Having given an emotional intelligence presentation to a group of 100 school nurses for the state of New York on Saturday November 7, 2010 I could no longer live in denial that the trajectory of the course that many children are on in the United States within the next 20+ years is simply sobering.
The morning keynote talk was by a woman named Janice Selekman, PhD who is a professor at the University of Delaware and well known expert in the health of children and the role of nursing in the public school system across the United States. After Janice spoke, the group entered my session and since the topic was on emotions, the room of initially well mannered women soon became a room of restless, angered and frustrated nurses. The veil of niceness had come off after the first session and the reality of who they were and what they face was able to be present. The room was now real, with real people addressing real problems which caused them to lose countless hours of sleep on more days than I even want to count. Their pain and helplessness was now obvious.
After I left Janice's talk, I as well felt a pit in my stomach and thought to myself "how on Earth are these women supposed to manage all that is coming into them with out the proper support from the school system?" The school nurse primarily operates on their own island, no power within the school system, is paid at a lower rate than teachers and typically does not sit at parent teacher reviews. However, this is the very person in the school system that knows if our children are mentally, emotionally and physically not well. It isn't typically the teachers, it is the school nurse. The teachers defer literally everything to the school nurse.
Keep in mind something today, many teachers are focused on achieving standards to meet state and federal testing guidelines. I wonder how much room there is for teachers to acknowledge the emotional well being of the students regarding all the areas listed below. If their time is being tied up in the testing arena, it doesn't leave much room to properly address emotional issues and other issues which can led to more complex issues in a short period of time. Moreover, we haven't even calculated in the poor quality of food administered to these kids in the school cafeteria. I wonder how much it equates to prison food? And that is a serious question.
Janice also said it is clear, parents are less and less providing adequate support to their children and leaving it up to the school system to "parent." The room filled with a hundred women now had a right to be pissed and overwhelmed.
Here are some of the facts...
"For the first time in our history, the United States is raising a generation of children who may live sicker, shorter lives than their parents." RWJ. 2009
15% of children and 18% of adolescents are obese
- doubling of school age since 1980
- tripling of obesity in adolescents
- type 2 diabetes now makes up 45% of children with diabetes
- 3.2% of adolescents have hypertension
- 15.7% have pre-hypertension
- 26% of those with hypertension are missed (not recorded)
- 6.7% had pubertal signs by the age of 7
- 27.2% had pubertal signs by the age of 7 (in blacks)
- Breast growth - 10.88 years in 1991 vs 9.86 in 2006
- Menstruation - 13.42 years in 1991 vs 13.13 in 2006
- 50% of these children date
- 25% say that oral sex and intercourse are expected in a dating relationship
- Increase in 2006 and 2007 for the first time since 1991
- increased from 40.5 live births/1000 females ages 15-19 to 42.5
- 2009 it decreased to 41.5
- unchanged in 10-14 year olds
- 1:5 teen births is to a teen who has already had a baby (2009 Child Trends)
- 46% had intercourse
- 5.9% had intercourse before 13
- 61.1% who have sex use a condom
- 22% used drugs or alcohol before sex
- STD's occur in 1:4 teens (nearly 1:2 for black teens)
- 17.5% carry a weapon; 5.9% carry a gun
- 5.6% carry a weapon on school property
- 7.7% threatened or injured with a weapon on school
- Lockdowns are becoming more common
- 75% of school shootings over the past 15 years have been related to bullying. Bullying peaks at 7-8 and 11-14 years old.
- 9.9% have experienced dating violence
- 5% stayed home due to fear of violence
- 14-18% qualify for special education
- 32% have a chronic condition
- 9% have asthma
- 8.9% have a learning disability; 7.8% have ADHD
- 21% with mental conditions
- significant increase to allergies
- 1:10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment, but only 1:5 receive speciality services.
- 26.1% felt sad and hopeless everyday for 2 weeks or more (clinical term for depression)
- 13.8% felt suicidal
- 6.3% tried suicide
- antidepressants can cause suicidal thinking and behavior
- adolescent suicide rates have increased, especially among the 10-14 year old group.
- bipolar increased 40 fold in the past ten years
- 1:110 kid have autism
Lastly, they were given the opportunity to open up to each other, share their stories and as a result there was some healing and strength gained in these exchanges as they were able to now see themselves in the other person. It seemed awareness, compassion, intolerance for the harmful effects of society and strength is what was gained from their exchanges.