In today’s dynamic work environment, understanding and addressing mental health is essential for fostering a healthy and productive workplace. Join Freeman Health System and the Missouri Small Business Development Center hosted at Missouri Southern State University for Workplace Well-Being: Recognizing and Supporting Mental Health.

This training program is designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills needed to recognize, address, and support mental health issues in the workplace.

Participants will learn:

  • What mental health is and the most common conditions.
  • Ways that mental health can impact the workplace.
  • Ways to approach, intervene, and support employees.
  • Ways to remove stigmas around mental health.
  • Ideas to implement for organizational change.
  • How to refer employees and what community resources are available.

A light breakfast will be provided to those attending in person.

Learn more and register here.

Employee engagement is defined by Gallup as “the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace.” Only 15% of workers worldwide and 35% in the U.S. report to falling in the “engaged” category. Employee engagement is critical for organizations to thrive. Engaged employees are in it for more than just a paycheck; they care about their work and the performance of the company.

Why is employee engagement important?

High employee engagement is beneficial to the success of a company. The main benefit is lower employee turnover, because employees who aren’t engaged in their work are more likely to start looking for something new and more fulfilling. When employees are engaged in their work, there will be decreased burnout and increased productivity.

So how do we improve employee engagement?

Communication is a critical factor for high levels of employee engagement. Employees want to feel heard. This means allowing them to be open, honest, and able to make improvements for the good of the company and its employees. Employees want to be informed. In larger companies, someone is almost always out of the loop. Consider investing in ways to keep employees informed so they can feel invested in the company.

Employees want to be known for what they’re good at and rewarded as well. Offering employees recognition and promotions for their  work is a great way to encourage employee engagement. When an employee is given recognition for their performance, they will likely continue and become more engaged in their work. When their achievements are overlooked, they are more likely to become disengaged.

Management plays a key role in employee engagement. Having meaningful conversations with employees about work expectations and how they are meeting those expectations can highly improve engagement. One-on-one meetings are crucial to making connections with employees and identifying their motivators. Meeting regularly will help build trust, while helping employees meet their goals.

Prioritizing and working to improve employee engagement can tremendously help your organization’s success.

Submitted by Kaitlyn Collins
MSSU Health Promotions and Wellness Intern

Trauma-informed care is helpful in everyday life. Incorporating trauma informed care principles and practices can help with how you do business, engage with your employees, and interact with your family!

Trauma-informed care promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. During the presentation you will hear from Kaley Routledge, Trauma Informed Care Specialist at Freeman’s Ozark Center. She will guide us through:

  • Defining trauma-informed care
  • Discussing major principles
  • Examining best practices

And, most importantly, you’ll take away ideas and resources for workplace implementation.

MSSU Small Business Development Center and Freeman Health System are sponsoring this event.

Register here for in-person or virtual presentation.


Small Business Development Center

(Joplin, MO) – Suicide is among the top three leading causes of death in Missouri for people ages 10 to 34. One in five Missourians above the age of 18 has a mental health condition. Behind each of these statistics are people, families and communities who have been impacted, but there is hope in the face of these urgent realities. Beginning July 16, crisis staff at Ozark Center, an entity of Freeman Health System, will answer the new 988 dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“Ozark Center is one of 200 crisis centers nationwide to join this new 988 network,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer. “Staffed by specialists with extensive training in supportive counseling and self-harm risk reduction, the Ozark Center 988 line will receive calls from Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties. Suicide is the most preventable, leading cause of death in the country, and we encourage anyone having an emotional or mental crisis to call 988 for help, day or night.”

“988 is more than just an easy-to-remember number — it’s a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress,” said Vicky Mieseler, Ozark Center Chief Administrative Officer.

People can use 988 if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

“988 is the first step toward strengthening and transforming crisis care in this country!” Mieseler said. “It will serve as a universal entry point, so that no matter where you live, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help. The vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the nation, much the way emergency medical services work.”

Ozark Center received a 988 State Planning Grant through Vibrant Emotional Health, the non-profit administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Those funds enabled Ozark Center Crisis Services to add staff, equipment and furnishings to accommodate the anticipated increase in calls for help.

“Our community members have known for many years that they can call 911 during a crisis for help from first responders or police,” said Debbie Fitzgerald, Ozark Center Director of Crisis Services. “Sometimes these crisis situations involve individuals struggling with behavioral health needs. Now, anyone can call 988 directly from their cell phone to reach a trained crisis specialist at any time. With workforce shortages nationwide and particularly within law enforcement, this will help our community be safer, and provide responses and interventions for those requiring emotional support.”

The current toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 800.273.8255 (TALK) will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, even after 988 is launched nationally. 988 will be the new three-digit number for call (multiple languages), text or chat (English only) that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has helped thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress since it began in 2005. With the transition to 988, these life-saving services will be even easier to reach.

Ozark Center also operates other crisis lines for those in distress including a local number for Joplin 417.347.7720 or toll free at 800.247.0661 and both will remain active.

About Freeman Health System:

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit


Lisa Olliges, Media Specialist
Freeman Health System


Written by Amber Allen, Field Specialist in Human Development & Family Science, MU Extension

It is natural to feel stress in our lives. Our lives are busy with kids, jobs, caring for ill parents, and taking care of ourselves. A study by the American Physiological Society found that people are more likely to have higher stress hormones in the summer than in the winter. As you enjoy nicer weather and more outdoor activities, make sure to be proactive in your overall mental well-being.

Here are some tips to check in with your overall mental well-being throughout the summer:

  • To help your emotional well-being, practice coping skills, set healthy boundaries, and try different self-care techniques.
  • Develop a sense of connection and establish a support system. Join groups that are focused on a favorite activity or hobby.
  • Find ways to expand your knowledge and skills through intellectually stimulating activities.
  • Become aware of your stress symptoms and identify and clarify your stressors.

It is important to know everyone handles stress differently. If you are interested in learning more on how you handle stress check out the upcoming Taking Care of You classes that MU Extension is providing. Learn more here.

About the MU Extension: 

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians to improve lives, communities and economies by providing relevant, responsive and reliable educational solutions. MU Extension programs are open to all

(Joplin, MO) – Dementia is the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions to the extent that it interferes with everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and neither is a normal part of aging.

Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% – 80% of dementia cases and while the greatest known risk factor is aging, it can also affect people under the age of 65, which is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Understanding the stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s will be the focus of this month’s Freeman Caregiver Support Group with a special presentation by College View Manor’s Carey Prater, who serves as the Chair of the Joplin Area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Prater will explain how to navigate essential care needs for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s at the meeting on Thursday, May 26.

Facilitated by Ozark Center Assistant Director of Adult Outpatient Services Jennifer Berry, MSW, LCSW, the support group meets from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm at the Freeman Business Center conference rooms. Guests should enter from the rear parking lot. Physical distancing and mask wearing will be practiced. Refreshments and door prizes are provided.

Please RSVP to Kathy Mason at or call 417.347.8463.

Health is a lot more than how one looks and feels. Conversations about health should include all eight dimensions or areas of wellness—that is mental, social, emotional, spiritual, financial, occupational, environmental, and intellectual. That’s the focus of Living Well Month, a national event in March promoting overall wellness and the education provided by Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) professionals to improve the lives of people, families, and communities.

“The Missouri Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences works through the University of Missouri Extension Service to offer information that will help families achieve a positive, healthy lifestyle,” says Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health specialist in Barton, Jasper, and Dade Counties. “Whether you are trying to manage your diabetes through meal planning and exercise, make decisions about health care and insurance, or get tips on effective parenting techniques, Extension FCS has a research-based answer.

To make every month a “Living Well Month,” consider these tips:

1. Engage children in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Adults need at least 30 minutes of physical activity. Play sports or recreational games, turn on some music and dance, hula hoop, or make an obstacle course. Take a walk or a bike ride in your neighborhood. All movement counts.

2. Start planning a garden now to work in the spring and summer. Gardening is great physical activity. This activity could also nurture your mental and environmental wellness.

3. Rethink your drink. The average adult human body is approximately 60 percent water. Water regulates every living cell’s process and chemical reactions. It transports nutrients and oxygen. Water also helps to maintain normal bowel habits and prevent constipation. Reduce the amount of soda and fruit drinks consumed daily.

4. Eat a variety of healthful foods. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables every day. Most people need to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Have a sliced banana on cereal for breakfast. Enjoy a sandwich loaded with vegetables at lunch. At dinner, steam some vegetables and prepare a fruit parfait with yogurt for dessert. Try new fruits and vegetables. If there’s a kind you don’t like, try preparing it in a different way. See for more information about nutrition for yourself and members of your family.

5. Read, read, read. Go to the library and check out books. Keep the mental stimulation flowing throughout the year regardless of your age. This will stimulate your intellectual health.

6. Talk to a friend or start a journal to get your thoughts and feelings off your chest. Staying in check with emotional health can be tough, but it’s important.

7. Check out parenting, finance, nutrition and/or food preparation classes offered by your Extension office. Scan the QR code for more information about upcoming offerings.

8. Maintain a healthy home. Check that your smoke detector is working correctly and test for the presence of Radon. Help manage allergies and/or asthma by cleaning and vacuuming regularly to reduce allergy triggers in the home. Avoid accidental poisonings by keeping medications locked up, and cleaning agents and other poisons out of reach of children.

9. Keep your family finances in check. Track your expenses and update your budget regularly. Eat at home often because meals outside of home usually cost more. Plan your menus and use coupons as a planning tool. Creating and sticking to a budget, along with paying of debt are great first steps to financial wellness.

All eight of the dimensions or areas of wellness are connected and support each other. Evaluate your overall wellness and take small steps to improve your health during Living Well Month and all year long.

March 2022 Living Well Calendar

Extension Family and Consumer Science professionals are part of a nationwide educational organization funded through the Land Grant University System and United States Department of Agriculture. Local Extension Family and Consumer Sciences professionals provide practical,
relevant, non-biased, research-based information.

Submitted by:
Lindsey Stevenson, County Engagement Specialist in nutrition and health
University of Missouri Extension

It is important to take care of our mental health through daily and weekly self-care. There are going to be times in life when we feel overwhelmed. Whether it’s impending deadlines, a long to-do list, or tension with a family member or friend, everyone experiences stress. The response to that stress is what impacts our mental health.

Having healthy practices that reduce stress and enhance our mental well-being can be done through self-care. If you are new to adding self-care to your routine, it can be difficult to know where and when to start. So, what is self-care? Self-care refers to activities and practices that you can regularly engage in to reduce stress and maintain your short- and long-term health and well-being. Below are some ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routines.

Practice gratitude.
Research has shown that consciously practicing gratitude can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Remind yourself of everything you’re thankful for rather than focusing on everything that has gone wrong.

Take a deep breath.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, a quick way to alleviate those feelings is by doing breathing exercises.

Write it out.
Writing down why you feel overwhelmed or anxious is another great way to alleviate those feelings.

Ask for help from your social support network.
Your social support network is there for you to lean on if you need to talk things through. Reach out to a friend for a virtual chat or pick up the phone and call a family member.

Practicing self-care strategies can not only provide immediate benefits, but also have a lasting, positive effect on your overall mental well-being. Next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, try one of the self-care strategies listed above.

Amber Allen, MU Extension Field Specialist in Human Development & Family Science

It has been well-known for some time now that women enjoy longer life spans than men all around the world. Many studies have examined why and whether men can do anything about it. The statistics are related in part to physical and biochemical differences, but controllable factors also play into life expectancy. Men tend to have more unhealthy behaviors than women, smoking and drinking more heavily and overeating more often. Men also tend to avoid doctors more than women, and are, on average, less socially connected.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. Alzheimer’s disease, named for Dr. Alois Alzheimer who first described the disease in 1906, is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and the average Alzheimer’s patient lives four to eight years after diagnosis.