Mental initiatives for 4-H

Back in November 2018, 4-H Canada announced a two-year multi-partner agreement that supports the well-being of rural youth across Canada. The agreement includes the creation of the 4-H Canada Healthy Living Initiative, which begins in Spring 2019.

“FCC has been working with industry partners like 4-H to help remove the stigma around mental health,” says Carla Warnyca, Community Investment Manager at Farm Credit Canada, said. “ We feel that it's really important that we approach mental health collaboratively to increase the reach of resources with the intent of increasing the positive impact that we can have together in the agriculture industry and in communities across country.”

According to interim CEO and Program Director, Erin Smith, 4-H Canada delivers programming within four leadership development pillars: agriculture and food security, science and technology, community engagement and communications, and the environment and healthy living. The Healthy Living Initiative, Smith says, falls under the environment and healthy living pillar.

“We think that there's a lot of potential to have little conversations with young people about not only the environment and the health system of the planet, but their own health and wellbeing,” Smith says. “The healthy living initiative is really about starting the conversation around what it means to be healthy and to be a young person in this day and age.”

Smith says that the initiative was created because the organization wants to be able to create tools and resources for young people to be able to look at their mental health, their physical health and their well-being. This initiative, Smith adds, is in accordance with the mission of the 4-H movement in Canada, which is to empower youth to be responsible, caring and contributing leaders that effect positive change in the world around them.

“We at 4-H support youth in making sure that they are feeling healthy and that they know how to take care of themselves and advocate for their own mental health and wellbeing,” Smith says.

Smith says that 4-H has been hearing from leaders in 4-H communities that many youth are struggling with mental health challenges. Those leaders want to feel better equipped to support the young people who they work with. Smith says that 4-H strives to be responsive to feedback and thus, they came  up with the idea of creating a healthy living initiative. FCC and Kids Help Phone have helped with the organization and development of resources.

“We want everyone to be better equipped to be having these conversations with youth and to be pointing them in the right direction in terms of the resources and the access,” Smith says. “I think breaking down those barriers, especially for youth in rural communities is essential.”

The initiative, Smith says, will take effect over a period of two years with the first year of the initiative focusing on the creation of resources and tools that will support youth facing mental health challenges and teach them to how communicate their need for help or to access support resources. The second year of the initiative will focus on physical health, nutrition and well-being so youths can learn their strengths and how to develop them.

“The Healthy Living Initiative means offering youth not only the tools and resources to face challenges, but also opportunities to learn how to thrive,” Shannon Benner, the CEO for 4-H Canada, says.

While Farm Credit Canada is contributing $50,000 towards the initiative, UFA Co-operative Limited, Corteva Agriscience™ Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, and Cargill have also all agreed to put over $150,000 collectively towards making it successful.

“As a positive youth development organization, 4-H Canada continually strives to understand our members and develop programming that meets their needs,” Benner says. “We are truly grateful that so many partners have joined us in helping to create the resources that leaders can use to make a difference in the lives of youth across Canada.”

For more information about the 4-H Canada Healthy Living Initiative, visit:

“This is an investment in young people who will play a large role in shaping the future of Canadian agriculture,” Michael Hoffort, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada, says. “To help them reach their full-potential we are supporting a program that contributes to the mental and physical well-being of our next generation of farmers and agribusiness professionals.”

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