People who work with children and teens may have suspected a growing reliance on prescription drugs to treat a variety of mental-health. Recent studies confirm these suspicions. But Scott Shannon belongs to a growing number of doctors who eschew prescription drugs before establishing trusting relationships with young patients to understand their many dimensions and the environments in which they live, learn, and play.
Considerations of culture in mental-health treatment takes center stage in “Elements of Culture and Mental Health: Critical Questions for Clinicians” a handbook published in 2013 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and written by an ethnically diverse authorship.
A robust network of community members, relatives, neighbors, faith-based connections and family friends can guide a young person’s journey to productive adulthood. Unfortunately, research demonstrates that many young people lack these critical supports, leaving them with inadequate resources to navigate a successful transition to adulthood and putting their path to social and economic security at risk. Connecting young people to a quality mentoring program that matches them with a consistent and caring adult is a way to reverse this trend and drive positive outcomes for our nation’s young people.
What do young people think about mentoring? This month, MENTOR will release results from the first-ever nationally representative survey of youth ages 18 to 21 about mentoring. This research seeks to determine how young people’s mentoring needs are – or are not – being met.
To generate some (hopefully) meaningful conversation around our dinner table, I have begun to use a tool that my daughters picked up at one of their summer camps: “Rose, thorn and bud.” We each describe a good thing from our day (the rose), followed by a lousy thing (the thorn), and then conclude with something we are looking forward to (the bud). The exercise enables each person to share several different moments from the past 12 hours with the rest of the family; it doesn’t require too much effort or contemplation, and it is relatively light-hearted. In fact, not infrequently the rose is the dinner itself and the bud is the dessert. The discussion that follows rarely leads to anything profound, but the ritual forces us to pause, consider the day’s events and make an effort to connect. Imagine my surprise when I attended the annual convening of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) in November and the same prompt was used.
April 20, 2010. People around the world were glued to their TV’s as hundreds of millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico. For Olivia Bouler, then age 11 and an aspiring ornithologist and artist, her first thoughts went to the countless birds that would be impacted. Immediately, Bouler set out to do something about it. In a letter to the National Audubon society she introduced herself as “11 years old and willing to help…” and proposed a fundraising idea where she would create paintings and drawings to distribute to people who donated to wildlife recovery efforts in the wake of the tragedy.
By the time Cheryl Sharp was 18 years old, she had attempted to end her own life on three separate occasions. Her first attempt occurred when she was just 13. Despite having many friends and social outlets, she said her teen years were marked by a pervasive sense of loneliness. “I felt like I did not belong in the world, that I didn’t really have a place where I was of value,” Sharp said. “What happened in the first attempt was the same thing that happened in all others.
As I watched my daughter’s dance class, it became obvious that her instructor’s role involved teaching much more than dance steps. It involved what’s called the “hidden curriculum.”
The little girls were forming a dance train. One girl whined and said she wanted to be first but didn’t know how to express herself calmly. It was an opportunity for a life lesson as the instructor pointed out that the girls would take turns being the leader. The frustrated girl relented when she realized she would get a turn.
When violence and mental illness stem from adverse childhood experiences. Eddie Bocanegra grew up in Chicago’s mostly Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood in the 1980s and early 1990s, at a time when violent crime was peaking nationally and locally, with nearly 1,000 murders per year in the city of Chicago. His world was rocked by domestic violence at home, constant fighting among his neighbors and their parents, bullying in school and street violence among gangs in the evening. Then, at 13, one afternoon while on his way to a baseball game, he saw someone shot multiple times and killed. “The following year, I got involved in a street gang, both for protection and identity,” Bocanegra said.
For some students, stresses in their lives can lead to dangerous behavior, such as intentional self-injuries
Juliana Kerrest started hurting herself when she was 13 years old. Juliana said the first time it happened was almost ““an accident.” Juliana, who had suffered from depression since she was 10, was upset, noticed a toothpick nearby, and began scratching herself with it, “without thinking” about it. Over time, the scratching turned into cutting, and then progressed to burning and hitting. In high school, Juliana cut herself several times per week, sometimes more than once per day. In college, her self-injuries were less frequent but more severe. She bears the scars today.