The Guardians Network to help Ontario farmers and farm families

The governments of Canada and Ontario are funding two new multi-year mental health initiatives, specialized to support the agriculture sector.

More than $7 million dollars through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership will go towards The Guardians Network, a new program modelled after the Farmer Wellness Program, pioneered by mental health specialist Deborah Vanberkel.

The program will help protect Ontario’s progress in the fight against COVID-19 by providing farm families across the province with free counselling services as well as help connect at-risk farmers with tailored support and resources.

The initiatives are expected to launch early next year and will be developed in consultation with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and other mental health sector experts.

As part of the Government of Ontario’s commitment of $3.8 billion over 10 years to build a modern, connected mental health and addictions system that serves all Ontarians, the two new initiatives will improve the agriculture sector’s access to supports that better meet their needs.

“I very much understand and appreciate how stressful running a farm can be, working 365 days a year and dealing with unpredictable weather, commodity prices and increasing costs of production,” says Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “Add in the pandemic, and these pressures are having a real effect on the mental health of farmers and their families. That’s why our government is providing the necessary funding for these programs, and is committed to doing everything we can to help address these challenges and support mental health in our farming communities.”

The programs are the direct result of numerous roundtable discussions and other engagements with farmers about their mental health concerns. The design of the programs seeks to further enhance numerous other government-led mental health enhancement actions, such as an expansion of the In the Know program.

Related: In the Know farm mental health program receives provincial funding for expansion

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