Forward Together

Tackling the tough things in life - like providing mental health resources to young farmers - is easier to do when you have a partner.

by Jess Campbell

When you think about the hardest thing you’ve had to do in life – did you do it alone? Chances are the answer is no, and for good reason. Doing hard things is easier when you have help; daresay, when you have a team of help.

That’s exactly what RBC and the Canadian Young Farmers Forum (CYFF) have found in one another as they join together in partnership to fund and execute mental health initiatives for young farmers across Canada.

But getting back to those hard things, though.

A lot of the time, those hard things can be about your mental health. We’re living in a time where reaching out for help when your mental health is suffering is getting easier and more straightforward. But until seeking help for mental health is as simple as it is to seek help for your physical health, there is work to be done. Because it’s not just about doing the work of spreading awareness; the Canadian agriculture industry has improved leaps and bounds with that. It’s more about working to make sure there are solutions to the mental health issues that farmers, and young farmers in particular, are facing.

It’s that kind of work that spurred RBC to partner with the CYFF in the first place, says Ryan Riese, National Director of Agriculture at RBC. “The CYFF has some great programs in place that we wanted to help drive awareness to and that focus on not only mental health awareness but also tangible solutions. There’s articles, workshops, the coffee talks with professionals that really go beyond just building awareness. Given the current environment that we’re in, being able to take care of one’s mental health is more important than ever, in that we know the job of the farmer is a tough one. The hope is to be able to provide young farmers with access to services and help that are tailored to them and the challenges they face.”

Providing tangible solutions to such a huge, industry-wide problem can be daunting, especially when deciding what impact the programming could and should have. But if there is one good thing that’s come from the current pandemic, it’s the clear need for services directed at young farmers. Kim Ulmer is RBC Regional President, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Western Ontario, and speaks to that need – and to the impact of the CYFF’s mental health initiatives. “While the need for increased dialogue and awareness on mental health has been an ongoing opportunity for all of us across Canada, the impact of the pandemic has reminded us more than ever of the need for support and resources in these times of isolation and uncertainty. Entrepreneurs including producers don’t necessarily have direct access to the resources that provide support and help build mental resilience. With tremendous partners like the CYFF, we’re working hard to change that. We’re looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the CYFF’s mental health programming and we plan to be an active partner in helping amplify the wide range of programming available with our clients, partners, and broader communities.”

“We know that one in four Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life,” Ryan adds. “With one in eight jobs in Canada being related to agriculture, we know a need exists. We hope this partnership provides, overall, more access to the critical resources our young farmers need in order to learn and to manage their mental wellness journey.”

The CYFF mental health initiatives include Self Care Sunday articles and quick tips, which are exactly that: articles on various topics pertaining to managing young farmer mental health, as well as quick, actionable tips on how young farmers can begin to take better care of themselves and their mental health right now (like getting more and better sleep, staying connected to people they care about and even just taking a moment to be still and breathe deeply). As well, the CYFF has tapped several experts that young farmers can learn from and ask questions during virtual coffee talk sessions.

Things like taking five minutes to breathe deeply might not seem like they would have a big impact on your mental health, but they do. The idea is to provide the information and resources to young farmers in the first place, so that when their day isn’t going the way they’d hoped, they know that something as simple as deep breathing can actually help.

There is certainly a lot of good in being part of the Canadian agriculture industry. But no matter whether you’re the next generation in a long succession of farmers or you’ve just purchased your first plot of land to farm, being a young farmer in Canada is not easy. It is, in fact, full of hard things: hard work, hard choices and hard times. But with services, resources and organizations like the CYFF and RBC standing with them as part of a team of support, Canadian young farmers will move the industry forward fully trusting that they can do hard things.