Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bucking the trend on teenage depression... or, why we dance for prevention

Government data released this week reveals that pre-teen and teenage girls suffer from depression at a rate nearly three times that of boys their age. Also, according to the figures released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), as girls mature from 12 to 15 years of age, the percentage who experience depression triples (to nearly one in six).

A depressive episode was defined in the 2008 to 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health as a period of two weeks or longer during which teens experienced a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure, along with other changes in day-to-day function, such as loss of sleep or appetite, or changes in concentration.

SAMSHA Administrator Pamela Hyde stressed the importance of giving teenage girls assistance with coping skills and social support systems to help avoid the onset of depression. Efforts to provide this support she called a “sound investment in girls’ health and well-being and in our nation’s future.”

Through efforts like Communities That Care, our community is able to provide and strengthen the support systems necessary to help our kids develop into healthy adults. Research has proven that preventing adolescent depression and other problems is more effective when it involves the entire social environment.

Here in our community, there are many efforts to reduce the prevalence of depression in our youth.  Parents can sign up for Guiding Good Choices (GGC), which has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in children of participants (children of GGC participants had 38% lower rates of self-harm and 28% fewer feelings of worthlessness). The Life Skills Training curriculum provided by some of the local middle schools includes lessons on coping skills, and bullying prevention efforts can help relieve some of the pressures facing adolescent girls. Many youth-serving agencies have trained their staff through Gatekeeper Training, and Five Town Communities That Care offers suicide prevention and awareness sessions that include information on depression and warning signs of suicide to any groups in the community who request them.

The Maine Suicide Prevention Program has information on depression and links to many resources.  Your local medical professionals (family doctors and emergency services personnel) have resource directories, and the Maine Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day (1-888-568-1112).

A community-wide approach to promoting healthy youth focuses on both influencing values, practices and policies that promote a safe and healthy community; and changing the conditions that put children at risk for adolescent health and behavior problems. The ways to do this are varied and vast.  Last week, to get the message across, we danced. Our community works together, learns together, and celebrates success together....

We know that it's far easier to build a healthy child than to repair a broken adult.

Five Town CTC Dance Walk: coping skills and social support system at work!
WE are CTC!

Stay connected to your kids, listen... and don't forget to have fun together!
You can't start too early getting your kids involved with a supportive community!

It takes a village... to get a groove on!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Teen Screen Scene

With summer here and an increase in most Mainer's time spent out-of-doors, questions about teen computer and technology use often arise.  Outgoing Superintendent of schools William Shuttleworth penned a letter to parents urging them to turn off the TV and computers and forbid kids to use them unless the weather turned truly horrid. Others see computers and smart phones as essential to teen social life and wouldn't dream of restricting screen time. Is one perspective more valid than the other?

When thinking about this I came up with some pros and cons, and thought about how much I would whine if you were to take away my computer and smart phone (A LOT)... I suspect that because we are so used to having instant access, it is hard to step away from it.  But when I do, I find that I notice other things.

I am not an expert on the harmful or beneficial effects of being wired, but found that this blog by the folks at Psychology Today had some great stuff in it.  Give it a read!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blah, Blah, Blah

I like to read.  Always have.  I also like to talk (Mom says that I always have liked to do that, too).  As much as I enjoy communicating through the written and spoken word, whenever I am trying to explain a detailed concept, I find that I have a hard time talking without drawing.

According to Dan Roam's book, Blah, Blah, Blah that is not surprising, and is actually GOOD when trying to communicate a complex idea.  Roam makes the argument that we simultaneously process details (which words are great for) and the BIG PICTURE (which, well, pictures are good for).  Most people understand things better if they are getting info from both channels.

Now that I know this, I figure that it is important that I try to practice it a bit here in our blog.  So here goes (please bear with the crude figures...I am going for basic ideas, not high quality artwork!)...

Here at Five Town CTC we often try to explain the idea of risk factors and protective factors for adolescent behaviors.  When lots of risks are present in a kid's life, there is a greater likelihood of a negative outcome.  When protective factors are present, kids can navigate tough situations and still come out OK.  So, perhaps we could compare the teen years to navigating a river system:

Some kids end up on the branches of the river that have hazards (risk factors) like rapids (family conflict) or waterfalls (extreme economic deprivation) or whirlpools (friends who use drugs) or rocks (a community where drug use is the norm).  Caring adults can help to divert them from their current path and get them onto safer streams (reduce those risk factors).

Caring adults can also add protection for those in the stream.  Rather than exposing kids to the riverways naked, we can put a life jacket on them (provide opportunities), give them a boat (teach them skills), or even bundle them up in a high tech helmet and put them in a river raft (ensure bonding to caring, prosocial adults).  Protected kids might even be able to navigate all the river has to offer and come out OK.

To mature all children must navigate the river, but when we are aware of the hazards and what protections we can offer it is more likely they will do so safely—even when we can't remove every hazard.

OK, what do you think?  Does the crude sketch help you understand the idea better, or just confuse things more?  We would love to hear what you think.