As I write this in May, it’s mental health week. Longtime readers know that 25 years ago I dealt with a very serious postpartum depression, and I am thankful to have had 25 years of good health since that hard year in l984. In my coaching journey I have met many farmers who are feeling very down, trapped, and sometimes close to suicidal. They don’t often want to admit that they need help. I am a coach, not a psychologist, but all of us can be supportive.
You don’t have to be a professional to help. “If you think something is wrong, don’t be afraid to ask. The person a risk is likely wanting help but not knowing who or how to ask for help,”says the Men at Risk brochure.
Men at Risk is a unique program in central Alberta that is geared to helping men working in trades, industry and agriculture. I spoke with Irene Fraser, the program coordinator (email [email protected] ech. ab.ca, call 780-679-1241). The Men at Risk program in Alberta uses male presenters who share their experience with depression and stress.
The facts: Seven out of 10 Canadians with depression are in the workforce (Stats Can). And almost half of workers surveyed thought that missing work because of depression would get them into trouble or fired. (Ipsos Reid Survey). Imagine the self-employed farmers who are depressed and struggling, the cows still need care, and machinery needs fixing. They don’t want to admit they need help.
WATCH FOR THESE SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Many farm folks experience all kinds of loss, yet they don’t reflect on how the losses are piling up. We’ve lost great grain prices, some of us have lost parents, a marriage, a dream to own the home yard, etc. Recent experiences of a significant crisis (for example, death, loss of relationship, job or health crisis ) can indicate that help is needed.
Changes in eating and /or sleeping habits
Changes in behaviour, energy level and attitude Anxious, restless or irritable feelings
Hopeless or helpless feelings
Withdrawing from others, lack of interest in activities
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Thinking about, talking or joking about death or suicide
Making final arrangements (If a person starts to give things away, this could be a sign.)
Many spouses are scared when they see the behaviour of their loved ones changing for the worse. We all need to take courage and ask directly about:
How they are doing
How this situation is affecting them
How bad are things
If anyone else knows
If they are thinking about suicide
If they have tried to get help
Listening is a great resource. We have two ears and one tongue for a reason! Listen to:
What they are saying about how they are feeling. Avoid making judgments.
Find out where their pressures and pain are coming from Don’t jump in with advice right away.
Listen without arguing.
WHERE DO YOU GO FOR HELP?
I’d suggest calling your province’s farm stress line. In Manitoba, Janet Smith, stress line coordinator, is familiar with Alberta’s Men at Risk program. The stress lines are in communication with other provinces and share resources.
Encourage men to talk to someone rather than struggle with their problems alone. Find out what can be done to relieve the pressure. Maybe it’s time to hire relief help. Let them know there is help for people who are feeling overwhelmed.
Check on community services. I recommend seeing a doctor to check to see if depression is a factor.
Get their agreement to take a first step towards getting help, and help them make the call. In Alberta, the mental health help line is 1-877-303-2642.
If the person is at immediate risk, don’t leave them alone. I have asked suicidal farmers directly “Are you thinking of ending your life?” Listen for their response.
In June we celebrate and honour our fathers. Many dads would love to hear their families say, “Thanks for working so hard, we really appreciate all you do for us!” The lack of appreciation can so easily be turned around into thankfulness. I’ve seen families start to be more intentional about gratitude, which creates a healthier positive attitude in the family dynamic.
Depression is an illness. We all need to de-stigmatize it, and be ready to ask for help.
In my mind’s eye, I see a young farmer in tears, face cupped in his hands, saying, “Elaine I can’t take this anymore!” I listen. He seeks professional help. He now understands that men at risk are stronger when they don’t walk the stress journey alone.
Don’t take your relationships for granted. Be thankful that you can find help and healing. Walk down the lane together. Listen to one another.
Have a wonderful Father’s Day….. Be well.
Elaine Froese facilitates tough family meetings as a professional certified coach and mediator. She farms near Boissevain and speaks to farm audiences across Canada. Visit www.elainefroese or call 1-866-848-8311 to book her for your fall events. Mail cards to Box 957, Boissevain, MB R0K 0E0. She would love to hear your story.