May 26, 2022 May 26, 2022

AgSafe Alberta wants those in agriculture to be in the know

Posted on 10 February 2022 by Anna Smith

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

AgSafe Alberta is offering the chance for producers to be “In The Know” about mental health.

In partnership with Wheatland County, Starland County, Foothills County, Kneehill County, Rocky View County, County of Newell, and Foothills Forage and Grazing Association, In The Know is an online course designed to teach people to recognize signs of distress in themselves and others, as well as how to have safe conversations with someone who is struggling.

The program was first developed by the University of Guelph, said Jody Wacowich, Executive Director of AgSafe Alberta.

“They did some initial research on farms and ranches in Ontario, and saw that there was a need for some programming around mental health literacy. So they piloted the program and, and did some research around that,” said Wacowich. “They did some pre and post kind of interviews on what people felt they learned from the courses and what pieces they took forward and used afterwards. So really evidence based research on what they’ve developed and delivered and how it’s working for farms.”

The course has been offered with different partners several times, with February 23rd being in partnership with the counties. The course will take place online and is completely free for those interested.

“What the course is going to cover is making sure that people understand what mental health and mental illness is, and how to recognize when someone is struggling and how to respond,” said Wacowich. “They’re going to go through understanding stress, anxiety, depression, acute trauma, suicide and substance abuse and recognizing those signs and symptoms, and then talking about approaches to engage in in safe conversations with someone who is struggling.”

“We think that any opportunities we get to talk about mental health or help people understand some of the definitions and how to have those conversations, the more opportunities we have to do that, the better placed we are. Certainly after all the challenges of last year in the agriculture industry there are a lot of people out there feeling some stress,” said Wacowich. She hopes that this course will help with some of the stigma surrounding mental health in the agricultural industry and rural communities. “This kind of falls neatly into making sure that people on your farm understand what’s happening, how to respond and do those sorts of things. And it not only works for the employers, but it works for farm families as well.”

The course is part of ongoing research, and participants are encouraged to fill out surveys to better develop workshops for those on farms and ranches regarding mental health literacy.

Those interested are encouraged to register at albertaitk.com, or to look to AgSafe Alberta for other offerings, including programming on fatigue management in March.

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