Lesser Slave River News

Community news updates from the MD

Accessible mental health support for farmers

Connecting farmers to counselling services and mental health support is what AgKnow (the Alberta Farm Mental Health Network) is all about.

AgKnow recognizes the unique challenges faced by the agriculture industry as well as the need for counsellors with specialized training to support farmers through these challenges. This is why they have entered a partnership with Counselling Alberta to improve access to farm-informed therapy for rural Albertans.

A new division of the Calgary Counselling Centre supported by the Government of Alberta, Counselling Alberta offers province-wide virtual counselling to all Albertans, with a heavy focus on mental health services in rural communities. There are even options for in-person sessions in some areas.

“We realized early on that access to services that understand the stresses and unique challenges of farming is a barrier to the agriculture community participating in the supports and programs that are available to all Albertans,” said Linda Hunt, Program Director of AgKnow.

Farmers, their lifestyles, and mental health needs are unique in many ways. Lack of resources, geographic distances, therapists who may not have experience with the agricultural industry, and a reluctance among farmers to seek mental health support are all part of the reasoning behind this partnership.

Critically, an alliance between AgKnow and Counselling Alberta expands the network of therapists available to farmers. This is achieved by identifying counsellors within the Counselling Alberta framework who are already well-versed in farm-related issues, connecting them with farmers directly, and monitoring usage both by farmers and by topic to continue to assess their specific needs.

It aligns with findings that farmers show a preference for actionable solutions and support originating in Alberta at a local level. Additionally, a partnership with Counselling Alberta presents several other significant benefits.

They provide services on a sliding scale, ranging from $8 to $20 per hour, ensuring accessibility for individuals with diverse income levels, and there is no waitlist. Counselling Alberta also has the capacity to handle more intricate cases, and clients have the freedom to choose their therapist.

“Our partnership with Counselling Alberta not only eliminates the wait times and location barriers but also will be a good first step to reduce the stigmas around reaching out for help for those in the farming community,” added Hunt.

An ongoing objective of the partnership is to enhance the roster of farm-informed therapists within Counselling Alberta. To date, AgKnow has conducted two sessions, offering an overview of agriculture and discussing findings from both national and preliminary provincial stress and coping studies. They have also gathered information from counsellors about their specific interest in agriculture.

Having available counsellors with a basic understanding of agriculture increases the ease with which farmers approach therapy.

“It’s our goal to be in a position to offer information to counsellors and therapists on an ongoing basis, keeping them up to date with our latest findings, and providing a solid foundation for as many health care and mental health professionals practising in rural areas as possible,” explained Hunt.

AgKnow continues to work to expand the number of mental health options available for farmers in Alberta and continues to advocate for farm-informed therapy options in Western Canada.

To find more information about Counselling Alberta or to register for counselling visit counsellingalberta.com or phone 1.833.827.4230.

Print   Email
MD administration offices are open from Monday to Friday between 8:15am and 4:30pm.
Main Office: Box 722 - 3000, 15th Ave SE, Slave Lake, AB
T:780.849.4888  F:1.866.449.4888
Sub-office: 660061 Range Road 20, Flatbush, AB
T:780.681.3929  F:1.866.681.3929




Regional Issues

Popular Resources