Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – As little as 10 years ago, there were few, if any, discussions surrounding mental health in the agriculture community in Canada. There was an awareness of the mental health struggles many farmers were dealing with but few mechanisms to help, a lack of support programs, and an unwillingness to talk about it because of the stigma associated with it.

Lauren Van Ewyk remembers those days. A farmer herself, the CEO and Co-Founder of the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance, and her team are providing crucial mental wellness training and advice to professional therapists and farmers alike.

“It was really challenging to meet the unique needs that farmers and those in the agriculture sector face, and they face a lot of unique issues,” says Van Ewyk, who will be one of the featured workshop speakers at the AWC West 2024 conference. “I think that problem has grown, the unique challenges and some of the pressures and issues farmers are facing.”

Those challenges and pressures include succession planning, climate change, wildfires and drought. It’s why the NFMHA is focusing on creating a network of therapists, each trained to recognize the issues faced by the agricultural industry and develop effective mental health strategies that meet the specific needs of farmers and veterinarians. 

It can be daunting, but from a mental health perspective, Van Ewyk remains positive.

“As I look to the future, I’m actually really hopeful. We have a lot more openness to talk about stresses, work on our communication skills, build bridges, talk to one another, and seek out support. So, I’m actually very hopeful, and I think the future is bright.” 

READ MORE: AWC West 2024: Strategic Career Advice from an Agricultural Leader

Van Ewyk will be hosting three workshops at the AWC West 2024 conference. In the first, she’ll focus on the pivotal role played by women in the agri-food industry and the integral contributions of women within their families and communities through fun stories and insights gathered over the years.

“I think it’s a huge privilege to have many women gathering to share their insights and to challenge one another to become our best selves, no matter what that looks like,” she says. “It’s targeted at people who want to link arms with the ag community, understand the barriers to accessing support, what support looks like, what indications support is needed, and how to do that well.”

A big part of that, says Van Ewyk, is self-care.

“It’s largely misunderstood. Self-care does not mean selfishness. It means I’m going to fill up my tank so I can continue to be for other people what they need me to be and what I want to be for them.”

RELATED: AWC West 2024: Fear and Resiliency in Agriculture

Her second workshop will focus on conflict, de-escalation, and conflict resolution.

“If you’ve been around farm families going through succession planning or who have very different passions and visions, this is inevitably a reality. And it’s not just farm families. It’s with employees and neighbours, too. We have to learn how to communicate in a way that brings growth and fulfillment, setting boundaries for how we want to be treated, and how to communicate those boundaries to others.”

Finally, her last workshop will offer strategies to help make you a better leader. Participants will learn about the various principles of an effective leader to champion colleagues and build an environment with no glass ceilings.

“We talk about the role of humility and leading from the side and how to ensure you have the right people in the right job at the right time and allow them to shine. It’s short, but it’s incredibly insightful.”

Van Ewyk’s multifaceted approach, blending humour with profound insights and stories, promises to make her workshops a must-attend for those seeking personal and professional growth in the agricultural industry.

Learn more about Van Ewyk’s workshops by visiting the AWC West 2024 website.

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