Category: Mental Health

Did you know?

In 2021 there were at least 82 incidents of gunfire on school grounds resulting in 21 deaths and 47 injuries nationally, according to Google. This is the count from my search on September 27, 2021.

New York Times headline on September 24, 2021, reads A Partial List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2021. The shootings never stopped during the coronavirus pandemic; they just became less public, researchers say. Written by Daniel Victor and Derrick Bryson Taylor

The debates always come down to the guns. However, we have looked at this problem so long we consistently fail to see the solutions.

“Students who commit shootings in K-12 schools are more likely to have a long history of rejection and lack a sense of belonging than are mass shooters in college and adult settings—but they are less likely to have experienced a sudden breakup or showed bad behavior that can serve as a red flag for administrators.” Education Week, September 8, 2021, A Hallmark of School Shooters: Long History of Social Rejection by Sarah D. Sparks

The Journal of Social Psychology, which compared the characteristics of 57 shootings on K-12 campuses with 24 college shootings and 77 mass shootings in other places since 2001, concluded the results provided in the article. In addition, it is reported there have been 15 reports of on-campus school shootings since the start of this school year.

The problem-we are failing to provide solutions to our mental health services, relationship building to support feelings of belonging and self-worth. We have placed social workers, school psychologists and even contracted with outside agencies to add additional help, but we are still not meeting the needs.

The ratio to the need and the trained staff exceeds disproportionately. Then when you look at the community resources, the need is extremely high compared to the availability of services or extended-care facilities.

In my career, I worked closely with those helping to provide the services needed to the community we served. Each year the needs seemed to grow, and resources shrunk. After I left my school setting, it was not long that I heard a news report of a young teen female stabbing a man to death in a housing project.

What is the solution?

  • More mental health services
  • Additional mental health resources
  • Training for all serving in facilities with high needs (schools, Universities, Hospitals, Factories)
  • Safety protocols
  • Crisis training
  • Regular check-ins
  • Relationship building
  • Clear communications
  • Validation for all
  • Inclusion and self-worth building activities

If I came to visit your place of work, could you introduce me to everyone by name and tell me about them?

Seeing my former boss reminded me of the relationship-building he did as people stopped by. He knew their name and stories about them. How validated they felt by the time they left.

One comment from one of his visitors was about loyalty. Loyalty is indeed built when individuals feel safe, respected, valued, and part of something.

How are you?

Do you ask this question to others? “Hi Jane, How are you today?” It is a simple question as part of our greeting and not an in-depth question many may need to answer. As schools returned to face to face, businesses are trying to maintain without workers due to no applicants, and companies are trying to ship materials to places in need as materials become available.

How can we greet our coworkers and employees in ways to help them and to check on how they are? At this time, it is so important to check on others and to let them understand they matter to us. Many things are causing stress to others and maybe even for ourselves. Letting others know is the best way to find solutions. I have a former student missing and a former student who just killed himself. My heart breaks for their families. These young men I think of as “my kids,” and I picture them in the time we were together. The charisma of both these kids is amazing, fun to be around, friends with many, and nice looking. If someone asked me, How are you? “I am fine, just fine.” Am I?

Most people do not tell others the truth. They mask things that are bothering them. People pass you all the time. Do you notice them? How much do you know about the people you work with daily? How about those you use to work with but not anymore? Neighbors? Family? Do you check on any of them? The truth is rarely told on how we are. https://youtu.be/lbqS806GU4I

Change the questions. Change the responses. Let the truth be told, and solutions will be found. #Bethesolutiondaily Find the resources to help others in need. Reach out to others when you are in need. You matter, we matter, together we matter, and we will be fine! Faith, hope, and love for one another.

“Art-full-heart”

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.

When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.

Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!

Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.

One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.

Take away thoughts

  • No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!

Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.

Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:

As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.

This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.

We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.

There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.

Tuesday Talks and Topics

Topic today: Trauma

As you work with others, it is always helpful to have an organized approach for positive results. While being a leader in a school, I knew every minute was valuable. Having a focused plan, a weekly or daily announcement to staff needed to be structured to support our goals and having conversations they needed/wanted to hear. How do you do that?

Be alert and aware of what is needed to be placed in written form and what is required to be verbalized. Staff does not need to come to a meeting to have you read from a paper; they can do this themselves. You have things you need to say, and they need to hear you say, especially as we return face to face.

No matter what level you are, working with others or being part of a group, it is essential to understand how to support, deal with and monitor the signs of trauma. Trauma, we can clearly state, is something every child and adult has experienced at some level due to Covid-19.

Trauma

  • We are living lives impacted by trauma that others could not have predicted.
  • Some are living in situations where family members are part of the circumstances of the trauma.
  • Some have lost a loved one (grandparent, parent, sibling, child).
  • We are living in uncertain and constantly changing circumstances.
  • Some are living in areas of daily violence and fear.
  • There are many more things we can list to add for traumatic events contributing to trauma in the lives of those around us.

What can we do in regards to trauma? Prevention is always the first step in the solution process but never the only step. If prevention is not something we can do, there are several things to do to help trauma victims.

Action Steps

  • Prevention steps always step one in solving problems before they happen and preventing them from reoccurring.
  • Deal with immediate needs, fears and concerns.
  • Restore the sense of normalcy with structure, routines and predictable schedules.
  • Montior behaviors and emotional responses. (Trauma can linger in individuals for a long time and reoccur with outbursts, depression and other unusual behaviors.)
  • Talk with individuals about what they are feeling.
  • Refer to professionals if there is no improvement. (Do not overreact, it does take a little time to deal with Traumatic events)

I am not a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, but a survivor of a traumatic event and traumatic brain injury. The injuries are life-long but not something you cannot deal with each day. The step about daily routines and structure, this one was critical for me. I needed this to help me in my healing. When things were changed, it threw me off completely. So think about those changes for your students with special needs; they really can not help the behavior. It is a response that is natural to them. Routines are safe for them/us. When we do not have the routine, schedule or sense, or normal, it brings the trauma back to us.

Talking Trauma is not a one-time talk. We need to talk more! There are many things we need to put into practice, take time to have discussions and understand we have all experienced Trauma. Practicing self-care is so important. Letting others know mental health needs are okay, we need to talk to professionals and be treated. Mental health issues does not mean a thing. Let’s stop labeling things please.

Thanks for talking Tuesday! Please add your comments so we can gain more insight to this topic. #Bethesolutiondaily

Reasonable Conversations

Do you find it challenging to have conversations with others? When I say challenging, do they start friendly, and before you know it escalates into an argument, disagreement, or worse? I can expect it maybe at holidays when all of the family crowds into small places and everyone is stressed, but not on a day-to-day basis.

It seems impossible to have a “reasonable” conversation in today’s society. Everyone has a strong opinion on many hot topics like the police, education, Covid-19, vaccinations, safety, racism, and patriotism. It does not matter what platform you select to use to bring up questions, talk about a news item from TV or newspaper, or mention one of the heated topics, and dialogue shuts down.

I have always encouraged others to ask questions, but I admit I am guilty when I feel strongly about a topic and the passion for defending my position. So what is the difference now?

We are no longer having discussions with all sides having the opportunity to provide their points of view and the other to do the same. We need to listen to the facts, gather the truth, restate the accurate findings to reach an agreement. Right now, emotions drive the conversations with no “reasonable” solution to the conversation as the frustration sets in and insults begin. In the “cancel culture” parts of society has created, it is worse than any bullying interventions I have mediated. In just one click, a message is sent, received, and shared by thousands targeting one individual with a label to crush them.

How will you help staff and students navigate through difficult conversations? Do we have debates anymore with content we can fact check for truth and not just opinions? Where do you check for facts and information? Do students know how to research for facts? Are we teaching how to have debates and to discuss different points of view?

We have been fighting bullying for decades in our society. I have lost a former student who moved to a different school to suicide over bullying. I am looking at these conversations through the lens of students growing in this society and how to manage all of this and wonder what we can do to help. Who has the power to change the conversation tones in our communities? I will start with me, and you start with you and maybe will reach the who that makes the change. It is a ripple effect, I believe. If we continue to say something, repeat it over and over, it becomes part of what we believe and think. I know this is true because, sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes______ ______. You finished it because it was part of a marketing campaign. “Just do it” you know this one as well! “Its the real thing.”

Thank you for being the solution daily where one voice, one ear, and one heart make a difference today.

Why? This is a question I ask daily

I keep myself sheltered as much as possible from daily negativity. It is never good for anyone’s health to keep negative influences in your life daily. However, it would help if you kept yourself informed of current events to support others and yourself.

Statistics of the number of violent incidents, shootings, and crimes are on the rise. It is a regular news item that people become used to, I think; why?

“Deadliest weekend of the year in Chicago: 12 killed, 42 wounded in shootings”-Sun-Times, Chicago. May 24, 2021

“6-Year-Old Costa Mesa Boy Dies In Road Rage Shooting On 55 Freeway In City Of Orange” -CBSLN May 21,2021

“4-Year-Old Boy Found Dead on Dallas Street Was Sleeping When He Was Stolen Out of His Crib, Affidavit Says”-Inside Edition May 19,2021

I took just a few headlines from the news that stopped me. I froze when reported. No words could come to add anything to these incidents.

My solution for these continued acts of violence on our communities across our nation is this:

  • Start with the question, why? It is not because we have guns. Discuss why someone would want to cause harm or kill another person.
  • Why are people angry? In your discussions, ask this question. Think about how we got to the point of so much anger. It is not because of races, places, spaces or faces. It is about human relations! When we teach division, we get division. We have worked hard on bringing people together, and now we are pushing them apart.
  • Where do people belong in your community? Do you know the people in your neighborhood? What do they need to lift themselves up? We do not need to be enablers but teachers. “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed himfor a lifetime.”
  • In the home is where we can help. Families today have a great deal on their plates. Find ways not to judge, not to be enabling but supportive. Discover what is needed a help them establish these needs.

Action Steps

  • Mental health services available in the community: make these part of your organization’s space, promote a partnership, place positive messages that it is okay!
  • Stop dividing people! No more talk about race, gender, or who you are as an individual to divide us. We will not keep making individuals feel like there is something wrong with them based on their skin color, gender, or who they are. It is the content of their character that defines them. The story written on their heart they portray to the world is “who they are.” I will not spend my life being a color but an individual focused on solutions for all human races.
  • “Won’t you be my neighbor” comes from a time when TV provided children with a daily dose of how to deal with society changes? Currently, there are not many opportunities for children to receive this messaging. As a community, establish a community group. Work as a group to determine needs. What can you do together to support each other?
  • As an organization, establish a community group. Invite businesses, community organizations, police departments, schools, and neighborhood groups together.
  • Generate a list of community needs.
  • Establish committees
  • Action plans/timelines
  • Necessary to keep this statement fresh in front of all members: Families love their children and are doing a great job with all they have to care for them. It is up to us to help lift them up to continue to serve with more. We are not enablers but providers of additional tools.

I am happy to help anyone with tackling this with your organization or school. We all have to make this a priority in order to move forward together in healing a nation from a pandemic with aftershocks. Be the solution daily for a brighter tomorrow.

Fundamental Friday

In our lives we have fundamental things, activities and principles that are important to us. We can believe strongly in some as an essential part of who we are or part of our purpose of being.

People seeking meaning beyond themselves seem to be happier, healthier, and live longer. I have no data to confirm that statement, only my observations. I like to think of myself in the category of seeking meaning beyond myself and in service to others. I am happy; I have had some health issues, but I am in remission, which has been a big positive. I have also had some near misses to death resulting in living longer. According to my formula, it works!

The fundamental definition is – serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function. Looking at the four pillars of the fundamental parts to our life is : Happiness, Self-Care, Relationships and Health

Take out a calculator and do this quick math calculation. This is “life math.” -Guide to Unlocking the Power of Purpose by Richard Leider

  • Multiply your age x365__________.
  • Then, subtract that number from 30,000, an average life expectancy.
  • Divide that number by 365_______
  • Now you are clear that you have _____more years to live. What will you do?

I know you have heard me say before, but I will repeat it: “Every day is a gift full of opportunities to unwrap.” I repeat phrases and words a great deal. I believe it is important in order to help reinforce the ideas to those you are serving, coaching and modeling for each day. My staff called them “Yohoisims.”

  • “Make it a great day or not the choice is yours to make”
  • “It is what it is, so it will be”
  • “We don’t know what we don’t know, do we”
  • “You have one foot on the outside and mine on your backside if you do not make some positive changes.”
  • “Do you know why you are tired? You bark all day.”
  • Many others to share but enough of the Yoho for today.

Look at your four fundamental areas and decide what improvements you can make. The following years of your life should fundamentally be full of “FUN” “DAily”/ “MENTAL” “Learning”/ “Yourself”-focusing on happiness, self-care, relationships, and health.

Thinking outloud

I was speaking with my doctor after my cancer check. It is always great to talk to my medical team because I trust them, and we have built a great relationship.

My results from my testing were great. I had no signs of anything active, so I remain in remission. I am so thankful and feel blessed each day.

Each day we may face issues, challenges, criticism, and trauma, but we will be provided with ways to overcome. My life is full of all of those described, but I can provide examples of overcoming them. It is up to us to believe.

Thank you for being part of the solution daily. You could be part of the reason others achieve overcoming critical issues.

Checking in and Checking Out

“Good morning; it is great to see you, Trevor! Love your outfit today, Tiffany! Jozie, I saw you and your aunt this morning.”

Greeting individuals in the morning will help to start the day off right. You can easily see if they are doing okay by taking a quick check by welcoming them. Weekends can be great fun, relaxing but they can also have sadness, struggles in them as well. I use to use this phrase when trying to explain to staff about this topic, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” We’ll; we don’t.

This is a true story, and I apologize in advance for my content. Please do not finish reading if you have a weak stomach and a love for animals.

Teaching in my 5th-grade classroom, I had worked to build relationships with all of my students. They felt safe talking with me. A small group came to me and told me they did not know what to do, but a classmate smelled terrible. It was making them feel sick.

I pulled the student during student flex work time and yep, it was awful. I began to talk to him about how things were going with him. He said, “I am having a hard time. Our dog has been missing. It makes me sad.” I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Do you have water at your house? “No.” How do you get your clothes clean? “We have a pile we get them from every day.” Well, you go over to the computer to work and I will see what I can do to help with the water.

I reported to our social worker. She contacted some other individuals and did a home visit. After the kids had left, she came to my classroom to talk to me with the principal. “Did you help them with the water?” We have to tell you about the odor you said the kids smelled. The trailer they were living in was a disaster. The pile he was getting his clothes from found a dog underneath all of it, dead. It had been dead for a while.

I could not speak. I was trying to process what was just said to me. “Mrs. Yoho, DCFS removed the children, and he will not be returning to your classroom. We wanted to talk to you about it first.” Thank you; he told me his dog was missing. I am trying to understand what you have just said, but I am not processing it. My heart breaks for all of the children in the family.

As a new teacher, I learned a lesson from this experience. I needed to check in daily with each student. No, I would not have figured out the details unraveled in the home visit, but I may have discovered sooner about the water issue. My connections with my students needed to be more informed.

Also, I needed to check out with them before they went home. Students throughout the day can have experiences we may not be aware of and addressing them before allowing them to grow bigger.

As an administrator, I used check-in and check-out. I found it to be very effective. At the middle school level, the majority of our students came by bus. I had our administrative team greet the buses and welcome the students each day. We could identify if any of our students were having signs of an off day. We would take a proactive approach to help them.

There are many stories in your journey of life that help provide you with guidance to help others. I will never forget about the missing dog. It is one of those that people would look at you and think, you have made that up. How could you? Who would even think of a story like that?

Check on those around you. Are there people at work you don’t know? Why? Be the person to spread sunshine to everyone, but learn how they are doing. If we all help each other, what a better place it will be! Thank you for being part of the solution daily!

Note to self….

Walking down all of the hills to get to our destination was fabulous! Beautiful views of the river! Now going back up will be more of a challenge. Note to self…find smaller hills!

Do you leave yourself notes? Do you keep a journal? How about a daily calendar you put notes on? I have done all three. Do you ever have a thought pop into your head, and you write it down? I do it all the time! The problem is I collect small piles of these notes and try to understand them. It takes a little time, but I get them connected.

I did journal writing as a child, and I loved it. It helped me through many days. Writing is a great way to express and work through issues you may face. As I became a teacher and then an Administrator, I continued to share writing tools with students. I have many stories to share about utilizing writing in many areas. However, I have one that means so much to me.

As a new administrator, I felt very nervous. Everyone was looking, watching, and just waiting for me to make mistakes. I was the Assistant Principal at a 6-8 building, and discipline was all mine.

As an elementary teacher, I knew the majority of the children at the school. I was the teacher who did character education and a lot of positive behavior rewards. I still wanted this to be part of what I did. I enjoyed working with kids!

Things seemed to start on the right foot, and we were making improvements. But I had a young lady who looked sad, missed a great deal of school, and I did not see where she was making any connections with others.

I worked with our county truancy officer to address issues of students missing school. We had several students missing many days; Amanda was one of them. We called her to my office to talk with her, but she was so quiet. Her mother spoke with us and would describe Amanda in ways I did not see or could believe.

Amanda was seeing a doctor and taking medication. My heart was telling me something was just not right. I made a note to self…check on Amanda to see if she would like to Journal with me.

My days were always so full, and I knew I could not dedicate consistent, uninterrupted time with Amanda, but I could journal with her. She had built up a wall, and I understood how she wanted to have a safe place. Journal writing would allow her to write what she wanted to me. Ask questions, talk about things she was thinking and feel safe.

I bought some journals and pens so she could select what she wanted. We worked out a system with my secretary. She would come to pick up in the morning and drop of at the end of the day. We did this every day!

Amanda looked happier, would smile at me in the hallway, and was coming to school. There are many things revealed in journaling, so you have to have a conversation before you start. “If anything written makes me think you are not safe or someone else is not safe, we have to talk to someone who can help.”

Amanda and I both moved to different places. But when I last saw her, she was happier than when I first met her. She learned a skill to help her and hopefully learned others are there to help.

A few years ago, a handwritten letter arrived on my desk from our mail delivery. It was a letter from Amanda. She was finishing nursing school and wanted to let me know she had kept all of the journals we had written together. As the letter continued, she explained that when she was having difficulties, she would pull out one of the journals and read a passage.

“Mrs. Yoho, I want you to know, these journals saved my life. I have felt very low, but these kept me hopeful. Your words gave me the motivation to know I could because you believed in me.”

I have told teachers and administrators Amanda’s story. No, not every student is going to write you a four-page handwritten letter, but all of them are worth the power of believing they can do whatever they want to do!

Amanda is doing great! I just received a message response from her. I am very proud of her as she is now continuing to receive a Masters’s in Mental Health Counseling.

You do not know the level of impact you have on another life until they tell you. When this happens, it makes you pause and take a deep breath; I wish I could have done more. How many Amanda’s are in classrooms today? Try a journal to start to break down the walls they have built up. Most importantly, tell them you believe in them!

Amanda, in your life, has big hills to climb and needs support. They do not have a choice on which hills or mountains are in front of them. But we have a choice in helping them change their mindset, find resources, and believe. Thank you for being part of the solution daily!