives. Often admitting our struggles is half the battle, and with some help from experienced persons those challenges are able to be overcome. The Bible instructs us to share our burdens with one another (Gal. 6:2). It’s a good step to take.

So, next week during mental health week, when you see a building lit up in green, remember there are those around you that may need acceptance and understanding from you to make their situation better.

We live in a world that needs real love.

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Paul Bootsma is Field Service Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.