Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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AutonHomme farmers’ social promotes mental health

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Clarendon
Feb. 22, 2024
On Thursday evening, Cindya Labine asked a group of Pontiac farmers packed into Clarendon’s Little Red Wagon Winery how they would describe what it feels like to be depressed.
Labine, herself a beef farmer, was standing with a microphone at the front of the room, speaking openly about her own struggles with mental health as part of a gathering organized by AutonHomme Pontiac to raise awareness about farmers’ mental health challenges.
When Labine put this question to the audience, she got answers.
“Empty,” said a voice from one corner of the room.
“Invisible,” offered another.
“Tired,” shared a third.
The room was absolutely still. Members of her audience, some sitting on the edge of their chairs, seemed to be hanging on every word Labine offered about what it was like to live with postpartum depression while raising kids on a farm, and how she recovered from it, twice.
Recounting the grief and guilt she experienced after her brother Éric, also a farmer, died by suicide in 2019, she stepped away from the microphone to let out a sob.
“Thank you for your understanding that I might choke up but that I will be ok,” Labine said.
Labine’s message was clear – that being open about mental health struggles, while perhaps initially uncomfortable, is important and can save lives.
Terry MacDougall, owner of a dairy operation in Stark’s Corners, was among those listening to Labine share her experience Thursday.
He said what Labine shared about feeling tired and rundown and not knowing where to seek help would likely resonate with most farmers he knew, but that many would not admit to it.
“You’re all going through it,” he said. “But you don’t want to be the one that’s a weak link.”
Once Labine had concluded her talk, musicians Louis Schryer, Willy Rivet and Eric Lanoix returned to the stage, filling the room with toe-tapping classics, which attendees enjoyed over plates of charcuterie snacks provided by the winery’s kitchen.
Kim Laroche, organizer of the event, takes the lead on facilitating mental health and suicide prevention services for AutonHomme Pontiac.
“I did a few trainings for suicide prevention with farmers. A lot of time they mention not having enough social events, not being able to get together and gather,” Laroche said, describing her incentive for inviting farmers out to a social gathering.
“Suicide prevention is not just training. It’s also events like this.”
*Stay tuned for an upcoming feature from THE EQUITY about farmers’ mental health in the Pontiac.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are ways to get help:

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call or text 9-8-8
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868.
  • Reach out to an Écoute Agricole farmer social
    worker: 873-455-5592, tr.outaouais.est.ea@gmail.com

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