A former hockey player, now with ties to agriculture, took the stage at the Grain Expo at Canadian Western Agribition (CWA).
Sheldon Kennedy spoke at the expo, telling his story about abuse, addictions, and struggles with mental health.
Kennedy, who now farms near Lucky Lake, said he underestimated the toll agriculture can take on someone’s mental health.
“I probably underestimated how important mental health is,” he said. “How much stress and anxiety and worry is in the farming world or agriculture sector.”
Kenndey said it’s important to have conversations about mental health, whether you are doing good or struggling.
“It’s been systemic thinking that we don’t share about how we feel. That’s the way I grew up,” he said. “That’s something we have to break and break. We need people to say I can’t do this alone, and I need help, and that is probably the toughest thing for anybody, not just in hockey and ag; I think it’s hard for anybody to ask for help.”
“Especially in a place where I think a lot of times we are dealing with the invisible damage and the invisible impact where it’s hard for people to even explain how they feel, and you can’t physically see it,” he continued.
Kennedy said that important to discuss more than just mental health.
“Mental health is such an overarching word,” he said. “There is a lot of pieces that come underneath that. For me, addiction, anxiety, anger, fear. There is a lot of that, and I think that is very relatable to a lot of people, but part of it is there is a way out, and there is a way to manage it, and that’s the key.”
He said he had seen more openness and less stigma regarding people’s mental health.
“We are getting better, but I don’t think there is ever a finish line in this area. I think we just have to keep getting better all the time.”
CEO for Canadian Western Agribition Shaun Kindopp said it was important for them to bring Kenndey to tell his story.
“I’ve known a lot of people in the agriculture world who struggle with anxiety and depression, and there is a lot of pressure on them, so to have someone like Sheldon, who is relatable, who’s also in the industry a little it bit is great.”
Kindopp added that they are looking to bring in more speakers like Kennedy to raise awareness about topics like mental health.