Kirk Muyres co-creates mental health foundation for farmers

Team Laycock third Kirk Muyres delivers a stone during the 2017 Players' Championship in Toronto. (Anil Mungal)

Kirk Muyres had some unfinished business after posing for the 2018 Men of Curling calendar.

Muyres, who throws second stones for Saskatoon’s Team Laycock, donated his portion of the proceeds towards mental health in agriculture. There was just one problem: He couldn’t find a specific organization handling those issues.

The three-time provincial champion Muyres took the initiative and reached out to others in the industry who were raising awareness. Together with Kim Keller, Lesley Kelly and Himanshu Singh, Muyres co-created The Do More Agriculture Foundation to address mental health struggles farmers face.

“When I saw that this was something I wanted to support, I didn’t know exactly how to go about that,” Muyres said Tuesday following the foundation’s launch. “I had to make a few calls to people in the Ag industry that have been spearheading some of this mental health stuff and really nothing was put in place yet. There was no real foundation set up. There were talks about doing something among these people.

“Honestly, I just got a really good vibe out of Kim, Lesley and Himanshu. I know they’re good people and I like to surround myself with good people. I thought what the hell, it would be a nice little thing to give back to the Ag industry, build something really cool with some special people and hope we make a difference. Once I reached out to them and said I wanted to support it, how to go about supporting it and there was really nothing in place for this, I felt why don’t I jump two feet in.”

Although Muyres gave full credit to the other three co-creators for doing most of the legwork creating the foundation, it’s a cause that hits very close to home to him. Muyres grew up on a grain farm in St. Gregor, Sask., and has experienced minor bouts of social anxiety throughout his life.

“I think a lot of people face what I maybe faced growing up as well. It was really social anxiety and going into social situations in large groups and stuff,” Muyres said. “I never really thought much about it, didn’t really know how to deal with it and never talked about it. It wasn’t that it was a severe case of anxiety or anything but it still affected my day-to-day life a little bit. Then I saw some other people open up and realized it affects everyone. I thought it was a good opportunity to get involved being that I grew up on the farm and to try to make a difference for the other kids growing up in those situations as well.”

The Do More Agriculture Foundation cites a University of Guelph study that found while 35 percent of farmers surveyed could be classified as having depression and 45 percent faced high levels of stress, 40 percent said they wouldn’t seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health. Muyres believes it’ll take brave people to step up and talk about their own experiences to help break down that barrier and he’s confident the close-knit agriculture industry will rally to support each other.

“I think once people see other people talk about it, they’ll feel more comfortable with themselves coming out and talking about it and seeking help,” Muyres said. “I can’t thank enough all of the people in the Ag industry and people who support the Ag industry to talk about some of the issues they face with their mental health over the years. It sure makes it easier for the next person to step up and realize it is something to talk about and they don’t have to fight alone.”

Muyres welcomes those outside of the agriculture industry to help out as well either through the foundation’s website or on Twitter at @domoreag.

“We’re always needing any kind of help we can get in terms of resources and people,” Muyres said. “There’s a ton of work to be done so we’re always looking for extra hands on deck but there’s also an opportunity for people to just donate on our website as well to the cause. All dollars go to funding our resource hub that we’re creating for farmers to access as well as community support.

“There’s an opportunity for everyday people. If they want to help any way possible we’re more than happy to have them on board.”

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