BY JOYCE SASSE
“There’s immense power in asking someone how they are doing”, one farmer commented when asked how stress was affecting him this summer. “Just ask!” he said.
An excellent article in the Aug. 27 edition of the Western Producer looks at the importance of helping farmers talk about the mental burdens that weigh heavy on them through the long period from seeding to harvest – and especially with the weather as extreme as it has been this year. Of course, the stress factors carry through the rest of the year.
The seven-day intensity of demands, combined with the isolation of working alone, while dependent on financial and supply businesses who aren’t always supportive, readily festers depression.
A “suck-it-up” mantra only compounds the problem. It perpetuates the belief these matters are best kept private.
From the pastoral point of view, in the midst of a previous drought cycle, when I asked the churches in our area to sponsor a “Drought Stress Workshop”, it took considerable effort to get fellow clergy to support the project. In spite of the fact our region had been declared a ‘Drought Disaster Region’, because the clergy hadn’t heard these issues being raised by parishioners they didn’t think such a gathering was necessary.
To some degree things have changed over the past twenty years. “Farm Stress Lines” are now available on a 24-7 basis, and the agriculture industry is starting to put in place “Mental Health First Aid in the Prairies” training programs for managers and senior staff members. Also, through social media, some farm folks are wise enough to start discussions that allow for them to vent their thoughts.
Meanwhile, so much more could be done if we learned how, as friends, neighbours and concerned citizens, to avail ourselves to “just listen”. As the astute young farmer said “There’s immense power in asking someone how they are doing”. Show you care! “Ask!”