By MPP Toby Barrett
 
We continue to get a lot of calls during these tough times – bear in mind, it’s normal to feel stressed out, worried, sad and confused during this pandemic.
 
What’s really important is to look after yourself – not only your physical health but also your mental health.
 
We know that more and more people are experiencing stress, anxiety and other mental health problems as they help stop the spread by staying home, often times alone. There are many who are comfortable being home all the time – perhaps retired, or farming, or running a home workplace electronically – but for many the lack of social and physical contact can result in loneliness, depression, strife, domestic violence, etc.
 
Since the first case was diagnosed January 25, in Ontario, I have been directing people to Ontario.ca/coronavirus – a website with an informative tab outlining some of the supports available for mental health and addictions.
 
This is a difficult time for everyone – and everyone has different ways to cope. In some cases, social isolation can lead to potential relapse for people with a history of addiction and substance abuse.

I had a 20-year career with the Ontario Addiction Research Foundation before being elected – the resources are there, and it’s important to reach out for help and support. The Addiction Research Foundation merged in to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – a valuable resource for tips and coping strategies can be found at www.camh.ca.  

As well, many AA meetings having moved from church basements are moving online through technology like Zoom. Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is found at www.aa.org.
 
Across Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association has help available at Ontario.cmha.ca/local-cmha-branch-supports. Assistance can be in person, by phone, or in a variety of virtual ways.
 
Recently, the Ontario Government expanded virtual mental health services to help thousands of people, including frontline health care workers.
 
Farming, by its nature, can be a solitary way of life, hence part of its appeal. Personally, my time on a tractor allows me to relax and gives me time to think and reflect. It also provides a bit of exercise, fresh air and sunshine – all good for the soul.

However, tough times can also mean tough times for farmers. The weather, input costs, uncertainties in the market can lead to stress and distraction – also a recipe for farm accidents.
 
A mental health kit has been developed for farmers. Visit www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/mental-health.htm. For immediate help call 1-866-531-2600.
 
Financial stress can affect any business in any sector. Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, farmers in trouble can receive advice at no cost by calling 1-877-424-1300 or going to ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca. Help is also available through the Farm Debt Mediation Service at 1-866-452-5556. The Do More Agriculture Foundation also offers good advice.
 
And, of course, seniors have worked hard for the benefit of us all, now it’s time to provide for them – give them a call, or an email or a helping hand.
 
That friend you’ve been meaning to call, reach out today! Checking in on others is important right now. Helping each other out is how we will get through this.
 
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk