photo of Tom on his tractor beside a field

July 19, 2023

Supporting Ontario Farmers with S.H.E.D. Talks

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5 mins read

Goderich, ON

Watch the video to see how Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) is making a difference by empowering the local farming community to tackle feelings of isolation and mental well-being challenges.

Watch the Video

Gateway CERH, an Energizing Life Community Fund recipient, is building connections and empowering the agricultural community to find local support systems.

Before retiring, Tom, a farm owner in Dublin, Ontario, silently struggled with depression due to the isolating nature of his job. During a particularly stressful harvesting season, he experienced a mental health crisis and urgently sought help. This was the turning point where he started sharing his ongoing struggle, discovering a network of unwavering support, and finding a community of family and friends to uplift him.

"In a certain moment, an individual comes up with a strategy on how to remove all that anguish. And it is this anguish that Gateway CERH is trying to bring out into the open through their S.H.E.D. Talks."
Photo of Tom Melady
Tom Melady,
Retired Farm Owner

Gateway CERH developed S.H.E.D. Talks (Sustaining Healthy Farms Through Empowerment and Dedication) to help combat the loneliness and declining mental health of the farming community in Huron and Perth County. One in four farmers in Ontario will experience a mental health crisis during their career,* and S.H.E.D. Talks is focusing on conversation, collaboration, community and connection to help reduce social isolation and daily stressors. This new peer-run group program will provide safe and welcoming spaces, helping to build farmer-to-farmer connections so farmers like Tom can lean on one another during difficult times.

With assistance from the Energizing Life Community Fund, the S.H.E.D. Talks program will expand to more agricultural community members, creating a larger mentorship support group for the farmers who play a vital role in providing Ontarians with fresh and nutritious food.

How to Offer Support

  • Pay attention: Notice any changes in behaviour that might indicate they need support. This may include acting irritable, appearing distant or avoiding activities that they would typically enjoy.
  • Check in: Start and keep conversations going. Ask them how they are really doing, actively listen to their response, and validate how they are feeling.
  • Maintain your role as a friend: Help them become aware of the resources and programs available, and encourage them to seek professional support if needed.
"A farmer’s brain is different than the statistical norm. And this is Gateway CERH’s strategy with S.H.E.D. Talks — to get farmers talking about mental health. And that is what revived me."
Photo of Tom Melady
Tom Melady,
Retired Farm Owner

*Statistic cited by a 2022 survey led by Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton, professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College.

Watch the video to see how Gateway CERH is bringing farmers out of isolation with the S.H.E.D. Talks program.

For more information on Gateway CERH, visit

Gateway CERH: (519) 612-1053

The Energizing Life Community Fund

Hydro One is committed to supporting organizations and communities by funding projects that focus on the physical, psychological and emotional safety and well-being of Ontarians.

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