Posted  19 Mar, 2018 
In: Articles

A worker carries an air filter during wheat harvest on a farm in Alberta. The founders of #DoMoreAg encourage farmers to speak openly about their stressful work. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Originally published January 30, 2018 on CBC

By Josee St-Onge

Do More Agriculture aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental health and agriculture

Inspired by her family’s own struggles with mental health issues, Lesley Kelly wanted to do more to break down the stigma surrounding stress, depression, and agriculture.

“Our culture is built on strength, resilience and perseverance, but that can also be a weakness,” says Kelly, who operates a family farm near Watrous, Sask.

Kelly is one of the four founders of the Do More Agriculture Foundation, a national program that was launched Tuesday in Edmonton at FarmTech 2018, a conference on at the Expo Centre until Thursday.

Farmers and producers are encouraged to use the hashtag #DoMoreAg to share their mental health struggles.

Farming took a toll on family

Kelly says her own video about her husband Matt’s stressful experience with farming has got a lot of positive attention since its release last July.

“Responses were heartfelt,” said Kelly. “People were saying ‘Thank you for starting a conversation within our family.’ ”

She said the pressures of taking over a new farming business, with its high financial stakes, took a toll on her family.

“You are working with things outside your control, like the weather and markets, and it’s long days and long nights, sometimes working around the clock.”

Kelly posted this video on the Facebook page for her blog High Heels and Canola Fields.

Stress, anxiety and depression

Farmers suffer from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than the general population, according to a survey conducted by the University of Guelph.

More than 1,100 Canadian farmers were polled between September 2015 and January 2016 about mental health issues.

Researcher Andria Jones-Bitton found that 45 per cent of respondents had high stress.

Another 58% expressed varying levels of anxiety, and 35 per cent struggled with depression.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of respondents felt there was a stigma associated with reaching out for help.


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