Back in 2005, a year and a half after I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, my wife and I decided that I needed to seek talk therapy. I had been on medication, decided to get off them, was walloped by a traumatic experience, and felt lost.
So I made an appointment with a psychologist. Yes, they were pricey even back then, but we felt it would be worthwhile. When we met for that first appointment, I poured out my soul. Our farm was experiencing financial challenges. It had been a struggle for a number of years. My anxiety and depression had deeply rooted. My coping methods only added to the misery and despair.
Unfortunately, that appointment was not helpful. After expressing his bewilderment that I would even be considering selling a family farm, the psychologist told me I needed to go back on medication because I could not afford him. I left that appointment feeling devastated. I had summoned the courage but didn’t get what I needed. What I had hoped for was the start of “getting” better. Rather I was pushed further into the abyss. I felt dismissed
Thankfully, with support and encouragement from my wife, I continued to seek help from mental health professionals. It wasn’t easy as it just seemed that there was a complete lack of understanding of agriculture and the various stressors faced by producers.
I know many farmers share that sentiment. Over time various surveys have revealed that farmers need someone with farm knowledge to talk to. Anecdotally I heard of a farmer that went to seek help during a stressful time and the doctor gave him a two-week sick note. That would actually be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Due to an ever-increasing awareness of stress and the impact of stress on our mental health, farmers are reaching out, but hesitancy persists. Logistically it has been a challenge seeking much needed help.
The Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program addresses much of what I just talked about. It provides for free counselling for farmers and their families. The counsellors have an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of stressors in farming. They can be accessed in person, virtually or by telephone. The service is confidential and only the counsellor knows who you are.
I often compare my journey to that of living in a labyrinth. A labyrinth is defined as “a place with a lot of crisscrossing or complicated passages, tunnels, or paths in which it would be easy to become lost”. And when we are hit by over whelming stress, when anxiety sets in, it is easy to feel lost. But in times like these it is important to reach out. Find someone that can lead you through the labyrinth.
I was asked recently whether a program such as the Manitoba Farmer Wellness program would have been helpful to me back in the day. I answer that with an unequivocal YES. Having a counsellor with knowledge of farming at no cost to me would have been helpful. And even with the knowledge that I am on a lifelong journey, my journey would have been better served had I had that type of counselling earlier. The bottom line is that there is hope and there is relief. So yes, it is worth it. Visit www.manitobafarmerwellness.ca and find out how you can take advantage of this program.