Field Crop Webinar Series - Farmers Helping Farmers with Farm Stress
March 30, 2020
Knowing the signs and symptoms of stress in agriculture is critical. The webinar will also describe warning signs of suicide and available resources to help support someone in need. Presenters include MSU Extension farm management educator Roger Betz and community behavioral health educator Eric Karbowski.
- [Eric] My name's Eric Karbowski, and I'm the behavioral health educator with Michigan State University Extension. Just to give you a little bit about my background, I really had no intentions of working for Michigan State University Extension. However, I think my background and my path kind of led me here. As part of my work history, I worked and supervised a program in the public mental health system for 10 years, and then I was the executive director for a local commission on aging. But really my connection to this was my grandparents were farmers and I baled a lot of hay and never really ever got paid for it, and I also married into a farming family. And I say that knowing that I don't have a lot of the answers, but I really connect with, and empathize with, the farming community themselves. In addition to that, I've had both personally and professionally the unfortunate experience of seeing the impact of behavioral health and mental illness and the impact it has on a family, as well as loss of lifes by suicide. And so some of the things that we're gonna talk about later on in this webinar, we're gonna talk about that. And so just one thing I would like to say is just brace yourself 'cause some of the content we're gonna talk about can be kind of hard to take down and can be kind of hard to digest. So I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us tonight, and I really appreciate too, having the opportunity to work with Roger. I've had the opportunity to work with him on a few different occasions, and he brings just a wealth of knowledge and really helps, I think, add to some of this discussion. So Roger, with that if you'd like to? - [Roger] Yeah, thank you, Eric. Good to work with you as well. Appreciate the opportunity to be here and to visit with folks in this difficult time we're experiencing in our history. This is historical in terms of what's happening and so forth and so I think the topic that we have tonight has some overlap with some of the current events and so forth, because not only do you have our normal farm kinds of stress, you also have stress associated with the coronavirus, so. I've been with Extension for 38 years, in the farm management area in southern Michigan up in Gratiot County. And do a lot with families and business succession, estate planning, and financial analysis, and spend a lot of time with families, and talking through issues, and helping them discover ideas and thoughts and so forth, so. - So as we know, farming's extremely stressful. There's a lot of ups and downs. There are so many uncontrollable factors, especially in today's world with the commodity prices and all of these different things, the weather. And so we recognize and just want to let you know that we support you in the work that you do. Today our objectives are that we're gonna hope to try and help you understand the signs and symptoms to the stress in agriculture, learn some of those coping strategies, and improve the understanding and awareness of warning signs of suicide. And what are some of those resources that are available to you, and/or people that are in need of that. So as I shared, agriculture's a stressful occupation. In 2016, there were 417 farmers and farm workers that died from work-related injuries. And we also know behavioral health-wise, that opioids and access to opioids are an issue. And farmers say that three out of four farmers said that they would have easy access to opioids. And then also given the rural nature oftentimes it is in the farming community, there, oftentimes that it's more difficult to access different needs, medical needs, people may have. Next is for those of you who have never heard of the Agrarian Imperative, the Agrarian Imperative is a concept that really helps, I think, the farmers in agribusiness and people that connect the farming world have a better understanding of the relationship that farmers have with their land. And through this notion, Dr. Rosmann suggests that losing the land, that farmers have such a strong connection to the land, that losing the land would actually be the equivalent losing a loved one or losing a family member, because of all the connection, the hard work, and oftentimes it's generational connections that farmers had with their land. - Okay, common stressors on farm families, and there's lots of them that happen. But think about your own situation with all the different kind of stressors that there are. There of course is weather kinds of things. There's, you think about the animal livestock, if there's issues. The debt structure that we might have on farms. There's all kinds of compliance and rules and regulations and guidelines. And I farm myself a little bit, and I find this very frustrating and stressful for myself as time goes forward and so forth, trying to comply with everything. The rules and so forth that come along. So I find that very stressful. Of course mud, machinery breakdowns, those kinds of things are always a stressful situation. Interest rates, we've got some drop in interest rates right now, the COVID reaction to the government stimulus and so forth. And so it's a good time to maybe think about trying to lock in some lower interest rates. If you have not done that already, you should be talking to your lending folks, and talk about those rates. Crop production kinds of issues are always stressors. The weather, the rain, too much rain, not enough, frost kinds of things. Livestock, animals, and health issues with the livestock. And of course dollars, and dollars are a big factor I think, especially right now as we worry about some of the stressors on top of all the normal stressors that families have. Flooding-type things, a drought, freeze, and hail. That hail picture is one of my, I took about, it's been six, seven years ago. There was a hailstorm that came through and just devastated crops. And there was an alfalfa field. It was about knee-high or so and it looked like somebody had harvested that crop completely. It killed rabbits, and all livestock that were in that hayfield. That was how strong the hailstorm actually was. So it does happen sometimes. And of course last year with the drought there, or drought, the flooding that we had. You can see how strong the prevent plant areas were, up to 85,000 acres in some of the counties down in the southwest, Lenawee, Hillsdale County. You can see the dots over there where all the corn and soybeans. Corn is the green dots, and soybeans are the blue dots. You can see how much damage there was from prevent plant crops for the '19 year. Last couple on top of all the other kinds of things, the wind sometimes is a problem. That's my corn-head, I think, out trying to harvest some corn that blew down. (laughs) It looks pretty bad, as you can see. And just plain old frustrations. That's what I do with computers when I get upset with 'em. And I did that in Ag Hall one time where Max was over at the livestock pavilion with a presentation I was giving, I kinda got upset with stuff. It was a skit, but I sure had fun with that one. With my colleagues. Anyway, so it is a problem, in terms of trying to deal with different kinds of things. I don't need to tell this group what the crop prices have done. Here's the prices on corn, what they've done the last couple years since January of '18. The last three or four months have just been devastating. Both on corn, soybeans, and wheat. Wheat's come up a little bit. But there's been a tremendous amount of pressure on our crop prices that we have. Here's the long-term lookout, outlook in terms of what they've done. Going back 10, 11 years, and so back in this time period, and what's happened more recently with prices. And this is net farm income, in Michigan this is our TelFarm data. You can see this is all types of farms. Cash crop and dairy farms are both in this grouping, see what the net farm income has been doing. We don't have our '19 data summarized yet, but it's gonna be some of the '18 we think, dairy farms maybe a little bit better. Crop farms are all over the board, it depends on the MFP payments, those type of things, in terms of where the financial stresses are at. Here's all types of farms return on equity. It's been terrible the last few years. You gotta have at least five, six, seven percent to have any kinda return on the payoff debts and so forth, with that. Here's the crop farms. The last year was up a little bit from, this was '18, it was up a little bit from what the other years have been. And '19 we don't have summarized yet, so it's gonna be, it depends on where you're at. Some of these farms are prevent planting with intents on the insurance levels that they had. Those kinds of risk tools that they had. The MFP payment, those type of things, all makes a huge difference. So some farms did okay, and other farms didn't do so well. This is just a ratio showing the ability to cover cash flow. And this is the average of all farms, averages are one thing, but the extremes are another thing. In terms of thinking about the top third, lower third type numbers. We've got some folks that are way down here, way into the, they've only got 25%, they're lacking, they can only make 25% of their scheduled principal interest payments. A one here means that they're just barely squeaking by, in terms of making the payments that're scheduled to be paid. So that's an average, but we've go folks that are, that are way down on below. Even at the zero, or if they had no debt, they still wouldn't be able to make cash flow work. So we've got a huge difference amongst farms, and this just adds to our, to our stress situations that we have. Here's another one for crop farms, and the same kinda story as all farms in terms of, and these are Michigan actual data. So what do you do with these situations that we have, and of course from a financial standpoint one thing is to know where you're at. What's the numbers that's the balance. You wanna say where you at that your balance sheet, your net worth statement, be realistic where those numbers at. How do they compare from last year, look at your numbers, see where they're at. Look at what the strengths and weaknesses are. Try to analyze it objectively, as best you can. Project cash flow, where the shortfall's at. You can do this as simply as taking a checkbook ledger. And you go so many dollars in the checkbook right now, and you can go forward and say here's the bills that're coming up, you put that in as expense. Here's the incomes I've got coming in from crop sales or dairy sales, milk sales. Maybe and then you got some capacity to borrow some money, you can put those numbers in. And you can create a cash flow, pretty easy where you simply using an old checkbook ledger and just kinda going through and thinking about what are the positives and the increase the, your cash flow, and what are some negatives that'll decrease your cash flow. In terms of the incomes and expenses to make that all work, don't forget about family living and those kinds of things. Look at different alternatives, in terms of where the farm is at. Can you look at some, maybe some different loans, and so forth, restructuring some debt. Look at some different crop alternatives and maybe some debt assets that are around, and get you through the short term. I've done that a lot with the dairy operations, we've had some timber sales. Maybe even some land sales, in certain situations. It'd help take off some of the pressure. 'Cause the land cost is, to own ground is pretty hard to do sometimes, if you're in a cash flow deficit. If you don't have stress, this is kind of a, you don't really understand the situation. I can't believe anybody doesn't have some degree of stress. And stress is not necessarily a bad thing, Eric will talk about this, but stress is everyplace. And so the problems become is when that stress becomes overwhelming to a point of where maybe you don't function as well as what you normally would. People need assistance in making these kinds of decisions. And any of this stuff, in terms of financial analysis and projections and those type of things, reach out to folks. Reach out to folks to help you understand and be objective about things, and face the issues in terms of where they're really at. Sometimes I find one of the hardest things is just not understanding. Sometimes things, you think they are a lot worse, what they really are, and if you quantify things, get it written down so you know where you're at, well then you can make better decisions going forward. Maybe communicate to yourself, communicate to outside folks, communicate with your spouse, business partners, other folks, even friends can be helpful in terms of thinking those type of things. Think through those situations. So in summary, of this price volatility that we've had, it's gonna continue to exist in many agricultural markets. We're sorta bearish looking forward. Struggling to cover cash flow, a lotta folks are, you're not alone. I struggle myself with cash flow, I farm as well, as most of you know. Year after year net worth is negative for many, for multiple sectors of the agricultural industry. It's not just dairy, it's not just crops, it's beef operations, bedding plant industry is going through some significant stresses right now with the virus and what's gonna happen to the spring plantings and vegetables, and those kinda things. Many farms are in financial distress right now. It's putting families under prolonged stress, it's not something that just happened just the last three or four months, we've been in stress for the last four or five years. Especially on the dairy side. This is causing mental and physical health issues with our farms. - Thank you Roger. So when talking about stress, how is stress defined? Stress is defined as a need or demand people confront, that is perceived as burdensome or threatening, and can lead to physical or mental health problems. When we're talking and thinking about stress, you're the expert. You know you best, and I always typically ask people to say or think to themselves, what do I look like when I'm stressed. What do I sound like when I'm stressed. What do people that know me really well, how would they describe how I'm reacting or how I'm responding to certain situations. And so we're gonna talk a little bit more about that, and as we go through some of these, think about yourself. Put yourself in those shoes. What is that situation where maybe you've been stressed, and how did you respond to that. What did that look like? So how do you know when you're feeling stressed? What are some of your physical and mental and emotional signs? And we're gonna talk a little bit more about what some of those might be, coming up. Self-awareness, as they said, you're the expert. What does stress look like to you? What does stress sound like? How would you or someone that knows you really well say that you respond to stress. So some different signs of stress. If you thought to yourself, okay I know a stress eater, you know, I think that oftentimes people will experience headaches, stomachaches, backaches, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, racing heart, or nausea. And in their mind, oftentimes, they'll feel anxious, angry, sad, bitter, depressed, hopeless. And then oftentimes, the actions for people that are experiencing a lot of stress are they can't sleep, maybe they're oversleeping, they don't eat, or oftentimes may overeat. Typically when people are experiencing signs of stress they may increase their use of nicotine, or tobacco products, drugs and alcohol. And as Roger showed earlier, maybe breaking things is a sign of stress. Throwing some kinda outbursts, or outreaches, yelling or screaming. Or it could be the opposite of that, where people tend to withdraw, become more isolated. And so those are all, those could all be signs of stress. As Roger talked a little bit about earlier, farmers experience a lot of different kinds of stress. Weather-related stress, large debt loads, government regulations, machinery breakdown, high interest rates. And for generational families, or farm families, family disagreements can add a lot of layers of stress to that, what does that look like, difference in opinions, maybe. The commodity prices, livestock illnesses, and crop yields, are just some examples of some of the stresses that farmers may face. So key points, when you're thinking about stress and what that looks like, and what that sound like, we wanna brainstorm and explore different things. And no one person is going to react or respond to the same things, if you believe in something, and it will likely work for you. If you don't believe in some of these, I wouldn't recommend trying it, because it likely won't work for you. Everybody's gonna have different things that are gonna work for them, and work better for them. And so, some of the things that we're gonna talk about are maybe some new strategies that you might be able to implement when you do recognize either yourself, or someone that you know, maybe a farmer that you're working with that is experiencing some stress. So physical coping strategies. One thing, as we go through this list, get a medical checkup. Eat a healthy breakfast. Get a healthy amount of water, drink eight glasses of water a day. Eat more fruits or healthy snacks. Exercise, can be a huge benefit for people that are experiencing a lotta stress. It helps the lower cortisol levels, as Roger kinda talked about when he was identifying prolonged stress earlier. Exercise can really be beneficial in helping you get through some of that, and so some examples could be, walking, swimming, or riding a bike. And it's gonna look different for everybody. It looks different for me, today, than it did 10 years ago. You know, maybe it is just going for that walk, getting some fresh air. Get a good amount of sleep. Everybody's different. I tend to operate on needing a little less sleep than that, but I think consistent sleep patterns, getting that seven to eight hours of sleep can really be beneficial. Practice slow, deep breathing. There are a lotta different things that you can find online, different resources for that, and like I tell everybody, if this is something that you believe will work for you, it likely will. And if it's something that you don't, then it likely won't. Abstain from alcohol, and tobacco, and other drugs. It's easy to turn to those, but especially when you're under stress, I would definitely encourage that you try to abstain from them. And do gentle stretching. Maybe an warm up and cool down. So those are just some examples of physical coping strategies that when you recognize yourself becoming stressed, or overly stressed, that you might wanna consider implementing. For mental coping strategies, take 10 minutes to reflect on your blessings. Thinking about the things that you have, and the positive things in your life can really be beneficial. 'Cause oftentimes, we start spiraling down with negative thoughts, and teach yourself to think about, recognize things that you do have, and things that are going well, can really help you out. Writing down your thoughts, taking a couple minutes to journal or note what happened throughout your day. Listening to music. Spending 30 minutes doing something with your hands, drawing, everybody has different things that they like to do. For me, that might look more like going outside and cutting wood. That could be one of those, A, it's good physical exercise, but it's also something that I enjoy doing. It takes away from that, it kinda takes you outta that moment and puts you in a different situation. Reading a book or watching a TV show that makes you laugh. Doing a hobby. And just really, I think, having a hobby or recognizing things that you enjoy doing. And maybe it is something you haven't done in a while, but maybe it's getting back into that crafting, or getting back into something that you haven't done in a while. Attending a class or seminar to learn something new. Maybe like this series that you're going through right now. Picking up a few different things that may help you during some of those tough times. Reaching out to someone that you can support, or supports you. There's a big connection with knowing people that have similar things in common with you, that natural support that you're able to kinda vent, discuss, and strategize, really, on different things that you might be able to work with. - Eric, I've gotta, one of the things that I missed because of the virus thing is, I've got kind of a breakfast club. And we like to go to breakfast, and it's kind of a, kind of a time when we confess all of our mess ups, and screw ups, and everything that, he says, "aw that's nothing, I had something worse than that "back here, three years ago I did this, you know." And we're pretty honest with each other, but we're also pretty, they're good friends, and anyone of them would bend over backwards if you ever needed something. But we like to kid about a little bit, and try to laugh off some stuff, you know, and it really helps me, I think, in times of, just reaching out and having that time with somebody that understands me, and its a farming kind of a group, and so we kinda get together and just hash things over. - Yes, thank you for sharing that, Roger. And one of the people that I talked with, one farmer shared that he said that he was telling his wife that the one dollar that he spends on coffee every day, is the most important dollar that he spends, because it's an opportunity for him to connect with his fellow farmers. He can vent, he can strategize. And he starts his day on a good note that way. And so, so I think that's a really good example, Roger. And then just take a couple minutes and get your day organized, plan your day out. What does that look like? Can help alleviate some of the stress that you may be experiencing. (coughs) Excuse me. Emotional or spiritual. Taking a little bit of time to be present in the moment. Maybe telling a spouse what you might appreciate about him or her. Playing with a child or a grandchild. Just being really in that moment. Volunteering to help out can really be beneficial in terms of helping with that, relieve some of that stress. It's that fact there that you're helping somebody out, can really be rewarding, as you go through and are experiencing stress. Reflect and forgive yourself for some of your mistakes. It's easy to dwell on the past, and it's easy to dwell on the things that you've messed up, but take a couple moments and learn from your mistakes. Grow from them, and don't dwell on them. Share concerns with a counselor or professional. If it gets to the point where you don't feel like you're handling the stress well, or it's overwhelming, you know, be vulnerable enough, be brave enough, to reach out to that next level of support. And I'm happy to share that if there are individuals that are experiencing that, know that you're not alone. Reach out, all of my contact information will be there, I'm happy to listen. And I'm happy to connect you with counselors that have some agricultural experience in their background. We now have that support that we can try to connect you with. So explore spiritual or life activities. Pray or meditate. Do random acts of kindness. Express thank you to somebody, or maybe it's send somebody an email, shoot somebody a text. Maybe it's sending an actual card. Letting people know that they're thought about and cared about can be really rewarding, both for you and for them. Write three things down that you're grateful for. And again, go for a walk, or go drive in nature. One farmer shared with me, that when they really took a step back, to genuflect on their day, and were more present in the moment, they noticed things, and it was really rewarding to them. Just like, the way the air smelled in the morning, the dew on the grass, the birds chirping, while they were going out to do their chores. And they said after, they had missed that part of their life for so long because they were so caught up on all the things they needed to do, and taking a step back and just embracing that moment was really beneficial for them to relieve some of that stress. So personal or relational. Clean or organize your personal space. Take a couple moments to just maybe, you know, if there are stacks of, and piles of, paper that could be, could create an overwhelming feeling, or feeling overwhelmed. So maybe take some time and go through some of those things. Get a little bit organized. Reflect on and write down what your goals are. And maybe even talk with your spouse, or your partner, about what some of those goals may be. And what are those steps to help you get to those goals. Are they realistic, can you, it is something that you can work towards, and grow towards? Spend some time with a pet. Take 15 minutes each day to have an uninterrupted discussion with a family member. Again, I think, kind of going back to that being in the moment. Being present. Being really where you are. And I always share with people, you know, if you are really going to have that conversation, and make this a priority, put your cellphone down. 'Cause it's really, it can be very frustrating, and it sends a really bad message that if you are trying to communicate with a family member, spouse, or a loved one, and you're sending texts the whole time you're talking. You know, maybe just take a couple time, maybe it's five minutes, maybe it's 15 minutes, whatever works for you, but, really try and challenge yourself to be in that moment. Spend some time playing games with family members. Maybe learn about your family history, especially if you're a generational farmer. They may have experienced some of those issues, and some of those things, take a couple moments to just think about what that is, what that looks like. And learn a little bit more about that. Begin or renew a new friendship. I think it's so important, especially in the farming community, that we establish relationships, and we commit and invest to maintaining those relationships. Kind of like Roger shared earlier with the coffee shop, that group of guys really care about each other, and I think it's kind of a lost art, especially in the farming community, is less and less of those opportunities are available and to make sure that they maintain a priority. Get involved or stay connected with groups or friends as I just kind of shared. Plan a getaway with a family member. Another farmer that I was speaking with said, very candidly, that his wife saved his life. And when I asked him a little bit more about what that was, he said that she made me go on vacation. And I'll probably never forget this discussion because he said, at that time, everywhere I looked were fields that I couldn't plant, and things that I couldn't control. And her, day in and day out, and her forcing him to get out of that scene, to get away from that spot, really saved his life. He said it recharged my batteries, it got me away from the situation, because we all know that farmers don't work nine to five. And they don't necessarily always have the opportunity when they leave home, to go when they're done with work. Typically work is at home. So and if you're not in a position right now, I know we have to stay at home and stay safe, but even just planning a vacation can be really, can be really beneficial. And get the batteries recharged. Think about where that might go, and what that might look like. Maybe it's a year from now. But it's something to look forward to, and something to plan for, and something to take you out of, maybe the specific situation that you're in right now that is creating a lot of stress. And do an activity that you personally enjoy. Fishing, seeing a movie, I think one of the benefits of the stay-at-home for me was that I've spent more time just with my children. Having that extra little bit of time, being in the moment, maybe doing some of those things that you haven't done in a long time can be really rewarding. And work or professional. Focus on things that you can control. Oftentimes we'll see people that will try to change a lotta things, but it's out of their control. And so if you focus on the factors that you can control, that can really help reduce some of that stress. Because you're not burning all that unnecessary energy on things that you can't, that are out of your hands, or out of your control, anyways. Take time for lunch. Schedule regular work breaks. I think just keeping those batteries charged, especially as a farmer, can be really helpful. It can increase your productivity, so maybe instead of working 10 or 12 hour days, maybe it's more like nine. Because you're actually, the batteries are charged. And you're more productive when you have that energy. Plan your next day, and your set of tasks, your work priorities. Have a plan going in. And I know things change, and things can change on the drop of a dime, but if you have a game plan going into it, you're able to see that progress that you're making, and if it is a checklist, then you can check it off the list, and it can be rewarding to see all the things that you accomplished at the end of that day. Be flexible with your time and tasks, because things are gonna come up. Machines are gonna break down, things are not gonna go as according to plan. So just know and recognize that. And it can be frustrating in the moment, but let it completely spiral outta control. Set boundaries, and don't over commit yourself. I think as farmers, this is a natural thing for us to do, right? It's easy for us to help somebody else out, but it's not necessarily something that we would raise our hand and say, hey could you come help me? But I think in the same breath, making sure that you know what your limits are, so you're not overextending yourself, or over committing yourself. It can reduce some of that stress. Say no more often. And I think, you know, within means and within reason, I think just having a good understanding of, what realistically you're capable of, What you can and can't do, can really set you up for success and reduce some of that stress. Don't let the farm operation intrude on all other aspects of your life. I think one of the, or a couple of the cool examples of this were, as I shared, we all know that farmers don't necessarily get to leave the office and close the door behind them. But one example that really left a lasting impression for me that a person shared, was that when they were done with their work on the farm, they changed their clothes. They took their boots off, and they changed their clothes, and that better enabled them to kind of flip the switch to say, okay, I'm not at work right now. And then they naturally over time taught themself to transition their thinking away from their work, so they didn't get over-bogged down. Talk to other farmers about their strategies. Again that, that social connectivity can be really beneficial. It keeps you away from isolation, it helps you learn what other people are doing, maybe there's a different product that has worked really well in your area. And having that connection can really help you in a lot of different ways. Again, take a seminar, similar to this. Or others that might be of interest to you. Seek feedback on your farm operation. Roger does a really good job, and we've worked together on multiple projects, you know, seeing about, okay, getting an outside perspective, what is this? Is this realistic, is this not realistic. Because, again, kinda going back to that Agrarian Imperative that we talked about, maybe you're so invested in your situation that you think we're gonna be able to make it work, and having an outside perspective to say, well, have you thought about this, or maybe we just need to stay in our lane right now, can be really helpful. - [Roger] Eric, I think that talking with other farmers, friends, or going to a meeting, or whatever, I think that's one of the most productive time that there is, 'cause it kinda gets you out of your space, and you can talk with other farmers, and one of the things I struggle with is all the technology that there is today. I'm trying to upgrade my planter right now, and what's the, you know, delta force, and what's the air force, and what's clean sweep, and what's the module, and what's a, what's this pin do, and what's this common have to do? I got so frustrated with that kinda stuff, and I know I need to some changes and things, and so I reach out to some younger guys. And they helped me out quite a bit, they've helped me buy some stuff online for half or a third of the cost, what it would cost to buy new, and so forth. Plus it's available, so there's things like that that can, and people like to help people. It's a genuine, good feeling if you can help somebody else. And so, even though I need some help with that kinda stuff, I might help them a little bit because it gives them a little bit of self-worth and self-esteem that they can help other folk. Reach out, it's a two-way street. - Yeah, and I think that takes practice too, right Roger? I don't think that it comes natural to just say, hey I need help with this. But I think once you understand and recognize, like okay, hey, maybe I'm not really good with the technology part, but I have all this history that I can share with some of these other people, this worked, or this hasn't worked, and this is a version of this. Again, just having that connection can really be beneficial. And then minimize and resolve conflicts with others. Bury the hatchet. If it's little things that are keeping you separated or distanced, maybe work through them. Or try to work through them. Financial and practical. Roger talked about this a fair amount earlier, but assess your family finances and needs. Create a budget and live within those budgets. And sometimes that's hard. Because we all want the new, next best thing, but is it practical, is it realistic, is it affordable. And does it work with your current budget. If you overextend yourself, you're creating some of your own stress. Learn new strategies to stretch your family finances out. What is that? Maybe it's not going out to eat as often as you did. That could be a simple thing. Or what is it, what are some of those things that you might be able to cut back on, or save on somewhere. That would just help the family as a whole. Schedule a time to organize your monthly records. And I think I see this a lot, too, where maybe not everybody in the household is on the same page with what are the bills. You know, if those are very closed discussions, maybe a good step might be asking your significant other or your partner, or whomever it may be, to just say, you know, are you aware that the cash flow that's coming in and out. And work together as a team on that. Spend a few minutes reviewing your tasks and setting priorities. Making sure that the things that have to get done are getting done. And selecting three healthy habits that you can practice. And we oftentimes all have very ambitious goals, but I think if you start with three things, that you can control, that are doable for you, they become more natural over time. And so that's a really good thing for you to start, to practice and implement. Ask for positive feedback from others to build that. Ask for constructive feedback from others to learn from. So what are some things that I do really well, and what are some things that I think I can improve, or should improve. Investigate new ways of doing things in your work. Read something new every day. And maybe that's outside of the news. Or maybe it is the news. But I think just learning different things can be, can create a lot of positive energy. And let go of what you can't control. We can't control a lot of the things, and especially in today's, in our point in time in today right now, we can't control some of the choices that are made. And so, just know that all we can do is the best that we can do in that situation and that moment. - [Roger] I let that things you can control, things you can't control, and so forth. And I try to work at that, and I watch people, and sometimes they, what they're the maddest about, and most upset about, is something that they really can't control. You know, it might be the markets, it might be the weather, it might be, you know, some of those kinds of issues. And, yes, it's frustrating and so forth, but there is nothing that you can do about it. You have to, you know, adjust to it, and make a, those kinds of adjustments. And Monica said, you know, like right now, diesel prices are low, so you lock in some diesel prices and so forth. Keep your costs down. Maybe lock in some other inputs that might be a risk, so. - So now we have kind of a baseline of different strategies that we might be able to implement in our own day, in our own worlds. And how, what they might look like, again, getting some self-awareness, but as we talk about, as we talk and think about engaging with others, there are some communication tools. And these are a couple of examples. Closed-ended questions are gonna get you yes or no answers. And oftentimes, when we're dealing with people that are experiencing a lotta stress, and really just good practice in general, if we ask more open-ended questions, we're gonna get a lot more information. We're gonna get a lot more information about that individual, about their situation. And in turn, we'd be much, we're much better able to provide a support or a service to them. So examples of closed-ended questions that would produce yes or no questions, or answers that you would get, oftentimes the responses would be, yes, no, sometimes, I guess, or I don't know. And I think those are easy deflecting questions and on the next slide, we're gonna have some examples. But so, open-ended questions (coughs) excuse me, open-ended questions allow for a richer and deeper discussion, and you get more of that, more of that flow of that conversation, you get more of the meat and potatoes about what it is where that person is, what they're thinking, how they're feeling, and they lead to more full and honest answers. I will go through just a couple of these examples, instead of reading through all of them. Because I want to talk about the last part, which is the discussion about suicide and signs. Just for example, the second one down, are you feeling okay? Is a closed-ended question. You're gonna get a yes or a no response from that. Where an open-ended question is, how do you feel about that, or tell me what's bothering you? So really, just flipping the way you word questions can really add to a much, much richer and deeper conversation that you're having with the person. And maybe the last one, do you need some help? That's again gonna be a yes or a no, or more of an open-ended question, how do you hope I might be able to help you? And that's gonna be especially important as we move into this next part. So again, please brace yourself. 'Cause this is a little bit difficult conversation. I've been doing this for about 15 years now, and talking about suicide is never easy. But warning signs of suicide could be somebody talking about 'em, maybe and example might be, I'd be better off not here. Or I feel like I'm a parasite or a burden on my family. So talking about 'em, saying them, writing about them. You may see Facebook posts about them, or things on social media, those could all be warning signs. The person might be feeling hopeless, or trapped, or like a burden. Oftentimes we'll see people giving away some of their prized possessions. Maybe, it could be big or small, it could be big chunks of land, but it could be small things, like maybe a belt buckle, or a family heirloom. Making a plan, or acquiring means. Unfortunately, in the farming community, most of the time, the farmers themselves do have access to means to follow through with a suicide. So you wouldn't typically see somebody going out and maybe purchasing a gun or something like that. They might say goodbyes, come in and say thank you for all the stuff you've done, I appreciate it, I now have a plan how I'm gonna get through this. A lot of times, we may see them isolating themselves from others, not being participants in things that they had always been actively involved in. Loss of interest, they no longer care about if the Detroit Lions draft picks, and they've always been a big supporter of that. Or they no longer care about some of the different things that they've always been very active and involved in. And you might see mood change. That could be up or down. So the one thing I hope you take out of all this is ask them directly. The evidence-based research suggests that the best practice is just to ask them directly. You're not going to increase the likelihood that somebody would follow through with suicide if you ask them. So just ask them, and I think practice makes perfect. Take a time, take a second, and practice this maybe when you're in the car, in front of the mirror, but just put yourself in that position, and ask them, say it out loud, are you having thoughts of suicide? Are you thinking about taking your own life? And then what if someone says yes? The biggest thing you can do, you've been though a training maybe, you've seen some resources, the biggest thing you can do is don't leave that person alone. And if they have the means, there is a concern, call for help. Call the hospital, maybe it's 911. The National Suicide Prevention Line, if you Google suicide prevention line, there's a 1-800-273-TALK. They will connect you with a counselor that will talk with them right then and there. And if they say yes, maybe the best practice is to just say, Roger, I'm concerned, I'm worried about you. Can we call this number together? And that might be a good thing. There are text lines. If you text 741741 "GO" or "help", you'll be connected with a counselor. Because text support could be another thing, and there are a lotta different resources that are becoming available. If you have concerns about people, feel free to reach out to me as well. I know that there are a lot of efforts that are going into this. I may not have all of the answers, but my goal would be is that we would be able to connect you with the right resources to help you with that situation. And so with that, I appreciate the time, sorry about the coughing and the early-on technical difficulties, but are there any questions or comments? - [Roger] Eric, one of the things that I have found, I've learned as I've worked in this stress area the last four or five years, I didn't understand the importance of talking about stuff. I thought that was just kind of, aah, somebody's weak 'cause they don't, you know, they have to talk about it. But I have learned that the process of encouraging people to, as you outlined and so forth, to actually start talking about things, and opening up, how that, in and of itself, is therapeutic. And I never understood that before. But I have a better appreciation for that, and how important that is for somebody to start expressing themselves. - Yeah, oftentimes with behavioral health, if we are, you know, I think, in the farming world we think about, okay, well I'm just gonna put my nose to the grindstone, work through this. That's not necessarily the best practice. Especially when you're dealing with this. I think being comfortable and confident enough in yourself as a person, to make yourself a little bit vulnerable, and to expose some of those really can be therapeutic. - [Roger] I do see there's a question about financial problems. We in Extension, myself and other folks, we can talk about financial problems, and kinda guide through, we do a lotta that kinda work. So please feel free to reach out to us. - You know what I think, kinda going along with the financial part, oftentimes financial stress is the catch basin for a lot of the different things that we would talk about. And it is a huge part. Oftentimes as you're working through things, there are, and talking with people that are experiencing a significant amount of financial stress, there are things that they can work on. Maybe it's just communicating with your partner. Things like that. That just some facilitated discussion really can create kinda more of that, okay well, maybe we can work through this, or maybe we could talk through this. Or different things like that, too. So again, I think just being comfortable and confident to reach out to some of those resources, and recognize that there are those supports out there, can be very valuable. - [Roger] Anybody's got questions, it's a private kind of a thing, I just respond to a couple of them already, and so, feel free to answer the, type in a question, or can reach out to call us as well. And so, I assume you can reach, my phone number is (517)230-0110, or email works as well. I'm just firstname.lastname@example.org. And my colleagues are also available. - Yeah, and there are also a lot of resources on farm stress, if you Google farm stress MSU Extension. Farm stress, there's a lotta information out there, my contact information is on there as well. I'm happy to connect with you, email, it can be anonymous, oftentimes people are more comfortable with that, to just it takes a little bit of time before they're able to put themselves out there, and so feel free to reach out to me at any point, too. - [Moderator] What online resources can we use and share with others? And I guess, just to cover all the bases, Eric, if you wanna mention some of the stress ones that you could use, and Roger, do you wanna mention some of the FIRM team's resources for financial education? - [Roger] Yeah, sure on the financial thing, it's usually very customized and personalized, and so forth, everybody's a different situation. We have a FIRM website with some different kinds of tools that you could use, whether it's the balance sheets, or cash flow projections. Those type of things, most of that work is sort of a one-on-one type situation in terms of us working with folks. And so I, each one's a separate deal, so I think the best thing to do is just to reach out with a phone call, or an email, to myself or one of our other colleagues. And we'll go from there. - Yeah, and in terms of farm stress, there are a lot of different programming opportunities. We have two that we offer throughout the state. Right now, we're looking at trying to make those virtual, but Weathering the Storm, and Communicating with Farmers Under Stress are two of the different programs. Those, I'm happy to share, that in the near future will be accessible to the public. And so you will have those, access to those resources. Again, and then there's a tech study that we're doing. But if you go to that, if you just lookup Michigan State University Extension Farm Stress, there's a whole bunch of different resources there that talk about maybe different things. There's a webinar series that you can access. I would just encourage you to look out to those, and then if you have additional questions, or more next-level questions, wanna have some discussion, feel free to reach out to me as well. - [Roger] One of our systems that we have, of course, is our TelFarms system. And our TelFarm system is designed to have an organized approach to business analysis. And every year we do balance sheets and business analysis. And help understand where the business is going, and what the strengths are, what some opportunities might be. And so we work with that confidentially, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that program that availability and so forth, for people.