Frequently Asked Questions

General – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Farmer Wellness Initiative (FWI)?

The Farmer Wellness Initiative offers mental health and wellness support to farmers and farm families across Ontario. This program is accessed through a telehealth line that is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day. Services are primarily available in English and French, as well as up to 30 different languages. Counselling is available by phone, virtual or in person. Ontario farmers looking for support can call 1-866-267-6255.

Why should I call the helpline?

There are many reasons calling a helpline can be useful. Having access to immediate support and advice from a counsellor without having to make an appointment or travel somewhere can be key for individuals in rural communities. The counselling sessions are available by phone, virtually, or in-person.

Farmers and families can call the helpline for any challenge or issue they’re dealing with. The helpline is not limited to farm-related matters and farmers are encouraged to call for all personal challenges as well.

It’s okay to ask for help – no problem is too big or small. Farmers and their families have exclusive access to this helpline for any stress, pressure, struggle or challenge they are facing. Some issues may include, but are not limited to:

  • On-farm stress
  • Financial pressures
  • Health issues
  • Family or friendship troubles
  • Marriage, spousal or partner issues
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling burnt out
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Bullying
  • Experiencing abuse or experienced abuse in the past (childhood traumas)
  • Any other matter that requires support

Who is eligible to use this program?

This service is available for all Ontario farmers and farm families. This includes members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU), Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO),  L’Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO) and farmers who are not members of a general farm organization.

The service is available for those who are 16 and older. Youth between the ages of 12-15 who are looking for counselling are required to obtain parental consent.

When can I contact you?

You can contact the toll-free number anytime that is convenient for you. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day in English and French. However, additional languages are available upon request. All information received through counselling sessions is confidential and in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004).

Who provides the services?

The provincial and federal governments have provided funding to access free counselling sessions with mental health professionals. The counselling sessions are provided by LifeWorks. The mental health professionals at LifeWorks have received training to understand the unique needs of farmers and their families.

What happens when I call 1-866 -267-6255?

The mental health professionals from LifeWorks will answer the phone.

The support line will enter callers into an intake process to arrange counselling sessions with an appropriate mental health professional available by phone, virtually, or in person. Anyone in a crisis will be supported immediately by calling this line.

Do I pay to use the services?

No, this is a free service available for farmers and members of their families. This is funded by the governments of Canada and Ontario.

Is it confidential?

Yes, it is confidential. However, you are required to state your full name, date of birth, gender, and postal code to access counselling. All information received through counselling sessions is confidential and in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004).

Could I be put on hold when calling the toll-free number?

Intake counsellors from LifeWorks answer more than 80% of calls within 20 seconds. In case of an unexpected call surge, the backup mechanisms re-route the phone calls to be answered quickly. You will not need to hang up or dial again.

How quickly can I expect to get an appointment with a counsellor?

If you are in an immediate crisis, you will be immediately connected with a counsellor by phone who will assist you through the crisis. Depending on the urgency, you may be referred to an in-person counselling session either the same day or the next business day.

For the vast majority of farmers that call in, they will be provided with an appointment by phone, in person or by video, at the time of their initial call. If there is a surge in calls, the farmer will receive an appointment within two business days.

What happens during counselling sessions?

During your counselling session, your counsellor will create a comfortable environment to openly discuss the concerns you have.  They will offer a non-judgmental space where you can feel heard, express what concerns you have and explore how it makes you feel.

Once the session begins, the counsellor:

  • may ask questions to fully understand the problem
  • may explore different expectations of what might resolve the problem
  • will work with you to identify options and choices to develop strategies to reduce or resolve your concern.

In addition, your counsellor will provide objective feedback, as well as work with you to determine the problem-solving techniques

How long are the sessions?

Each session usually lasts an hour. You can work with your therapist to schedule longer sessions if necessary.

What qualifications do the counsellors have? Is there any farming experience among the counsellors?

The counsellors have a minimum of a master’s degree in Social Work, Psychology, Educational Counselling, or other related human services field, along with a minimum of five years’ counselling experience.

Most LifeWorks counsellors involved in the FWI have a background in agriculture and rural communities, and all professionals receive customized training on the realities of agricultural life and trends that might be causing additional stress throughout the year.

How many counselling sessions are available to me?

The quantity of sessions is flexible depending on the nature of your concerns, individual needs, and requirements.

What happens if I miss a counselling appointment?

As with most healthcare service providers, the counsellors at LifeWorks will require 24-hour notice in order to cancel or reschedule an appointment. Appointments can be cancelled or rescheduled by calling 1-866-267-6255.

What if I am not happy with my counsellors?

If you are not satisfied with the counsellor, please call LifeWorks to express your concerns. LifeWorks will work with you to set up an appointment with another counsellor who is a better fit for your needs. You may call 1-866 -267-6255 to express your concerns.

I don’t need counselling, but I know someone who needs professional help, and that person refuses to reach out for help. Can I call on behalf of someone I’m worried about?

The nature of counselling is that the person making contact and securing the appointment must be the same because they must provide consent to the counselling. If the person you are concerned about is reluctant to make contact, you may wish to place the first intake phone call together to help initiate the process.  If they choose to share the next steps, you may wish to follow up with them if they would appreciate a reminder or additional support on the day of their appointment. If the person is in crisis, please visit: Are You in Crisis? https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/are-you-in-crisis/ for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions for Youth

What is counselling?

Counselling is a form of treatment that is based on “talking work” done with a trained therapist. The therapist will listen to you and help you find ways to deal with the challenges you are facing.

What happens during my teen’s counselling sessions?

During the counselling session, the counsellor will create a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential environment for your teen to openly discuss their issues in-depth.

Once the session begins, the counsellor:

  • may ask questions to fully understand the problem
  • may explore different expectations of what might resolve the problem
  • will work with your teen to identify options and choices to develop strategies to reduce or resolve your concern.

In addition, the counsellor will provide objective feedback, as well as work with your teen to determine problem-solving techniques.

My teen is between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. How can my teen get help?  

If your teen is between the ages of 12 and 15 years old, they will need parental consent before they can access counselling through the Farmer Wellness Initiative. Please read the other FAQs on how the process works. To start the process, please call 1-866-267-6255.

What is parental consent?

A legal requirement is that a parent or a guardian must sign a consent form or provide verbal permission before a child between the ages of 12 to 15 access counselling.

How do I start the process for my teen?

If your teen is less than 16 and wants to access counselling services, the parent or guardian needs to contact LifeWorks to provide consent on the teen’s behalf.

Teens can have their parent or legal guardian call LifeWorks to book counselling for them. A verbal consent by the parent or guardian over the phone needs to be provided to open a file and book an appointment.

Upon the first session, a parent or legal guardian of the youth will have to sign a physical copy of consent with the counsellor, if it is face to face counselling, or provide verbal consent if the counselling is via telephone or video. A parent or legal guardian must consent to the counselling before the child speaks directly with the counsellor.

Is it confidential? Will the conservation between my teen and the counsellor be shared with me?

Yes, it is confidential. The counsellor will review with you and explain the limits of confidentiality to you during your first session. All information received through counselling sessions is confidential and in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004).

Are the counsellors trained to work with youth?

The LifeWorks counsellors are generalists who can support a variety of different ages and issues a client is dealing with. The counsellors have a minimum of a master’s degree in Social Work, Psychology, Educational Counselling, or other related human services field, along with a minimum of five years’ counselling experience.

How frequently will my teen need to access therapy?

The number of sessions depends on the nature of your teen’s concerns, needs, and requirements.

Definitions

Counselling: Refers to the form of talking therapy where a trained mental health therapist listens to you and helps you manage and address challenging life circumstances.

Farm families: Immediate family members of farmers and/or family members working on the farm. 

Farmer Wellness Initiative: A program that provides free mental health and wellness support to all farmers and farm families across Ontario. Support is accessed by calling a free telehealth line at 1-866-267-6255.

FWI: Acronym for Farmer Wellness Initiative

Parental consent: A legal requirement that a parent or a guardian must sign a consent form or provide verbal permission before a child between the ages of 12 to 15 access counselling.

Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA): Refers to Ontario’s health-specific privacy legislation, which came into force on November 1, 2004. This Act provides individuals with the right to request access to their personal information while providing private sector organizations with a framework for conducting the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.

Underage and/or Youth: Individuals between the ages of 12 to 15.