Zsofia Mendly-Zambo, a researcher and PhD candidate at the School of Health Policy & Management at York University, has released a report looking at a mental health crisis among Canadian farmers.
The report, titled “Field Notes: Looking upstream at the farmer mental health crisis in Canada” and commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the National Farmers Union, considers the source of high rates of stress, depression and anxiety experienced by farmers.
The report identifies economic uncertainty as a primary factor behind the ongoing mental health crisis, as market fluctuations and farmland consolidation has made it more difficult for farmers to remain competitive. Similarly, the climate crisis – and its impact on their crops and work – continues to cause anxiety for farmers.
The report also provides six recommendations to address farmers’ mental health, including proposals to pursue policies to improve economic stability, exploring more support of sustainable farming practices and food systems, investing in rural infrastructure that can provide more mental health-care access, and community support, to name some.
Mendly-Zambo’s report builds upon ongoing interdisciplinary research – drawing on health sciences, policy, agriculture and food systems – to explore health equity and farmer mental health, as well as food security and sovereignty. Furthermore, it reflects her drive to identify areas where policy can improve the ongoing crises, as “Field Notes” will form the foundation for future postdoctoral research seeking to help push policymakers to further prioritize the economic and social well-being of farmers instead of financial growth.
“The importance of mental health resources for farmers and the need to improve them cannot be understated,” Mendly-Zambo emphasizes in the conclusion of the report. “It is critical, however, that governments address structural factors to improve the living and working conditions of farmers.”