Ontario and the Federal government provide financial aid for mental health initiatives

Ontario and the Federal government provide financial aid for mental health initiatives
Oct 10, 2023

Both governments are helping to support mental health initiatives in Ontario’s agricultural community.

By Andrew Joseph; Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash

Sometimes the government getting involved is a good thing.

Both the federal Canadian and Ontario governments are providing over $8 million to ensure that farmers and their families have access to provincial mental health resources.

With this financial commitment, the Farmer Wellness Initiative, the In the Know program, and the Guardian Network will continue to be available to everyone who needs them.

These initiatives have been designed to meet the unique mental health needs of farmers and their families and are delivered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division.

“Our farmers and their families face unique challenges, often due to forces that are beyond their control. This can have a severe impact on their mental health, and we will continue to invest in targeted initiatives to support them,” said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “By increasing awareness of the resources that are available, we can provide crucial support to our farming communities when they need it most.”

Lisa Thompson, Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), added, “A life in agriculture is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, but it also comes with unique stressors and challenges.

“This investment will ensure the right resources are in place to support Ontario’s hardworking agriculture community when and where they need it.”

To deliver the message to the ag community and ensure that more people are aware of the support available to them, a new promotional initiative is being launched—the Sowing the Seeds of Wellness Initiative.

It will make promotional materials available to eligible general farm and commodity organizations for use and display at member events. Funding will also be available over the next two years so organizations can produce customized materials, engage speakers, and/or develop other promotional activities that will provide farmers and their families with mental health-related information.

“Through the Roadmap to Wellness, we are making it possible for everyone in Ontario to access timely and low-barrier mental health services,” said Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Farmers work day in and day out to provide the resources we all need, so they deserve our full support. This investment is another example of how our government is building a mental health system designed to provide high-quality care in every community across the province, not just in urban centres.”

Funding for these initiatives primarily comes from the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), a five-year (2023-2028) $3.5-billion investment by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to strengthen the competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency of the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-based products sectors.

This includes $1 billion in federal programs and activities and a $2.5 billion commitment that is cost-shared 60 percent federally and 40 percent provincially and territorially for programs that are designed and delivered by the provinces and territories.

The Farmer Wellness Initiative phone line—available 24/7—provides farmers with free, professional mental health counselling services. Reachable at 1-866-267-6255, it first went live on January 1, 2022.

The Guardian Network is made up of trained adult volunteers who are likely to be in contact with farmers through their work, volunteer activities, or place in their community. CMHA Ontario trains and supports Guardians by equipping them with the strategies and tools needed to identify when someone is struggling with their mental health and direct them toward appropriate resources.

In the Know is a mental health literacy program designed specifically for farmers, their families, and those who are involved in and/or support the agricultural sector.

Participants cover topics such as stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and learn how to start a conversation about mental well-being during this three-hour, free workshop.

The Canadian Mental Health Association delivers the Farmer Wellness Initiative, Guardian Network, and In the Know programs, while OMAFRA will be delivering the Sowing the Seeds of Wellness Initiative. More details about the promotional initiative and its application process will soon be available online.

"This investment will go a long way toward raising awareness, addressing stigma, and providing essential mental health support for farmers in their local communities. We're grateful for the opportunity to continue creating a hub for agricultural mental health within the province," stated Camille Quenneville, the Chief Executive Officer of CMHA Ontario.

More details about each of the above programs may be found online at: https://agriculturewellnessontario.ca/.

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