What does a farm have to do with mental health care? A couple of weeks ago, a farmer in Smith Falls Ontario posted an ad on Kijiji announcing that he was looking to gift his beautiful historic waterfront hobby farm – complete with an 1830s stone house, four barns and all the necessary equipment – to a hard-working individual willing to continue upkeep on the property and care for all the animals. The ad, of course, has since gone viral and the story has been featured on CBC News.
Almost on the same day, the World Health Organization announced that depression and Mental Illness will be its focus this year, stating that:
“We need to make mental health a priority for 2017 because no one is immune to mental illness. Everyone is affected directly or indirectly so we’re all responsible to do something about this.”
Similarly, Canada 150 celebrations are also recognizing the importance of a reinvigorated approach to Mental Health by celebrating change-makers in the field – those who are disrupting a failing system to offer new hope.
The posting of the Kijiji ad for the farm and the recent attention to a broken Mental Health Care system have seemingly little to do with each other. But we saw a connection.
We want to take a moment to express what the gift of a farm like this would mean for Mental Health Care in Canada – specifically as it relates to young people. There is a solution to the Mental Health Care crisis: The Recovery-Based Model of Mental Health Care. Eli’s Place wants to launch the first residential long-term recovery-based facility for youth in Canada to make a stand, proving to politicians and policy makers everywhere that the time is NOW to invest in this approach to Youth Mental Health Care.
However – in order to get the ball rolling – Eli’s Place needs a significant initial investment in order to purchase land and get the proper facilities in place. This brings us back to the viral ad about the farm in Kingston: the gift of a farm such as this would mean the revolution in Mental Health Care for Youth could start NOW. For a recovery-based long-term treatment centre to succeed, it would ideally be located on such a property. Here’s why:
1) Mental health care has to be rural and residential
Scientific research is beginning to prove what we’ve known all along – we need to spend time in nature to remain physically and mentally healthy. The goal with Eli’s Place is to take those struggling with Mental Health and/or substance use issues out of the chaos, alienation and noise of everyday life and place them in a space where they can reconnect with nature in a beneficial way. Being engaged in a rural farm setting offers challenge, support, problem solving, life skills, reciprocal relationships, communication, empowerment and self-esteem – all things needed for youth to move from illness to recovery.
2) There needs to be work involved
In order for the Recovery Model to work – those involved have to work! Whether it’s collecting eggs, feeding and caring for animals, preparing meals or clearing trails, working on various teams inspires a sense of dignity, self-worth and pride in doing for oneself and others—important prerequisites for healing and rehabilitation. Physical work promotes wellness and gives the feeling of real accomplishment. Structure is important – people need stability and expectations, a reason to get out of bed and something to look forward to everyday. Work reminds us of the power in seeing things change and participating in that change – in the seeds becoming plants, the wood becoming furniture. We, too, are in the process of becoming, challenging ourselves to grow and change.
The social interaction, exercise and skill building of the work program play an important role in a resident moving toward independence in the Recovery Model.
3) Living and working on a farm promotes community
Community is key to the success of the Recovery Model of mental health. As we work in the woods, interact with animals, and harvest food, we build connections to people and systems outside of ourselves. Community is created through shared experience and meaningful work on the farm. Residents take responsibility for themselves and their behaviours, and learn to put effort into all aspects of life. Unlike modern society, where the idea of the village has fallen by the wayside, living a community such as this fosters a sense that one can rely on one’s peers for support – and they can also rely on you. This is extremely important in the process of recovery.
Eli’s Place Residential Treatment Centre will offer a range of recovery-based programs for adults 18 – 35 years of age who have serious mental illness, and who may also be struggling though issues of substance abuse.
The first of its kind in Canada, Eli’s Place will provide treatment within a therapeutic rural environment. There, participants will develop the skills to recover from illness, as they gain valuable life and work skills to help ensure a successful transition back to the community. As part of its multi-phase approach, Eli’s Place will also provide ongoing in-community support as needed.