Niagara Falls (Rural Roots Canada) – The agriculture industry has seen a remarkable shift in its approach to mental wellness in recent years.

Conversations that were once deemed taboo have now taken root, and a concerted effort is underway to provide resources and support for farmers and others within the agriculture sector. 

Adriana Van Oostveen, program coordinator with Agriculture Wellness Ontario, is one of many mental health experts spearheading the effort to help bring healing and hope to those who work in the fields. In November, she’s hosting a workshop at the AWC East conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  

No stranger to the rural lifestyle, Van Oostveen grew up on a dairy farm. She understands the challenges that farming families face. 

“Farmers need to be healthy and happy, and people are looking for information and resources to help family, friends, and employees in agriculture. It’s important that in an industry like agriculture where there are so many unique stressors, we are having conversations about the impact of what it means to be a farmer or to work in agriculture.” 

READ MORE: AWC East 2023 – Unleashing Creativity with Dr. Caroline Brookfield

Van Oostveen is happy to see the evolution surrounding mental health awareness within the sector. 

“We’re slowly getting more comfortable in having conversations about mental health. Ten years ago, it wouldn’t be discussed.” 

But how do you identify signs of a mental health struggle with a family member or friend? She advises you to look for behavioural changes that seem outside the norm. 

“We know how family and friends operate, and if their behaviour is not typical, ask them about it.”

This will be Van Oostveen’s second AWC conference. Through AWC, she has found a supportive community of like-minded people seeking to make a difference. She was left inspired following her first conference, where she engaged in meaningful discussions about the roles women play in supporting mental health in agriculture. 

“As natural caretakers, it’s a default role for many women in ag, so the conversations were important and having a space to talk about it and what it means.” 

For those considering attending, she has a compelling message.

“Come learn and be inspired. It’s a good time to recoup, regroup, and remind yourself why you do what you do.”

The conference offers a platform for women in agriculture to share their experiences and expertise. Van Oostveen is hosting a pre-conference workshop focusing on mental health education and literacy within the agricultural sector. Attendees will learn about mental health trends and strategies for ag sector workers and will build a mental health toolbox, giving them the tools they need to support themselves and those around them. 

Learn more about the conference by visiting the website.

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