It’s a familiar image—a strong, silent farmer weathering the storm alone, dealing with the challenges of weather conditions, markets and everything else farming can throw at them.

That image is changing as farmers begin to speak up and share experiences, worries and frustrations. A number of grassroots project and initiatives, including Do More Ag, are helping to create a new culture in agriculture where mental health and wellbeing are forefront.

In an effort to support that change, Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) is offering four free mental health-training sessions to its clients. The sessions are called The Working Mind, and are facilitated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Participants can choose a date that fits in their calendar, as the sessions are offered online on November 4, 9 and 10 and December 6.

During the five-hour training session, participants will learn about how to talk about mental health and how to dispel myths of mental health problems and mental illness. They will also learn the signs of declining mental health and strategies to help build mental health personally and in those around them. These strategies can help manage stress and build resiliency.

“Producers experience unique stressors and more mental health supports are needed to support the agriculture community,” explained Kalista Sherbaniuk, AFSC wellness coordinator. “Having parents who operate a centennial family farm, I have seen the mental health impact of drought and another bad year.

“Offering this training is one small thing AFSC can do for the agriculture community and producers in our province.”

Course participants will receive helpful tools and guides, including a Self-Care & Resilience Guide, the Mental Health Continuum Model and the Big Four Strategies, which they can use and share with others.

The Working Mind at work

AFSC launched its mental health strategy, ‘It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’ in March 2021 with a mission to make AFSC a champion for mental health, said Sherbaniuk. Since launching the strategy, AFSC has promoted mental health conversations and is working to make its workplace psychologically healthy and safe. All AFSC team members have participated in The Working Mind training as part of this plan.

“The majority of this strategy is about protecting and promoting the well-being of our people,” explained Sherbaniuk, “and we know that when our employees are well they can be their best for our clients.

“We also included a goal in the strategy to extend our work around mental health outward into our communities.”

The Working Mind training was created as part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Opening Minds initiative. The initiative identified that stigma is a major barrier to people improving their mental health and that when people understand normal reactions to stress and signs of declining mental health they can learn how to manage these situations. Through The Working Mind training, people can, and do, improve their well-being and resiliency, said Sherbaniuk.

Sign up for The Working Mind

AFSC is sponsoring four sessions of The Working Mind for clients. Each session consists of the same content, and sessions run November 4, 9 and 10 and December 6. Sessions start at 8:30 a.m. and go until 1:30 p.m. (with breaks).

The course will take place in a virtual, interactive classroom setting and while webcam/camera access is recommended, it is not required. Participants will need to create a free Zoom account to take part in the session.

Registrations for the sessions close October 29, 2021. To sign up, please click on a meeting date below. You will be taken to a third-party website, Eventbrite, to register. If you wish to learn about Eventbrite’s privacy policy, please see: Eventbrite Privacy Policy

Upon registration, participants will receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite. Additional details, including how to join/access the course, are available by clicking the “View the Event” in the email confirmation.

Note: There is a minimum and maximum number of participants per session. If you are unable to attend the event, please cancel your registration as soon as possible so that the spots can be re-distributed to others.

“Although our aim is to offer this service to AFSC current clients first,” said Sherbaniuk, “if you are not a client please feel free to check back on spots available closer to the deadline and sign up if there is still space available. We want to make sure as many people as possible in the agriculture community have access to this mental health training.

“Lastly—thank you in advance to those who sign up to attend The Working Mind training—your enhanced skills and knowledge will benefit all those around you. Kudos to you!”