The benefits of farm life are many. And because of this, regardless of how life unfolds, people who grew up on a farm are quite positive about their way of life. However, farming life can also present mental and emotional challenges.
These challenges can test the limits of the best of us, especially when circumstances unfold as they have in 2020.
While those of us who have been around a while can point back to years when extremely bad weather or economic downturns wreaked havoc, nothing has ever quite unfolded like this year of COVID-19. Along with the usual hurdles, farm operations have had to deal with a host of other challenges triggered by the pandemic that have resulted in a rapid escalation of stressors.
Stress Affects Owners and Workers Equally
When we think of the mental and emotional stress of farming, our thoughts may initially go to the plight of owners and managers given their responsibilities. The fact is, stress can burden anyone across the farming sector.
Seasonal workers, both foreign and domestic, have felt the effects of COVID-19 as much as anyone. Shutdowns have had devastating financial ramifications for these workers who do not have ongoing benefits or any kind of safety net. This also affects their families who are depending on them for food and shelter.
In many instances, foreign workers had to endure extreme isolation because of the pandemic without the support of family and friends. It's important for owners and managers to check in regularly with foreign workers regarding their mental state and offer assistance wherever possible starting with an empathetic attitude, something that in itself goes a long way to ease stress.
And it is remarkable what you may find out. It was discovered that for one group of foreign workers the sight of black masks was particularly traumatic because it brought to mind uncomfortable associations in their home country.
Seek Out New Social Connections
While social connections in the past may have come together organically, this is a time where we may need to seek them out. This could be increasing participation via local service clubs like 4H or starting up or increasing engagement in social media. Virtual coffee breaks are not the real thing but can still brighten up our days.
There is support available to anyone who is concerned about their own mental well-being or that of a family member or co-worker.
Along with other frontline workers, the role you play in putting food on Canadian tables is also an essential service and very much appreciated.
WSPS has developed a wide range of workplace mental health solutions. These tools and resources can be applied within the Ontario farming community.
The Progressive Ag Daily Learning Drop Series also provides useful resources for children and farm families including a video on Mental Wellbeing and Stress. View the videos at https://wsps.news/2RUWskn