Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

More calls to stress hotline

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BRANDON -- More farmers are relying on the Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line as flooding continues to take its toll on fields and psyches in western Manitoba.

An official with Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services said the volume of calls has increased since the initial flood, and she expects the numbers to grow once producers are given a chance to catch their breath and reflect on the damage.

"When we hear from them, it's often when push comes to shove and there is no one else,"àsaid Leanne, a counsellor with the organization who did not want to give her last name.

"We will see it even more when things slow down," she said. "When the sandbagging stops or the harvest is in the bins, when it slows down, it gives them a chance to think about everything that has happened in the last three months."

One of the hardest parts for producers is dealing with the external factors, most of which are out of their control.

Like a prize fighter, Mother Nature continues to use farmers as a punching bag.

With very few tools at their disposal to duck and move from the water wallop, the battle to save the crop can often turn into mental warfare.

"When you lose control, you lose your balance,"àLeanne said.

She said it is a myth that opening up about those struggles makes a person weak. In many cases, the stress line is the producers' last line of defence.

"We are here,"àLeanne said. "We're all farmers and you have to have walked the walk to understand what they are going through."

She said due to the emotional toll and availability of guns, farmers have a higher rate of suicide than many other careers.

A report issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says 169 people killed themselves in Manitoba in 2012.

Statistically speaking, it was men in rural areas of the province who had the highest rate of suicide. Men in rural Manitoba made up nearly half of the suicides among men, although they represent 36 per cent of the population.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 B7

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