Resolution E1-19: Access to Agriculture Specific Mental Health Resources

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT ALBERTA’S AGRICULTURAL SERVICE BOARDS REQUEST that the Provincial Government of Alberta facilitates the formation of a free, year-round, all hours, mental health crisis hotline, dedicated to the agriculture industry, providing farmers with direct access to uniquely qualified professionals and resources, whom have both an understanding of mental health issues and agriculture-specific stresses.

FURTHER THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT ALBERTA’S AGRICULTURAL SERVICE BOARDS REQUEST that the Provincial Government of Alberta secure long term, sustainable funding for the operation and maintenance of this mental health crisis hotline.

Response:

AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY

AF appreciates Alberta’s Agricultural Service Boards interest in this important topic. Indeed, a 2016 study from the University of Guelph found that 45 per cent of farmers had high stress, while 40 per cent said they would feel uneasy asking for professional help. Thirty-five per cent of Canadian producers could be classified as depressed and 58 per cent of producers meet the criteria for anxiety (U of Guelph news Farmers Need and Want Mental Health Help survey .

While this study does not offer any Alberta-specific data, Farm Management Canada recently released an “Expression of Interest” to industry stakeholders interested in contributing to an industry-wide, national study on the connection between mental health and farm business management (https://fmc-gac.com/announcements cpt/rei-mh-fbm/). Alberta’s Agricultural Service Boards may consider responding to this call as a means of providing an Alberta perspective, and to further validate the need for the proposed service.

At this time, there is no funding available for a mental health crisis hotline dedicated to agriculture. AF is committed to reaching out to Alberta Health in the coming months to discuss potential options and strategies to address the concerns of mental health as they specifically relate to the agriculture industry in Alberta.

HEALTH

Thank you for your emails regarding agriculture specific mental health resources.

I appreciate the comprehensive information the Provincial Agricultural Service Board (ASB) Committee provided in the Resolution E1-19: Access to Agriculture Specific Mental Health Resources, and am pleased that the findings are aligned with the approach we are taking to support Albertans who live in rural communities. I understand that agriculture is a stressful occupation with unique mental health concerns.

I assure you that improving mental health supports for farming families in rural communities is a priority for our government. There are a number of activities underway that focus on rural communities.

  • Currently, the 211 database (mentioned in your resolution), covers about 65 per cent of the province. It is being expanded to cover the whole province so people can get information about addiction and mental health services that are close to home, especially in rural areas.
  • Alberta Health Services is increasing mental health service delivery to rural and remote communities through telehealth services. Telehealth is also used for specialized service delivery in rural areas (e.g., child psychiatry, psychogeriatrics, opioid services) in combination with local Alberta Mental Health staff.
  • Alberta Health provided grant funding to, and is working closely with, the Canadian Mental Health Association to improve community-led mental health supports in rural areas. Over the next three years, 150 rural communities (including towns, villages and Indigenous communities) will develop and implement local action plans to improve addiction and mental health services. We are looking forward to seeing the results.
  • There have been 40 free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for Seniors training sessions offered across Alberta, including rural areas, with more to come. MHFA is an evidence-based course that supports participants to respond to emerging and crisis mental health issues in the people they serve, their co-workers, friends and families.

It has been recognized as an effective tool for farming communities, and training is also being offered through Farm Credit Canada.

  • We are also piloting and evaluating e-counselling options and expanding the Mental Health Capacity Building in Schools program to 18 more schools, including in rural and remote areas of the province, bringing supports to 100,000 children across the province.

Additionally, the Mental Health Help Line provides a province-wide, 24/7 telephone service. This is a confidential, anonymous service that offers help for mental health concerns, including crisis intervention, information about mental health programs and services, and referrals to other agencies, if needed.

There are also agriculture specific health supports available to farming families in Alberta:

  • 4-H Farm Management Canada has just launched their Healthy Living initiative, a two-year program available to all 4-H Clubs in Canada. The first year of the program will focus on providing mental health supports to children and youth in collaboration with partners such as the Kids Help Phone. Information is available on their website at https://4-h-canada.ca.
  • Farm Credit Canada has a program, Rooted in Strength, that focuses on breaking the stigma of mental health support in the farming community and providing resources to farming families. Information about this program is available on their website at www.fcc-fac.ca/en/ag-knowledge/wellness.html.
  • Do More Ag is a not-for-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture, that offers resource listings and works with partner organizations across Canada. Information about this organization is available on their website at www.domore.org.

I commend you for your advocacy on this matter and appreciate the time you have taken to bring this concern to my attention. The information you have provided will help to ensure that our health care system remains responsive to the needs of all Albertans.

Sincerely,

Lorna Rosen

Deputy Minister