December 1, 2022
Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Minister, thank you for being with us today. I would like to pursue the mental health issue if I might.
The University of Guelph recently released a study indicating that the mental health of Canadian farmers is worse than it was five years ago and worse than that of the general population in every way. Stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, and suicide ideation are all higher among farmers than the national average and highest among women farmers.
Your mandate letter from the Prime Minister states:
Support the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to explore pathways to increase the accessibility of mental health services in rural areas.
Minister, might you tell us about your government’s plan to improve the mental health of our farmers and, specifically, any concrete actions taken since your appointment as minister?
Hon. Gudie Hutchings, P.C., M.P., Minister of Rural Economic Development: Thank you for that question, senator. It seems to be a theme here. Look, I agree 100%.
I think when we do see the increased access to high-speed affordable broadband, you are seeing the increase of telehealth and mental health in rural communities. That’s working in many areas. I know it’s working well in parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, where I have seen it used first-hand.
But that is not all that we have to do. As I said earlier, I’m working with Minister Bennett on what we can actually do. How can we target farmers and get into the areas that really need help? As I said, one of the round tables I did was with agricultural farmers, and this came up at that round table.
I worked with the minister, and I will continue to work with her so that we can come up with specific solutions for this field.
They have been through a trying time. By golly, the world is in an upheaval, as I said earlier. Farmers have been experiencing drought, flood, temperature changes and then farmers also feel the desire to produce the grains, produce and products that we need as Canadians and that we export to the world.
So, I will be there to work with Minister Bennett every step of the way.