It’s A Disease NOT a Decision

Imagine what would happen if you saw a teen athlete suffer a severe compound fracture, and then overheard the coach say “just shake it off… the pain is all in your head anyway.”  Or perhaps a father and son talking about the child’s recent cancer diagnosis, deciding not to treat the cancer because “I don’t want my friends to make fun of me for getting sick.”  For most of us, these conversations would seem ridiculous, because we don’t shame people who have an accident, or are diagnosed with cancer or diabetes; in fact, we rally around these individuals, providing comfort and support.

Sadly, these mindsets don’t hold true when it comes to our mental and emotional diseases, especially for children. Most people don’t think that children can suffer from things like depression; the reality is that 1 in 5 children will experience depression and other types of mental illnesses, but only 22% will receive treatment.  In many areas in the United States, there is a shortage of mental health professionals, with some states having only 1 mental health provider per 1,000 people.  Those who do receive treatment are stigmatized if they talk about their condition.  People with cancer are sick… but people with a mental illness are “crazy” making it shameful to admit and address mental illness.

Between the stigma of mental illness, and a lack of access to mental health professionals, youth face serious long term impacts due to mental illness, especially when it is unaddressed.

Mental Health has a direct long term correlation to physical health.  According to Health.gov “Mental health disorders also have a serious impact on physical health and are associated with the prevalence, progression, and outcome of some of today’s most pressing chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mental health disorders can have harmful and long-lasting effects—including high psychosocial and economic costs—not only for people living with the disorder, but also for their families, schools, workplaces, and communities.”

It is time that we start treating mental illness with the same attitudes as other long term, catastrophic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  We need to ensure that youth who experience traumatic events like bullying, violent crime and natural disasters receive ALL the treatment that they need, adding mental triage to the physical triage we are familiar with.  We need to encourage our children to practice good MENTAL hygiene, in addition to taking care of their physical bodies.  Finally, we need to change the perception of mental illness away from some kind of shameful defect to what it truly is, a true physical problem that requires professional treatment, and long term support.

We offer Writing for the Soul Workshop™ as a writing as therapy program. Our core program philosophy is based on the fact that powerful emotions have a powerful voice; and that when we get what is on the inside out, we take control of those feelings, and make smarter behavior choices as a result. Donors help us to reach youth actively engaged in at-risk behavior at no cost to them or their families. We understand that hurt people hurt people. No child is born bad. Help us continue our work around the US. Donate today.

Hispanic Youth: Reversing the Damage of Adverse Experiences

Image result for children in traumatic circumstancesCan you imagine what it would be like to grow up in an area of armed conflict?  How it might feel as a child to deal with a constant threat of death, the stress of being surrounded by violence and loss?

What if I told you that almost one in four children in the United States today are in home situations just that stressful? That almost 50% of our children will experience at least one adverse childhood experience that impacts their ability to learn?  Children that have these experiences have higher risks of long-term diseases, such as diabetes, depression, asthma and high blood pressure due to the impacts of stress hormones on developing bodies.  It isn’t hard to understand that children in a constant stressful situation have higher rates of discipline issues, and are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD and ADHD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  To top it all off, the disciplinary systems in today’s schools will then re-traumatize the same child dealing with the behavioral issues spawned by the uncontrollable environment.

While these numbers are dire, Hispanic children in the United States are 38% more download-1likely to experience these adverse circumstances, according to a 2016 study in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, when you add in the fact that more than 17.9 MILLION Hispanics are under the age of 18, this is a group that needs additional focus now to reduce the long-term impacts of trauma.

According to the last census data, Hispanics are the fastest growing group in the United States, and in Texas.  TGIM Digital Publishing understands how a Trauma Informed approach is imperative; this is why we are focusing our outreach efforts in Hispanic populations, ensuring a unique support approach to begin healing and empowering the next generation of Hispanic youth, through Writing for the Soul Workshop™.

Launch Our Workshop in Your Community

Many of the stories we collect through the workshop are written in Spanish, and we’re working to offer Writing for the Soul Workshop™ in Spanish, creating a multi-lingual support and mentoring system to support this population of at risk youth. We need your help to ensure that students here in Texas and around the world maintain access to Writing for the Soul Workshop™, and all of the wow factors available. Offering our program in Spanish helps to ensure youth in your community continue to access a program that offers better educational outcomes than school alone.  Through our Trauma Informed Approach, these youth will have access to the tools they need to reverse the damage of their adverse experiences and empower them to achieve the outcomes they dream of. Click here for more information on Writing for the Soul Workshop™, or use the Contact Form below to schedule a phone call to discuss implementing our program to your community.

 

Are you using a trauma informed approach?

In our current school system, almost 50% of all children have experienced at least one ACE or Adverse Childhood Experience.  These include things like having a parent that is dependent on drugs or alcohol, abuse, neglect, and a dangerous environment.  Although these may sound like things only experienced in an urban, or high poverty area, the statistics are alarmingly clear.

Dr. Christina Bethell, Director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center states,  “If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher.”

With the increase in school violence, many schools adopted a “zero tolerance” approach, which created an environment that actually increases the likelihood of issues, and creates further damage to already traumatized youth.  This is not a “feel good” approach, as science can now quantify that children exposed to the constant stress of an adverse environment.   Meg Walkley, MSW and Tory L,. Cox, LCSW / PPS, discuss the effects of trauma on the development of children and adolescents, stating “Trauma exposed youth are often hyper-vigilant, making it easy for them to become overwhelmed and undermining their capacity for self-regulation and anger management.” Often times, this leads to children being misdiagnosed with things like ADD, ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. This leads to medications that simply address symptoms, and not the root cause.

Our Trauma Informed Approach

Creating a trauma informed approach starts with changing the dialogue around behavioral issues.  Instead of asking the question, “What’s wrong with him/her?” the real question is “what happened to him/her?” This is where Writing for the Soul Workshop™ emerges as a viable component for organizations and schools to help better work with trauma impacted youth.  As a writing as therapy program, our workshop goes a step further than simply understanding what is driving behavior, we are able to promote a safe environment needed for healing, plus give at risk youth something no other program can… empowerment.  This is a key in truly changing outcomes for trauma impacted youth.  Instead of the constant stress of a “fight or flight” environment, our participants have the potential for financial independence not present in other programs.  This means better emotional outcomes, and better overall outcomes as well.  Teachers can better understand how traditional disciplinary approaches are seen as combative to trauma impacted youth, creating a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to youth dropping out of school, or getting into legal trouble, or both.

In schools that have already adopted a trauma informed approach, the results have been amazing.  Arnone Elementary, for example, which has 826 students from kindergarten through 5th grade, 86 percent of which are minorities, has seen a 40 percent drop in suspensions after implementing a trauma informed approach. When Lincoln High School  implemented a trauma-informed approach, suspensions dropped by 83 percent and expulsions dropped by 40 percent in the year following implementation.

An estimated two in three children are exposed to traumatic experiences that have the potential to impact brain development, social functioning, and ability to learn and engage in school. Recognizing and addressing this issue must become a focus for our educational system. Trauma-informed approaches, which have been supported by research evidence in fields such as mental health and child welfare, recognize and address the implications of traumatic experiences for students. Trauma has the potential to affect all students, and implementing a trauma-informed approach is imperative to change this cycle.  Test drive our Writing for the Soul Workshop™ program to see  if it would be a viable component to what your school or organization already has in place. Call us at: (888) 682.TGIM (8446) Ext. 700 to schedule a free consultation today.

 

 

 

Is Your Organization Focused on the Right Measurements? Five Key Questions for Leaders Today

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”  ― H. James Harrington

In order to stay alive and keep growing, any organization knows that they must be able to measure their production. It only makes sense that you have to know where you are in business to continue to be prosperous.  If you start by looking at the dawn of the industrial revolution,  when American companies were focused on manufacturing something, those measurements seemed very straightforward; obvious things like “how many of it do you make in a day”, “how many of it do you sell a day”, “how long does it take to make one of it”, and of course “how much does it cost”.   These things were fairly easy to measure,  and those measurements lead to goal setting, and then process refinement.  It was very straightforward and “businesslike”. Organizations that used this process became more successful.  Those that ignored them typically failed.

Through that lens, organizations saw the need to make decisions based on hard facts.  Emotional markers like employee moral, employee engagement and employee satisfaction were really irrelevant. Productivity was measured to an individual level, in a facts only way. Specific behaviors that were detrimental to the output of the organization were outlined and sent out in a memo, and behavior violating the memo was addressed per the policy outlined.  Leaders consistently sent the message that emotions had no place in business decision-making; creating workplace environments that were cold and impersonal from a leadership level.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we realized that the measurements needed to define success are really more complicated. Successful organizations had some common traits that could not be stacked and counted. These traits were not factual, but emotional ones like customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. We realized that people made their purchasing decisions based on fact AND emotion. We developed ways to measure how customers FELT about an organization. Suddenly emotions became important, but only on one side of the equation.

It wasn’t until 1995, when author, psychologist, and science journalist Daniel Goleman published the book Emotional Intelligence that we started understanding the value of emotions in the workplace.  After years of training on what successful leadership should be, the concept of Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) then started to make everything click. E.I. is generally defined as a person’s ability to recognize and control their own emotions, as well as the ability to recognize and manage the emotions of others.  E.I. really defined what used to be that thing good leaders just naturally had.

Now that we have started to understand more about E.I.,  the more we understand the competencies someone with a high E.I. exhibits. We also understand that these different competencies are important not just for leaders, but for every member of an organization.  These competencies are about how to relate to others and better communicate; skills that are important for success at ALL organizational levels. Dr. Stevie Dawn who specializes in Emotional Intelligence strategies for the workplace explains the importance of E.I. this way:

“Emotional Intelligence is really about communicating. It is about being aware of your emotions and the emotions of those around you. It is about thinking about the group as a whole when making decisions. It is about looking at the bigger picture. It is about helping others to feel empowered to achieve their goals. It is about doing all these things in a way that makes you likable and trustworthy.”

It is clear that the competencies shown are important to making successful decisions, in business and in life.

So how do you know if your organization exhibits these core competencies? Here are five questions to ask about your organization.

Does your organization communicate important information proactively and transparently?
No organization is perfect.  An emotionally intelligent organization makes sure that their people know whats coming and why. From a new sales strategy to a negative story in the media, to have good E.I. means that your people aren’t surprised and unprepared for change.

Is your everyone in your organization given a way to express how they feel about their company and leaders?
An organization with high E.I. knows that how their employees FEEL about their jobs is an important way to measure success.  Consistent processes that allow employee to express how they feel about their jobs helps to ensure that their workforce is engaged and passionate about what they do.

Does your organization train all levels of employees about Emotional Intelligence?
Being aware of how each of your employees understand and apply emotional intelligence means that you can start to identify any deficits and address them. Unless all employees receive some basic training on E.I., having leaders with great E.I. doesn’t automatically mean the people on their team do.

Do your leaders really have an “open door policy?”
When it comes to creating an environment with high E.I., being “available” to listen to your employees and peers is imperative.  Many leaders will say they have an open door policy, but are too busy to speak with their employees, or speak with them while finishing other tasks.  Leaders with good E.I. understand the importance of acting on this policy and make sure they are available to talk to employees one on one, with no distractions.

Does your organization empower  your entire workforce?
Organizations that focus on E.I. understand that at all levels, employees want to feel that they are empowered with choices, instead of being tied by policy.  This could be as simple as allowing customer facing employees leeway on how they handle a customer complaint, or a robust “suggestion box” where feedback is communicated back out to the employees who make suggestions. No one wants to feel powerless to improve their work environment.

Although there is still debate regarding how E.I. can really be measured, one thing is clear; companies that focus on Emotional Intelligence and invest employee development time around E.I. have realized a whole new level of performance. Gone are the days where there is no emotion in business; thriving organizations accept that how their employees handle their emotions directly ties to success.

These five questions were Eric’s concern while developing Writing for the Soul Workshop™, especially since our program evokes powerful emotions when its participants engage. Our core goal is using writing as therapy to help participants safely get what is on the inside… out.  And while recognizing your emotions is an important piece of E.I., it”s certainly not all of it. The role of Emotional Intelligence in personal success is one of the key reasons why we include E.I. Leadership Training from Dr. Stevie Dawn as part of certification to organizations who offer our Writing for the Soul Workshop™ programs.

Would you like to add our Writing for the Soul Workshop™ as a viable component to the programs your organization already has in place? If you would like more information, please complete the contact form below. Financing is available.