Meet the Board - Stewart Skinner

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1. Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?

I am a pig farmer from near Listowel Ontario.  I am married to Jessica, we have a son named Bryce 

2. What originally sparked your interest in being an advocate for mental health?

There was never an acute event that led into advocacy.  I have dealt with depression and anxiety throughout my life and have found that sharing my experiences publicly can help others find healing while also helping me in my personal mental health journey  

3. Why is mental health important to you?

My personal experiences have motivated me to be involved in this field because I know not every person is lucky enough to have the support system I have.  Even with that support system, it took me a long time to accept that I needed help and that it was ok not to figure everything out on my own.  Our lives as farmers are getting more complex, we still balance the challenges of managing a biological production system and now have to adapt to changing societal views about how we raise food.  Beyond that, the financial scale of Canadian agricultural operations have grown into massive multi-million dollar businesses that require incredible business acumen along with the practical knowledge we need to grow food products.  We are asking a lot of ourselves and without open communications about mental wellness, we will see farmer burnout continue to be an issue

4. What gives you the most hope for the landscape of mental health in agriculture?

The last couple years have seen a watershed change in our approaches and attitudes towards mental health in agriculture.  My personal feeling is that our communities have moved beyond the taboo nature of accepting and then addressing mental wellness.  Now it is onto the individuals themselves to start accepting when they may need help.  This is a marked change that was a necessary first step if the problem was ever going to be addressed in a meaningful way

5. What does being a board member with The Do More Agriculture Foundation mean to you?

Organizations like Do More Agriculture will form the backbone of improved mental wellness for farmers, their families, and their supply chain partners.  The dynamic and individualized nature of mental health and wellness makes it difficult for all to find care within our traditional health care system.  The slow moving and siloed nature of our public institutions mean they are unable to customize care based on individual needs.  I am a big believer that the first step to healthy mental wellness is knowing and believing that there is a group of people surrounding us that are invested in our wellbeing, a circle of care if you will.  Do More Agriculture is the type of organization that can work with rural communities to build capacity within everyday people to help with these issues.  Healthier communities will be a direct product of caring communities that have people who are willing to stop and chat for a few minutes or take over a isolated job for someone who needs a break.  Billions of dollars won't fix this issue, people who care that are given the tools that front line people need will. 

6. If you could share one message with someone struggling, what would it be?

The most important lesson I have learned is to accept that this is a lifelong journey with plenty of unknown twists and turns.  I work hard to remind myself that I should never think that I have my mental health and wellness completely figured out; life has a way of sending sometimes painful reminders that we continuously need to be looking at evolving our coping strategies as our lives change

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