Tracey Cross-Childs remembers the day that grief enveloped her entire family as her precious son, Jamie, died on June 5th, 1997. She shares that the hardest part of her grief journey is getting her head and heart to be in sync at the same time. She could not imagine her life could go on without Jamie. Here is her story:

As I drove into the laneway of my parent’s farm, my husband, Duncan, was standing in front of the tractor, shouting, “Doug has run over Jamie; Tracey, Doug has run over Jamie”.  I jumped out of the car and raced past my husband without acknowledging him, to where our youngest son, Jamie, was lying.  The whole time, praying, Oh God, let it be a broken leg, just a broken leg.  Please, nothing serious.  Please, God, hear me, let it be a broken leg.  

Jamie was lying in the grass at the backdoor of my parents’ home.  I stared at Jamie for what seemed like forever; however, in reality, it was only a couple of seconds.  I knelt down beside my baby – our Jamie.  Duncan was shouting that Jamie still had a heartbeat, but I knew even before I knelt down that Jamie was dead.  His beautiful blue eyes were lifeless.

As I ran back to the car, cradling Jamie in my arms, I noticed our oldest son, Malcolm, standing at the side of the house.  His face was full of questions and horror. I wanted to help him, too. As we backed out of the laneway on our way to the hospital, I noticed my dad, Doug, leaning on the tractor’s front-end loader. 

My family thought we were practicing farm safety. There were no implements attached to the tractor that day; my dad was a seasoned farm equipment driver; they were not driving on a highway, and their speed would not have topped 40 km/hr. I had educated my boys about safety around PTO (Power Take-off) shafts, recalling my experience as a young child having a shoelace caught, which resulted in a scar and disfigurement of my right foot. I thought that it was enough, and I loved the idea of my son and my dad spending farming time together since I knew how much Jamie wanted to be a farmer. 

Farm Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Here are a few tips that I highly value and hope your family and farm operation will adhere to:

  1. No extra riders: Every person needs to have a seat
  2. Never step over a PTO shaft
  3. Dress for Success: no clothing or hair dangling, wear protective shoes/boots
  4. Ventilation: ensure storage headspaces are ventilated, and never enter alone
  5. Prevent Rollovers: always engage rollover protection structure and always use wheel blocks when unhitching wagons or carts from tractors.

Farm accidents occur every day across North America and beyond. Mental fatigue contributes to on-farm accidents, and on-farm accidents lead to mental health distress (Murray et al., 2019). In 2022, 13 people in Ontario died from on-farm accidents (Farmers Forum, 2013), which does not take into consideration deaths that occur on a public roadway, such as tractor rollovers. 

Agriculture is one of the industries with the highest rates of fatal injury.  The NFMHA encourages you to talk about farm safety with workers and family members. We also encourage you to realize that you have value, and you are worth the time it takes to ensure everyone stays safe this year.

Written by Lauren Van Ewyk, M. Sc.MHC, RSW, in collaboration with Tracey Cross-Childs. Lauren is an engaging speaker, registered social worker, foster mom and agricultural mental health advocate.  Lauren works with businesses, individuals and families all across Canada to find hope and healing.  She and her husband raise sheep in southwestern Ontario.

References:

Beattie, J., McLeod, C., Murray, M., Pedler, D., Brumby, S., & Gabbe, B. (2018). What Happens to the Farm? Australian Farmers’ Experiences after a Serious Farm Injury. Journal of Agromedicine23(2), 134–143. https://doi.org/10.1080/1059924X.2017.1422836

Farmers Forum (2023, January 10). 13 farm fatalities in Ontario in 2022. Retrieved March 12, 2024, from https://farmersforum.com/13-farm-fatalities-in-ontario-in-2022/

Murray, M., Beattie, J., McLeod, C., Pedler, D., Brumby, S. A., & Gabbe, B. (2019). “It could have been a lot worse”: the psychological effects of farm-related serious injury in Victoria. Rural and Remote Health19(3), 5323–5323. https://doi.org/10.22605/RRH5323

Voaklander, D. C., Rudolphi, J. M., Berg, R., Drul, C., Belton, K. L., & Pickett, W. (2020). Fatal farm injuries to Canadian children. Preventive Medicine139, 106233–106233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106233

Let us introduce you to Desaray! We are thrilled to have her join the NFMHA Team as one of our Co-Directors of Student Engagement. Her role is to connect with students interested in becoming Ag Informed Therapists. Let’s give her a warm welcome! @desskretting #nfmha #nationalfarmermentalhealthalliance #aginformedtherapy #aginformedtherapist #agmentalhealth #farmermentalhealth #ruralmentalhealth #socialworkersofinstagram #psychotherapistsofinstagram #counsellorsofinstagram #socialworkers #counsellorsconnect ... See MoreSee Less
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🌍Today is Global Wellness Day!🌍 We challenge you to spend time outside today. 🌳 Perhaps life on the farm during planting season means that you are outside already. So we challenge you to look past the machinery and the problem solving that comes in this season of life. Take a moment to allow the sun to kiss your face, deeply breathe in the outdoor air and allow the sounds of nature to sing a song to you. 🐦Maybe you are able to choose to take a few hours away from the realities of farm life and walk through a forest, a beautiful park or garden. 🌻Our relationship with nature – how much we notice, how we think about and appreciate our natural surroundings – is important in supporting good mental health.Spending time in nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.So...put down your phone and get to it. 😉#GlobalWellnessDay #MagentaNature #nfmha #nationalfarmermentalhealthalliance #farmermentalhealth 👨‍🌾👩‍🌾#agmentalhealth #ruralmentalhealth #ranchermentalhealth🐄 #agmentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #breakthestigma #mentalhealthmatters #farmermentalhealthmatters #ruralmentalhealthmatters #farmermentalhealth #ruralmentalhealth 🚜 ... See MoreSee Less
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