One year after a program to help agricultural workers recognize and respond properly to distress and suicidal behavior, about 600 sentries were trained.
Stress, debt, isolation, environmental constraints, too busy work days: there are many reasons to explain that 51% of Quebec’s agricultural producers live with high psychological distress, according to data from the Association for Suicide Prevention (AQPS ).
This distress translates into a suicide rate twice as high as in the general population, according to Health Canada.
The AQPS has been addressing this issue for several years. While it is difficult to quantify results, recruitment of resource persons is very positive.
“After one year, about 600 sentries were trained in an agricultural setting. This is huge, explains Lucie Pelchat, AQPS training advisor. Initially, that was our goal for two years. It was reached in the first year. We do not want to stop there. We want to ensure that everywhere in Quebec, if there is someone in distress, on our farms, there will be someone who will be there to be able to recognize this distress. ”
Who are they?
Sentinels are workers and professionals who work with agricultural producers. For example, the AQPS trains veterinarians, agricultural accountants, agronomists or milk transporters.
Those kind of professionals who go on farms, who will meet our producers.
Through this training, they develop “small antennas” to detect signs of distress.
“They are also trained to speak with [farmers in distress]. What to say, what not to say, she adds. The sentinel will try to promote the (help) request, she will tell the producer: ” Listen, I know help resources. If you accept, I will ask them to communicate with you. ”
Living with suicide
A sentinel may have made a difference in the sad fate of Francis Côté, according to his spouse, Geneviève Racine.
Francis Côté, of the Ange-Gardien, took the life, on July 17, 2014, at the age of 42 years. He was, however, a sociable, jovial and involved person.
“At 23, he took over from his deceased father’s farm. He has undertaken many projects with the idea of succeeding, “says Racine.
Over the years, however, Mr. Côté has experienced many disappointments.
“There is a lot of bureaucracy in agriculture. You have to be extremely efficient. He worked very hard, but financial pressure was high, she explains. One day, he made a mistake in doing repairs on the farm. An error that had consequences on the herd. ”
Within a few weeks, Mr. Côté’s psychological condition deteriorated.
“When he saw the consequences, he became discouraged. We realized this in June. In July, he put an end to his life. A month before, I could never have said that Francis had suicidal thoughts, “laments Mrs. Racine, who has since sold the animals of the farm and rents the land.
Racine would have liked the sentinel project to exist in 2014, especially since her spouse’s network of friends was often linked to agriculture.
If we can equip these people to be on the lookout, to be able to detect distress among farmers, that would be good. It is a project that can be extremely useful
Formed for six months
Mélissa Leclerc, a veterinarian, was trained to become a sentinel six months ago. Although it has not yet had to intervene, it believes that all agricultural stakeholders should be trained.
“In the farming community, we have a lot of people. Veterinarians, we talk a lot with our customers. They confide in us. We know the family, she says. It is therefore necessary to have notions to know how to detect people in distress.