APAS young farmers looking to break mental health stigma

Mental health has been in the agriculture spotlight lately, with a push to break the stigma that often surrounds mental health.

And the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan’s Young Agricultural Producers (or YAP) committee is hoping to keep the conversation going.

Danny Ottenbreit, southeast Saskatchewan farmer and co-chair of the YAP committee, was in the APAS booth at Ag in Motion last week chatting with other farmers about mental health. APAS also hosted a session on mental health at its mid-term meeting in Saskatoon earlier this month.

“I think when we talk about agriculture and mental health, we always just played the game of attrition, You know, like the strong really survive,” he says, in the video below.

“The only downside to that feeling is that you lose a lot of good people along the way. So it gets really difficult when you see small towns  and you think ‘well, why iare there less people here than there were 20 years ago?’, and it’s not all related to mental health, but there are a lot of people that had a good operation going, they hit some struggles, and they just couldn’t keep it together. We don’t necessarily talk about the real causes. And it’s really hard to understand the issue, when you don’t say exactly what the problem was.”

Related: Agriculture stress is real and we need to keep talking about it

Ottenbreit notes social media can be helpful in reaching a much larger community for support, beyond your neighbours.

“In our small communities, people don’t want to talk about it, but when you start to reach out to the world at large, you realize that ‘oh, I’m not alone. Somebody else has had this problem,'” he says. “You start to reach out to people, and you hear a personal story behind it. It’s not just what you read in a book, or you are reading off the internet. You connect with that person and they say ‘this is what my family went through, or this is what I’ve been through, and this is what helped me.’ And I think it adds a little more impact versus maybe just reading things, and  staying isolated.”

Given the perseverance and resourcefulness of farmers, Ottenbreit says if we can erase the stigma that farmers always need to be strong, “we can get a lot done.'”


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