New program focused on well-being of rural youth

4-H Canada is launching a new two-year initiative “that supports the emotional and physical well-being of rural youth across Canada.”

The first year of the 4-H Canada Healthy Living Initiative, which will launch in spring, will address mental health issues faced by rural youth.

“Young people living in rural and remote communities are at greater risk of experiencing struggles related to their mental and physical well-being and also lack the resources and services that might be available to those in more urban areas,” 4-H Canada said in a news release.

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On its website, the service organization cited a 2016 report from Ontario that highlighted a number of challenges facing youth in rural and remote areas. One major issue, the study said, is that living in an area with a small and dispersed population limits opportunities for social contact and activities, while at the same time creating barriers to providing resources and programs for youth.

“This is especially true for rural youth accessing, or not accessing as the case may be, mental health services,” said the report from the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.

“This could impact youth engagement efforts as they may not participate for fear of outing themselves.”

The Ontario report also cited research by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse that found “students who attend rural schools are at a greater likelihood to report drinking and driving, alcohol use and the consumption of five or more drinks in a single instance, and cannabis use and driving.”

The 4-H Canada Healthy Living Initiative will offer “resources and tools that will support youth facing mental health challenges and communicate how to access resources or recognize when a peer needs support,” 4-H Canada said in its news release.

The second year of the initiative will focus on physical health, nutrition and well-being, with the program also offering workshops and webinars for 4-H leaders in both years.

“The goal of this initiative is to support the 25,000 4-H youth members across Canada to lead lives that balance emotional, mental, and physical health and remove barriers to access,” the news release states.

The initiative is receiving more than $150,000 in funding from Farm Credit Canada, UFA Co-operative, Corteva Agriscience (the ag division of DowDuPont), and Cargill.

For more information, including a link to the Ontario report, go to the 4-H Canada website.

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