Category Archives: Social and emotional health

MSU Extension team responds to help families with farm stress

A person with a hat sits in a field with a combine in the background.

About a year ago, commodity prices fell, especially affecting dairy farmers. Michigan saw a rise in attempted suicides among farmers and farm families. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension responded by forming the Farm Stress team, made up of Suzanne Pish, Adam Kantrovich, Roger Betz, Tom Cummins and Beth Stuever, to create resources for educators and others who work with farmers and their families.

The team, with the assistance of ANR Communications and Marketing, put together a fact sheet and video for farmers and farm families so that our staff could have access to resources they could use in their programming and interaction. The team also put together two programs to help Extension educators and others who work with farmers and farm families. The first was a mental health first-aid training: a full-day, hands-on, certification course that can help those people working with farmers and farm families to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and emotional crisis. The second was a workshop designed for people who work with agriculture producers and farm families who want to know more about managing farm-related stress and ways to approach and communicate with those in need.

The team and the resources that they have produced are an example of how important it is that we work across institute or department lines, and that we mobilize to meet immediate needs of Michigan residents. We have our traditional programs that provide ongoing, stable service to our constituents, but we also can function in an emergency response role, just like we did in our response to the Flint water emergency.

Do you work with farmers, farm families or both? Do you have connections who do? You might want to take some time to watch the video about stress management for farmers and take a look at the other resources on our MSU Extension webpage devoted to farm stress. If you have any questions about the resources or the team’s work, feel free to reach out to Suzanne Pish.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, health, Impacts, Resources, Social and emotional health

Let’s talk about gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I wanted to take a moment to share some great Michigan State University (MSU) Extension resources on gratitude.

Pumpkins in a field.

Photo by tinah at Morguefile.com.

 

Health and nutrition educator Shannon Lindquist writes that people who practice gratitude are more proactive in taking care of their physical and mental health, exercise on a regular basis, make healthy food choices, make and keep yearly health appointments, develop positive coping methods for stress, and have a sense of happiness and optimism. Those sound like great benefits to me.

What are ways that we can show gratitude? Children and youth educator Makena Schultz lists seven ways to practice gratitude in her article “‘Tis the Season of Giving Thanks: Why Gratitude Is Important in Leadership.” She describes creating a gratitude letter, a gratitude list or journal, or a gratitude jar; engaging with a gratitude partner or in grateful contemplation; and making a gratitude visit to a deserving person. Learn more about leadership and gratitude by reading her article.

Photo of a table set with Thanksgiving dinner: squash, mashed potatos, ham, desert and flowers.

Photo by earl53 at Morgueufile.com.

Health and nutrition educator Tracie Abram encourages people to “slow down and notice the foods you are eating and how your body communicates and reacts to the food.” She also shares to “cultivate gratitude for the simple things and you will see more positives. You can be that person who helps create a joyful food memory for another by sharing your love for food and a grateful attitude.” She shares more about how to cultivate a food gratitude attitude in her article “Cultivate a Food Gratitude Attitude.”

Mother a daughter sit and look at pond.

Photo by Scott Liddle at Morguefile.com

Gail Innis, health and nutrition educator, shares the importance of modeling thankfulness and gratitude with your children. Gail encourages us to discuss with our kids the gifts that they received from a family member and have them draw a picture or write a note to thank them. Make a phone call to a long-distance relative with your child to say thank you. Volunteer with your children in local charitable events. Tell and read stories about generous people, characters or events. Take time each day to talk about at least one thing you each are grateful for. Gail includes more in her article about teaching an attitude of gratitude to young children.

I am grateful for my wife; my daughters; my dog, Cocoa; and our home in the U.P. I’m also grateful to work with all of you to further the mission of MSU Extension and the opportunity to make a difference in Michigan. What are you thankful for? Let’s remember as we continue forward in the month all the blessings we have in our lives.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition, Social and emotional health

Why BEES are important to early childhood development

Are you wondering why an insect is important in childhood development? Well, the BEES I’m talking about don’t have anything to do with insects. BEES stands for our Building Early Emotional Skills program that is taught over eight weeks and uses hands-on activities and group discussions to help parents reduce stress, increase children’s social and emotional competencies, and increase the quality of parental modeling. The preliminary data show that it’s making a difference: participants report a positive increase in their parenting skills and functioning. We’re seeing positive results and an increase in demand for these classes.

The BEES program was developed by Holly Brophy-Herb’s team in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Human Development and Family Studies and adapted by our MSU Extension BEES team. Our team is made up of Kendra Moyses, Carrie Shrier, Maria Millett, Kylie Rymanowicz and Alan Pilkenton who all work closely with Holly.

The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) recently selected the BEES program to receive first place nationally and regionally in the Human Development and Family Relationships Award category at the NEAFCS 2016 Annual Session Awards. This influential program and these passionate educators are deserving of these awards. I hope you’ll take a moment to congratulate your colleagues in person when we all come together next week at Fall Extension Conference.

To learn more about the program and the award, read the press release on our MSU Extension website.

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Filed under Awards, Children and Youth, Social and emotional health

How we will help our community in Flint

As a father myself, I was concerned by news of lead seeping into the water in Flint and its devastating health effects on children. Often, when people refer to Extension, they call us “boots on the ground,” and sure enough, our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition professionals have been working closely with the Genesee County health department, local agencies, hospitals and health professionals, and colleagues from MSU ever since the lead issue was uncovered.

In Flint last Thursday, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative was announced that will further focus attention and resources on Flint and children there who have been affected by toxic levels of lead in the water system. This collaboration brings together experts in pediatrics, child development, psychology, epidemiology, nutrition, toxicology, geography and education, and includes the Genesee County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the MSU College of Human Medicine and MSU Extension.

Photo of announcement by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative to a room filled with partners, media and government officials.

Announcement by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative. Photo credit: ANR Communications.

What can MSU Extension do to help? We cannot reverse the damage, but we can use evidenced-based research to help Flint residents lessen the effects over time.

We can teach families how to prepare meals that help block the body’s ability to absorb lead. MSU Extension nutrition staff members have worked together with the Hurley Medical Center and the MSU College of Human Medicine to provide nutrition education. That includes developing and sharing recipes that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C. We’ve been sharing these recipes through our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education classes, as well as demonstrations at the Flint Farmers Market. MSU Extension is hiring additional staff to help childcare providers assess their facilities and improve practices related to nutrition, especially in those parts of the city where lead exposure is the highest.

We can also help families learn effective parenting strategies that promote social and emotional skills and early childhood literacy. MSU Extension’s early childhood education team will teach parents and caregivers about how to best protect their children from lead exposure in the home and how to combat the side effects through effective child development strategies. Research has long indicated that high-quality early childhood education and increased parenting capacity, is one of the best strategies to offset adverse childhood experiences and to promote school readiness. MSU Extension’s early childhood programs focus on school readiness for children from birth to age 8 by promoting social and emotional skills, early literacy, and science and math skills, and by teaching effective parenting strategies.

Research indicates that high-quality early childhood experiences, parenting education and good nutrition are critical measures we can implement today to offset damage and increase children’s likeliness of school success. Our MSU Extension colleagues are working to provide those educational experiences, and in the coming weeks and months, they will be doing even more alongside our partners in the initiative.

Want to know more about what’s going on in Flint and the Pediatric Public Health Initiative? Below are some articles that you might find interesting in learning more about the situation in Flint and our collaborative efforts surrounding it.

Efforts Will Monitor Flint Kids’ Health

Pediatrician to Lead Fight against Flint Lead Poisoning

Generation of Flint Kids with Lead in Blood May Not See Effects for Years​

New Public Health Initiative Announced in Flint

Flint Organizations Announce Pediatric Public Health Initiative

MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital to Work Together on Flint Water Crisis Study

Flint Combats Lead-Contaminated Water Effects on Child Development

 

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Filed under Children and Youth, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Parenting, Partnerships, Social and emotional health, Uncategorized, Youth development

Learn to RELAX with MSU Extension anger and stress management curriculum

A Michigan State University Extension curriculum has been updated and is getting new attention, thanks to eXtension and other online learning options. “RELAX: Alternatives to Anger,” an educational series for those who want to manage their anger and stress both at home and at work, was recently updated by MSUE educators Suzanne Pish and Holly Tiret.

Since it was released on eXtension in December, ten individuals have taken part in an online offering of this program. In addition, nearly 70 copies of the curriculum CD have been sold through the MSU Extension Bookstore. Staff members can also order workbooks to use when offering the program, and incentives like stress balls and promotional magnets.

Suzanne and Holly worked with ANR Communications technical writer Katie Gervasi to produce the curriculum. Others in ANR Communications were involved in designing templates and getting the RELAX items into the MSU Extension Bookstore. The team wanted to extend the availability of the curriculum so they decided to also offer the online option through eXtension. Anyone can take the course. The cost is $20.

Closer to home, Suzanne will collaborate with the MSU Extension Staff Wellness Committee to offer RELAX for MSU Extension campus staff March 26. Register here.

“We would like to have MSU Extension staff to help advertise the online course to potential participants,” Suzanne said, “Just a week ago, a participant from Wisconsin called to say how much she enjoyed the course.”

Holly said, “I also got an email from an MSU student looking for an anger management class for himself. I emailed him and gave him instructions on the online course. We are even reaching students at MSU!”

To get to the online course, go to http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/relax_alternatives_to_anger_online_program.

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Filed under Social and emotional health