Improving relationships and reducing stress and anger

The Issue
The estimated economic cost of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in young people in the U.S. is about $247 billion a year. In Michigan, 25 percent of children live below the federal poverty level and 34 percent live in families where no parent has full-time, yearround employment. Poverty and chronic economic stress compound the issues of ongoing and toxic stress, harmful coping behaviors and relationship violence.
More than 37,000 Michigan children were documented victims of child abuse and neglect in 2015. Neurological research has shown that abuse and neglect can alter early brain development and result in childhood developmental delays, poor physical health, lower academic achievement, social difficulties and aggression, as well as longer-term health problems such as alcoholism, chronic disease, depression and substance abuse.
MSU Extension Action
MSU Extension addresses the issues of violence and bullying through its focus on social and emotional health. The overarching goal of this programming is helping young people and adults learn to foster healthier relationships and settings that are free from violence, abuse, bullying and harassment. In 2016 alone, MSU Extension socialemotional health programming reached more than 5,000 people. These community-based sessions provided participants with proven strategies to promote safe and healthy relationships
The Impact

Stress Less with Mindfulness introduces participants to the experience and practice of mindfulness to reduce stress. Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. As a result of the training, participants showed improvement on these key outcomes:

  • 97 percent use mindful breathing to calm themselves in the face of stress.
  • 97 percent know three mindfulness tools to help them manage stress.
  • 96 percent can describe how a mindfulness perspective changes reactions to daily stressors.
  • 93 percent use mindful awareness when eating.
MSU Extension’s RELAX: Alternatives to Anger program offers techniques for calming down and destressing, problem solving, communicating and letting go of the past. The program reaches people living in low-income situations, and racially and ethnically diverse audiences. Participants report that as a result of the program:
  • 62 percent work hard to be calm and talk things through, and 60 percent try to end on a positive note when they get upset.
  • 56 percent reduced their frequency in yelling and screaming, which indicates they have improved strategies to address aggression and violence.
Through MSU Extension’s Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments initiative, young people and adults learn ways to reduce and prevent bullying and harassment behaviors. Participants report that as a result of the program:
  • 94 percent gained understanding about various types of bullying behaviors and how those behaviors can affect those involved.
  • 94 percent developed new skills for interrupting bullying behavior and supporting those who are targeted.
  • 97 percent reported an increase in awareness of programs and resources for addressing these issues.
In an effort to promote the prevention of child abuse and neglect, MSU Extension educators have offered the 10-session Nurturing Parenting series throughout the state. Participants report that as a result of this program:
  • 62 percent improved their adaptive skills and strategies to use in times of crisis.
  • 42 percent improved their perceived informal support that helps provide for emotional needs.
MSU Extension developed a Managing Farm Stress workshop for people who work with agricultural producers and farm families. The program is designed to help them learn more about managing farmrelated stress and how to approach and communicate with producers and families in need. Participants report that as a result of these workshops:
  • 97 percent learned where to send people for help in the community, and of those, over 50 percent said their awareness of community resources greatly increased.
  • 92 percent recognize warning signs of depression, suicide and mental illness.

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