Media Release: AgSafe and CMHA BC partner to build the AgLife Network

MEDIA RELEASE


AgSafe and CMHA BC partner to build the AgLife Network

A new suicide prevention program in support of B.C.’s agricultural community


Langley, BC / September 19, 2023 – AgSafe is proud to announce the AgLife Network as part of their commitment to, and expansion of Mental Wellness in Agriculture resources. In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, AgSafe’s goal with the AgLife Network is the continued improvement of mental health and well-being resources, access to supports, and building awareness around suicide prevention for British Columbia’s agricultural community.

In June 2023, the Province of BC announced funding to support the expansion of AgSafe’s mental health services in B.C.’s agricultural industry. With the funding delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, AgSafe in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC) will be launching the AgLife Network, an initiative to build and implement a peer-support service focused on suicide prevention and life promotion.

Influenced by the Association Québécoise de Prévention du Suicide (AQPS) Sentinel program, the AgLife Network will be adapted to meet the specific needs of British Columbians. This includes training service providers to identify risks and intervention strategies, building a peer network of B.C. farmers and farm families with learned intervention skills, and providing supportive clinical counselling.

B.C.’s south coast has the most commodity diversity and the highest concentration of agricultural production in the province. As a result, the AgLife Network will be piloted locally in the region, with the intention of expanding the network across the province.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, agricultural producers (farmers and ranchers) are especially prone to mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, and may be less resilient because of the unique stressors they experience. An estimated 225 million farmers worldwide struggle with their mental health.

AgSafe and CMHA BC are at the inception stages with the goal of launching more details about the AgLife Network by spring 2024.

About AgLife Network:


The AgLife Network is a suicide prevention and life promotion initiative developed in collaboration and partnership between AgSafe and the Canadian Mental Health Association of BC (CMHA BC). This initiative will include organizing a network of trained volunteers who interact closely with farmers, growers and ranchers through their work or community, to identify farmers who may be struggling with their mental wellness and connect them to professional help. Regional counsellors will provide follow-up support to both AgLife Network volunteers and participants..

Facts and Findings:

In 2021 (during COVID-19), Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton and her colleagues at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph conducted a second survey of farmers in Canada and found nationally:

  • 20% met the classification for moderate to severe depressive disorders with 1:4 thinking of taking their own life
  • 76% classified as experiencing perceived moderate or high stress
  • 20% met the classification for moderate to severe anxiety disorders
  • Farmers surveyed had significantly higher alcohol consumption than the general public and a majority reported an increase in consumption since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

British Columbia’s provincial Mental Health Support Line reported a 15 to 20 per cent increase in calls since the catastrophic floods in November 2021, and a manager with the service says hard-hit farmers are making up the bulk of those new calls.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, help is available 24-7 in BC at 1(800) SUICIDE
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
Mental health support and information on resources is available around the clock in B.C. at 310-6789 (no area code needed).

Mental Health Commission of Canada: Agriculture and Suicide Fact Sheet
AgSafe: Mental Wellness Resources

Quotes:

“This has been a difficult year for B.C. farmers. They have been working through the stress of drought and fires while continuing to produce the food we rely on. It is important for B.C. farmers to remember to look after themselves, to be aware, and to make use of the people and supports available. This program helps those healthy connections and conversations begin in an atmosphere that recognizes the unique lifestyle and challenges that come with farming.”
Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food
“We are pleased to work with CMHA BC to launch the AgLife Network. This is a community-based program where we can all learn and develop skills to support each other. Day-to-day farming is demanding work. Devastating weather events over the past few years and an economic downturn have only pushed the mental well-being of B.C.’s agricultural community further into crisis.”
Wendy Bennett, AgSafe Executive Director
“This initiative, underpinned by a strong partnership between CMHA BC and AgSafe dedicated to suicide prevention and life promotion, represents a significant step forward in supporting the mental health of a vital sector in BC, our agricultural communities.”
Jonny Morris, CEO, CMHA BC
“AgSafe is an organization dedicated to the physical and mental well-being of British Columbia’s agricultural producers. I am pleased that AgSafe is working with CMHA BC to develop and deliver this peer-based support network. We’ve seen this model work in other provinces, and I’m excited to launch the AgLife Network in B.C.”
David Nguyen, AgSafe Board Chair
“At Randhawa Farms, we are interested in using research for positive change in agricultural safety.”
Ajay Randhawa, Randhawa Farms
“Support for farmers struggling with their mental health is increasingly needed with the stressors they face. Farmers supporting farmers is key. Knowing the stressors a farmer faces can only be truly known by another farmer. As a farming community we need to look out for each other and find support together with each other.”
Jeremy Vaandrager, Ritchie-Smith Feeds, Inc.

Image(s):


(Photo Caption: AgSafe and CMHA BC partner to build the AgLife Network)
Image
(Image L-R: Greg Awai, Osier Consulting; Wendy Bennett, AgSafe Executive Director; David Nguyen, Chair, AgSafe Board; Maria Weaver, Associate Director of Suicide Prevention and Life Promotion, CMHA BC)

About AgSafe:


AgSafe is the non-profit health and safety association for agricultural producers in British Columbia, providing site-specific consultation and on-site safety education, as well as online workplace safety resources and materials. AgSafe is also the COR Certifying Partner for B.C.’s agricultural and associated industries and offers a Certificate of Recognition (COR) program for large and small employers. For more information about AgSafe services or agriculture-related workplace health and safety visit AgSafeBC.ca.

About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA BC):


CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA, BC Division, together with a network of local CMHA branches, provides services and resources related to mental health, substance use and addictive behaviour in locations across the Province. Resources are available on numerous topic areas such as child, youth, parenting, workplace, alcohol and other drugs, finding help, and improving mental wellness. Visit CMHA.BC.ca

Media Contacts:


Lennea Durant
Media Relations
AgSafe BC
604-875-1182
lenneadurant@shaw.ca
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Communications
604.353.8159
media@cmha.bc.ca