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Tough winter ahead for stressed farmers, counsellor says

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It’s no secret that 2019 has been a tough year to be a farmer in Sarnia-Lambton.

The weather played havoc with the planting season and there’s more worry than usual about the fall harvest.

That can trigger anxiety and depression, says Jenni Jenkins, a registered social worker in Sarnia with expertise in counselling farmers.

She has a farming family in the Warwick area and is familiar with the stresses of the agricultural sector.

“It’s not a job, not a career for farmers. It is their life,” she said.  “When you live on your land, if it was passed to you generationally, you are a steward of your land and the obligation is so deep.”

More than many professions, farming is dependent on outside and unpredictable factors like weather and markets.

“This winter is expected to be really tough and it may be difficult to stay positive,” said Jenkins.  “Depression makes being an optimist impossible.”

Isolation is already part of the job, so struggles with depression, emotional exhaustion, anxiety and burnout can further isolate rural families, she added.

“It takes treatment to think differently when you’re depressed or anxious.  You may not want to burden family or friends so finding the right counsellor can help a lot.”

Jenkins, 40, grew up in Corunna and attended SCITS. She earned a degree in sociology and business at Wilfrid Laurier University, and later a Masters degree in social work.

For 10 years she worked for the Upper Grand District School Board as a social worker, focusing on teenagers and their families.

In 2018, she returned to Sarnia with her three small children and opened her own practice, Inner Calm Counselling, at 155 Front St.

“When I told people what I do, they said Sarnia needs more counsellors,” said Jenkins.  “I looked at the market and there are actually a lot of us practicing here, but I think it’s so important that every family, every person, finds the right fit.  There really can’t be too many choices when you’re looking for help.”

She says her counselling is based in mindfulness and other principals of yoga that help avoid negative thinking and generate peace of mind.

“We often tend to scold or shame ourselves when we’re struggling. That tends not to help,” she said.

To accommodate clients’ varied needs, Jenkins offers several counselling concepts including a “walk and talk” approach for anyone looking to walk off tension on Sarnia’s waterfront.  And, about one-quarter of Jenkins’ caseload is now counselled on the phone or via Skype, a practice that increasingly suits busy schedules and reduces travel time.

For farmers, the phone or video option may be very appealing if they feel a stigma about counselling, she said. Inner Calm also offers counselling on weekends and evenings.

Jenkins’ standard rate is $130/hour.  Many benefit plans cover it and counselling qualifies as a medical expense on income tax returns, she pointed out.

Inner Calm Counselling is located on the ground floor of the Seaway Centre, 155 Front St. North.  Jenni Jenkins can be reached by calling 519-331-8113.  For more information, visit www.myinnercalm.ca.

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