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Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is taking the lead on helping Michigan farmers manage occupational stress.
“Farming can be very stressful,” Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director, tells Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes. “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently indicated that farm laborers and farm owners have the highest rates of death due to stress-related conditions.”
In partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MSU Extension is working to tackle the recent rise in financial stress and attempted and completed suicides among Michigan farm families. Many factors of farming can lead to stress, but the fluctuation of commodity prices — especially milk prices for Michigan dairy farmers — is a good example of where this stress comes from.
MSU Extension educator Suzanne Pish specializes in social emotional health and counseling. She is part of the response team working to aid Michigan farm families in managing stress and other mental health issues.
“The first phase involved getting as many MSU Extension staff members certified in Mental Health First Aid as we could,” Pish said. “Then we went out and made connections with organizations that work with farmers across the state.
“For many dairy farmers, the milk hauler is someone they develop a relationship with and would feel comfortable talking to about feeling stressed. We targeted those types of people for our training. If we equip them with a toolbox of resources and tips for how to help farmers who are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, they could really make a difference in someone’s life.”
If you or a loved one is suffering from financial troubles or farm-related stress and need help, please contact Suzanne Pish at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-279-4311.