Three ways to prioritize mental health on the farm

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The agriculture industry is driven by family farms, where personal and professional lives are intertwined. This creates an interesting dynamic and puts a lot of pressure on our relationships and our mental health. Making mental wellness a priority is being talked about more than ever, but there is still plenty of misunderstanding around the topic.

Lesley Kelly is a Saskatchewan farmer leading conversations on mental wellbeing through the Do More Ag Foundation. She approaches discussions on mental health with grace, drawing on the personal experiences she and her family have had.

Kelly says the first step in starting conversations about mental health is defining when a conversation is necessary. This happens through recognition of signs and symptoms and defining what your normal is. Kelly says that when someone starts to deviate outside their normal attitudes and routines it could signal that their mental health is in jeopardy.

When she observes changes in someone’s actions and attitude, Kelly says that creates an opportunity to open the conversation.  Gentle words of encouragement and stating that you are there for them are ways Kelly supports and cares for those around her (more below).

In her own family and on her own farm, Kelly has implemented small changes in the everyday and created space for discussions around mental health. She refers to this as “filling up your slip tank” — small changes to ensure she has reserve fuel to be able to support those living and working with her.

This prioritizing of self-care is a challenge, but she emphasizes the importance of taking the time for you and doing things that help you care for yourself. She encourages her family members to take the time they need and step away from their work to prioritize health, too. Healthy farmers make healthy farms, she adds.

Kelly has enjoyed watching the strides that have been taken in the last five years. She says that the conversations that are happening everywhere from kitchen tables to boardroom tables are bridging the gap and bringing resources to rural areas where they are needed.

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