Mental health app developed to help Sask. farmers

A combine works in a field of soybeans in Huron County in 2017. (Scott Miller / CTV London)

Innovation Saskatchewan and the Agriculture ministry have partnered with a health company to develop a mental health app for farmers, helping them deal with personal stresses they may encounter.

The mobile app, developed by Bridges Health in Saskatoon, will allow farmers to use it in the privacy of their own home and potentially enhance their likelihood of asking for help, said Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the minister responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan, in a news release Thursday.

She said even though progress on mental health has been made, there is still a stigma associated with asking for support.

The government said calls to the farm stress line doubled in 2018-19 when compared to the previous year.

It said the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has placed new pressures on people within the agriculture sector.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said in the release that producers face unique challenges when dealing with their mental health.

He said the province is committed to providing resources to support them.

“We know there is a need for solutions like this and I’m looking forward to working with Bridges Health to provide a resource custom-built for the agriculture industry,” Marit said.

The app is called Avail. It analyzes wellness data supplied by the user, offering prompts for various supports, including articles, videos and online tips. It also offers more immediate help from a personal support network.

The app was selected during a province-wide innovation challenge in spring 2020. During the challenge, technology entrepreneurs offered solutions to assist in helping the mental health of farmers, ranchers and workers in the agriculture industry.

Bridges Health has received $10,000 in funding and will collaborate with the government for 16-weeks.

“We are honoured to have this opportunity to work with government and partners to develop and advance this mental health and overall wellness tool,” said Bridges Health vice-president Leon Ferguson.