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SaskAgMatters offers mental health supports for farmers

There are three directors for SaskAgMatters that all have agricultural backgrounds or are on a farm presently.

STOUGHTON - Farmers and ranchers provide Saskatchewan and the world with the supply of food, but they can struggle with mental health issues.

According to the SaskAgMatters website, 53 per cent of agricultural producers meet the classification of depression. Seventy-one per cent of producers meet the classification for anxiety. Half of them feel there is a lack of support and 80 per cent find it would be beneficial if the mental health providers had a farming background.

There are three directors for SaskAgMatters that all have agricultural backgrounds or are on a farm presently.

Shari Laventure works for Cargill as the sales manager. In 2015, her younger brother, who was a farmer, lost his battle with mental health issues and committed suicide. Laventure joined SaskAgMatters in 2018 to help her with this tragedy and give back to the agricultural community.

Cynthia Beck is a registered psychologist. She farms with her husband and two children and has been involved with the organization since 2018. She worked as a research assistant in the online therapy unit and provides suicide intervention response services in the southeast.

Cyle Stewart is a Saskatchewan rancher with his wife and two children. He is also a fourth generation rancher. He has a passion for giving back and mental health in the agriculture industry. He joined SaskAgMatters in 2021.

Through an initiative at Saskatchewan Polytechnic where patient-oriented research was being done, Laventure and Beck joined up with Michelle Pavloff in 2018 to do research with producers about their mental health needs, conducting over 100 interviews with growers in regards to accessing services and how well it worked.

They were not surprised to learn that the current system did not meet the farmers' needs. Often it was too far to travel, too much time away from the business and therapy that did not understand the barriers that producers face. There were no health-care benefits, or the funds were not there to help.

This is why SaskAgMatters produced a network and website where Saskatchewan agricultural producers and their families can access six hours of free mental-health sessions with a trained, knowledgeable provider.

This program is only in Saskatchewan, but Alberta and Manitoba have their own programs.

To apply for this service, a person goes through the website. They can choose one of three therapists and set up a remote, in-person session, an over-the-phone conversation, or a combination of both. It is up to the producer on what they feel comfortable with.

Therapists need to be accredited in Saskatchewan and have knowledge of the industry, preferably through first-hand experience.

They have had over 15 people access the network since its launch in December 2022, and just now are asking for donations to keep the network going.

They are also in need of therapists and are currently recruiting. If this is something a person is qualified to do, please contact through its website.