Farmer wellness program filling a gap with free counselling

Three directors on the board of the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program at Ag Days ’23.

A program that offers free one-on-one counselling to farmers in Manitoba is seeing demand for its services, but is also working on raising awareness as it marks its first anniversary.

The grassroots and non-profit Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program was launched in January 2022 and started offering farmers and their family members free, confidential counselling sessions in March of last year.

“We figured what we should try and do is see if we can raise money, see if we can find counsellors that have knowledge of agriculture, and then see if we can get farmers to call. And I guess the good news is we’ve achieved all three things,” says MFWP board chair Marcel Hacault, in the interview below.

A farmer or farm family member who is seeking help can choose between four professional counsellors that are currently working with the program, and receive up to six one-hour sessions at no cost. “We’ve been told in roughly two weeks, you should be able to have an appointment with them. So that’s the other thing — we wanted to make sure that if somebody reached out that somebody would be there to work with them fairly quickly, and we’ve also managed that,” notes Hacault.

While there are other initiatives and resources designed to respond to crisis situations and to support farmer mental health, he says the MFWP board has decided to focus on providing a platform for easy access to one-on-one counselling.

“Our first test was to see was there a demand? Was there interest in helping support it? Both of those have been ‘yes’,” he says.

Hacault and other MFWP directors were working booth and selling Manitoba Ag Days t-shirts at the farm show in Brandon last week, with proceeds going to the counselling program.

“Demand has been there, but we could accommodate more farmers,” he notes. “That’s why we’re here at the show — to raise awareness of the program and make sure that as many farmers as possible know about it, and also to say ‘it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to reach out.'”

Listen to Marcel Hacault discuss the first year of the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program, the services it offers, funding opportunities, and more at Manitoba Ag Days: