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A new mental health awareness training program for Ontario farmers


March 4, 2021
By Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division

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A new mental health awareness training program specifically for farmers will soon be available to rural and agricultural communities across Ontario.

In the Know is a mental health literacy program developed at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph created specifically to educate the agricultural community. With support from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), several Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branches in Ontario will begin facilitating this half-day training, some within just a few weeks. Trainings will be delivered online until public health measures allow for in-person delivery.

“CMHA Ontario is honoured and thrilled to be launching In the Know through CMHA branches around the province,” said CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “We know this program will give the agricultural community the opportunity to discuss mental health openly and safely. We strongly believe that In the Know, with its farming-specific scenarios that put mental health into perspective for agriculture workers, will resonate well with this community, and improve lives as a result.”

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An evaluated pilot of In the Know training in 2019 showed the course increased participants’ mental health knowledge and confidence in recognizing mental health struggles, speaking about mental health, and helping others who are struggling.

Spearheaded by Dr. Briana Hagen, Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton of the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph, and a stakeholder team from farming and mental health backgrounds, In the Know aims to build mental health knowledge and increase help-seeking among farmers. The course provides education on topics such as stress, depression, anxiety, substance misuse and how to start a conversation around mental well-being.

“We are delighted to be partnering with CMHA Ontario and are confident that the In the Know program is in great hands in being made available to agricultural communities across Ontario,” said Dr. Jones-Bitton. “The three-way partnership between CMHA Ontario, the OFA, and the University of Guelph beautifully demonstrates the power of combining research, advocacy and outreach.”

CMHA Ontario will be working closely with the OFA, the province’s largest general farm organization, to ensure maximum outreach and benefit to Ontario’s agricultural community.

Source: National Survey of Farmer Mental Health, Submission to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food: Strengthening Canada’s Agricultural Sector – A Canadian Network for Farmer Mental Health by Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph (2016). Via CMHA

“As an organization, we are thrilled to be part of the launch of this program,” said Peggy Brekveld, OFA President. “Increasing our awareness and confidence discussing mental health will contribute to resilience for farm families and rural communities across Ontario.”

In the Know training is being made available through CMHA branches thanks in part to a generous donation from Trillium Mutual Insurance. Trillium contributed $50,000 through its ROOTS Community Fund, which supported development of a facilitator guide to equip facilitators to deliver training through local CMHAs.

“At Trillium, we feel strongly about raising awareness and supporting programs geared towards mental health awareness for farmers and those serving in the agricultural communities across Ontario,” said Trillium president & CEO Tracy MacDonald. “We feel it is time for farmers to have better access to programs like In the Know, delivered by CMHA Ontario. We are proud that our financial contribution will make the delivery of this program possible. For us, it is a great opportunity through a terrific program to support the communities supporting us!”

Local launches and upcoming In the Know training dates will be announced independently by CMHA branches in the coming weeks.


For more information about In the Know, get in touch with your local CMHA branch, or contact Mike Feenstra at mfeenstra@ontario.cmha.ca.