Senator Stabenow Applauds National Expansion of MSU Mental Health Initiative for Farmers

New national partnership, modeled off MSU’s successful farm stress management initiative, will help identify farmers in distress and connect them with mental health resources

Thursday, December 05, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today applauded a new national initiative to help farmers manage stress and mental health issues. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is partnering with Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Farmers Union, to expand their innovative farm stress management program.


“One in five people are affected by mental health issues, and our farmers are no exception,” said Senator Stabenow. “From volatile weather to economic instability, farmers deal with uniquely stressful situations that affect their livelihoods and families. Farmers in Michigan and across the country will benefit from MSU’s expertise to help farmers manage their stress and improve their mental health.”


In order to help agricultural producers cope with stressful events, MSU Extension developed a unique farm stress programs for farmers, farm families, organizations and others who interact directly with farmers. Through online and in-person trainings, the participants will learn to recognize signs of distress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health issues, and connect farmers with resources. 


“Farmers endure tremendous risks on our behalf,” said Jeff Dwyer, director of Michigan State University Extension. “Those who work in agriculture are at the mercy of variables beyond their control—weather, trade wars and pest outbreaks are just a few of the obstacles that create stress among those who feed and clothe us. We combined the expertise of experts in behavioral health and agriculture to develop tools that will encourage people to seek help before it’s too late. There is no simple solution, but we believe this can make a difference.”


Senator Stabenow recently invited Dr. Dwyer to testify at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on rural development to discuss MSU Extension’s rural mental wellness programs. The new partnership announced today will expand MSU Extension’s model to farm credit providers and members of Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union. The partnership will complement new initiatives included in the 2018 Farm Bill, which Senator Stabenow co-authored, to create the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, provide suicide prevention training, and establish help lines and support groups for farmers.