Life today takes a toll on our emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. People do not have the mental framework to adequately meet the overwhelming demands of modern life. This inadequacy leaves most people with growing levels of anxiety and depression; a disconnection to their experiences of joy, love, happiness, and inner peace; and as a lack of a sense of purpose in life with related personal and professional meaning.
How can we help children prepare for this daily negative bombardment? Social and emotional learning (SEL) frameworks and best practices hold the key to teaching self-awareness and producing the resilience factor in youth.
From children being bullied in schools because of ethnic or social status, to increased heroin abuse because of post-traumatic stress syndrome, to increased levels of adolescent depression and suicide due to increased stressors, to increased incidences of sexual assault and cutting on college campuses, to record levels of being overweight and obesity, just to name a few, we can agree that we need to do more to prevent mental illness in youth and to help them develop resilience.
Rising above early trauma
Early trauma affects people throughout their lives. The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study uncovered a dramatic link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.
Most notably, someone with four or more ACEs is 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than someone with an ACE score of zero. A man with four or more ACEs is 400 percent more likely to be a perpetrator of domestic violence than a man with zero ACEs. Women who have experienced five or more ACEs are three times more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Three ACEs increase the risk of drug use by 93 percent, and health care costs associated with drug dependency are $11 billion annually.
These negative outcomes underscore the importance of providing tools that help build resilience in children so they understand how to create a good life in the face of adverse childhood experiences.
Self awareness as prevention
Self-awareness and resilience help prevent negative life outcomes and can be produced through SEL. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) asked the public in 2015 to create unique photos/images with six words on how to prevent suicide. Submissions were overwhelming and included self-awareness attributes of: (1.) self-worth, (2.) feeling emotions such as love (social-emotional awareness and competency), (3.) empathy (the ability to feel what another is experiencing), (4.) hope and inspiration, (5.) the ability to know that any kind of violence is simply morally wrong, (5.) self-reflection, and (6.) resiliency throughout youth and life. As you can readily determine, SEL is more important than ever.
The ability to develop resilience is fast becoming an important personal attribute to live a good life (as Henry discussed in this public television program). Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. The attribute known as “grit” is becoming a synonym of resilience, with the added distinction of knowing your life purpose.
A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having self-knowledge—among 30 additional attributions, such as the ability to manage strong emotions and to know your purpose in life. Another important factor is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Further, relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.
All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves, with the expert guidance of SEL trained professionals.
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