Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No More Bandaids!

I am very thankful that I live in Canada. I have education, health care, REASONABLE financial security (all though many would disagree), and for the most part, I do believe that our elected representatives do their very best to actually care about the individuals in our country. What I dislike most is the band aid treatment that is given in the face of serious issues that effect the population on every level: individual, familial, cultural and national.

In school, at various levels, we have courses and studies that have been "designed" to fit a need. Has anyone heard of the D.A.R.E. program? It is commonly known, felt and acknowedged that this program is ineffective, however it remains the Ministry of Educations leading attempt to head off the development of substance addiction. As of 2010, use of illicit substances in those under the age of 18 was at an all time high. As one of those lucky individuals who can and will admit to never having taken drugs in their life, I can also write here that I've even argued openly with proponents for the DARE Program when they have been doing fundraising events in public places.

But. This entry is not designed to be a rant about the D.A.R.E. Program. If you feel it works, you probably were one of those individuals who had a positive experience with it, and lets face it, one life impacted by a program is an entire life. Let's not discount that. What I am trying to explain is that I feel there is a very large void left in the education system: addressing root causes. A healthy, confident teenager with a strong sense of self worth is going to be astronomically less inclined to commit a negatively life altering decison.

Let's review what I recieved in terms of "health" studies in school. In grade 6, we were forced to participate in the D.A.R.E. Program. The officer who did the training for my class (or perhaps it was the class the year after mine?) was later arrested for distributing narcotics to minors. Irony? By the time we had to sign the "covenant" which was supposed to be confidential, and mandatory, most of my friends had all ready done recreational drugs and many had even started to smoke or drink.This was children aged 11 and 12. In my grade 7 class, we had no health program as we were a grade 6/7 split, and the grade 6 students had to go take DARE in a different setting. In grade 8, we recieved the "reproduction" discussion. This is amusing as most students were 13 - 14 years of age by the point. I was a late bloomer and got my period the first day of 7th grade. Many of my fellow students had even engaged in intercourse all ready. We were given a teacher who couldn't even explain the purpose of a bra without getting red, and when we forced a boy in the class to ask her where babies came from, she burst into tears. In grade 9, our health class centred around: do you want kids? Yes, well wait until you're out of school. No? Don't have sex. Oh and by the way, the town has a sex clinic you can go to for free birth control. Grade 12, was given by the religion teacher (as I had switched schools) as part of her class. It involved trying to scare everyone into staying celibate- cause that works.

Throught the later part of my secondary education, a strong emphasis was put on needing to have a defined vision for the future. In grade 10, you had to have a mandatory half credit in Careers. In grade 11, Guidance began student consultations, where they called you by name and class for an appointment to discuss your post secondary options. In grade 12, the same appointment was called again. These were given during class time. As a result, I exited highschool still unsure of how to actually apply to the schools, but knowing about different programs and funding options and course availability. I knew how to check and see if something I was interested in would actually make me a lot of money. These educational resources, I feel, were largely successful. Of course, there were those who chose not to attend, found ways out of their appointments, and were utterly bewildered when attempting to navigate post-secondary options. There were also those who had all ready dropped out of school.

Why are we so good at giving options but not providing the resources for youth to reach those options? I have thought a lot about my own mental health and those of several friends and family. The common thread is that if we had been able to recieve adequate education and assessment during the life altering time period of puberty, we might have been able to address life altering issues as they began to develop- nipping them in the bud.

So lets employ the problem solving method my grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Cuthbert taught us.It requires four parts:

What educational reformation could possibly help children to develop the healthiest future (steering them away from: suicide, teen pregnancy- or "accidental" pregnancy at any time, substance abuse, and development of serious mental disabilities).

25% of adults in North America suffer from psychological disorders or serious mental illness. 50% of these adults developed their disorders prior to the age of 24. 10% of children under the age of 18 live with a SERIOUS mental illness or disorder. Only 1 out of 3 adults with a disorder ever receive treatment for it. Less than 1/2 of those under the age of 18 will recieve counseling to recieve treatment or diagnosis. 45% of those who suffer from one mental disorder, also suffer from other mental disorders as well. 1 out 5 Canadians between age 15 and 24 display symptoms of dependency on alcohol or illicit narcotics. Most mental disorders are treatable through a variety of means if they are diagnosed in time.

Ramifications of undiagnosed mental disorders: The classic lack of self esteem and self work, poor self imaging, self-fulfilling prophecies, and inability to follow a moral or legal code but are not limited to these. 50% of those between 15 and 18 years of age, who develop mental disorders, will drop out before the completion of secondary level education (high school). 70% of those in juvenile reform programs suffer from severe mental illness. Those who enter adulthood untreated, have a higher rate of developing severe, chronic, medical conditions. Their life expectancy rate decreases by 25 years. 1 out of every 3 deaths in children between age 10 and 18 are from suicide. For every person who dies by suicide, 25 other individuals have attempted it, and the deceased has most likely attempted or considered it roughly 18 times while they have tried to reach out to friends and family, coming across in a "bid for attention". 90% of these individuals have a treatable mental disorder. 1 out of every 4 people under the age of 24 will seriously consider killing themselves.

One must know the results, and address the root causes.

Suggested Conclusion:
Integrate counseling during important developmental periods in a child's life.

Once a term, starting between grade 4 and 6, have designated one on one time with a counsellor (in the case of Collingwood, where we all ready have a public health team, bring in one of the public counselors, and offset the group lessons with a half hour meetings!) so that students have a safe forum to discuss big events in their life, and have an early diagnosis for at risk children.

What are your thoughts on the subject and my proposal? Do you feel you did or would have benefit from counseling during puberty?

1 comment:

  1. I passed this along to my roommate as she just completed an internship as a counselor in a highschool. I agree with you that the focus of health education in schools needs to change drastically. I think having counseling available in all highschools would make a lot of difference in so many people's lives.