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Thursday, 01 February 2018 10:22

New foundation aims to ‘do more’ for mental health in ag

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Seven months after tweeting an impassioned plea for the industry to ‘do more’ to address mental health in the ag community, Kim Keller is meeting her own challenge. Last June, after learning about another farmer suicide in her community, Keller turned to Twitter to ask the ag industry to step up.

“#Ag, we gotta do more,” she tweeted. “I received a message yesterday that kept me up thinking of how we do more. Farm stress is real. Suicide is real. Fellow farmers, retailers, input companies, grain buyers, lenders – this is on all of us. We fail each other when it comes to mental health.”
The response was overwhelming, and kick-started a conversation about the toll farming can take on a producer’s mental health, the lack of resources to help, and the stiff- upper-lip culture of silence that surrounds the problem. 
“According to a survey of mental health in Canadian producers from Guelph University, 35% of producers meet the definition of depression classification,” Keller says. “45% of farmers report having high stress and 58% meet the definition for anxiety classification. We cannot ignore the mental health of our farmers any longer.”
Keller is partnering with fellow Saskatchewan farmer Lesley Rae Kelly, whose own video discussing her family’s experience with mental health issues went viral on social media last summer.
“My husband and I wanted to normalize the conversation around mental health,” Kelly says. “We are an everyday couple who has their peaks and valleys. Our goal was to share what we do to help each other, how this journey has brought us so much closer and that no one in our industry is alone.” 
The mission of the Do More Agriculture Foundation - which was also co-founded by Himanshu Singh and Saskatchewan curler Kirk Muyres, is to champion the mental wellbeing of all producers. The co-founders’ hope to destigmatize and educate the ag industry on mental health as well as provide resources to those affected.

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