February is Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence is when a partner uses power to gain control over the other partner and can occur in four different ways physical, emotional, sexual and stalking. Learning about the four ways and ways to prevent dating violence in adolescents is a way to prevent it from happening in adulthood.
According to Metropolitan Family Services 1 in every 3 teens in the U.S are a victim of dating violence. It happens in every type of relationship and community. When it comes to teen relationships over 80% of those who are in an abusive relationship stay in that relationship. This is partially due to teens not talking to friends or a trusted adult about the abusive behaviors and parents and friends not picking up on the warning signs of these relationships.
Some common behaviors that abusers exhibit are checking a partner’s phone and email without permission, isolating a partner from friends and family, telling a partner what they can and cannot do, having mood swings and having explosive behavior and temper, making false accusations, showing signs of jealousy and insecurities, and physically hurting a partner.
If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, there are many resources to get help. First you can speak to a trusted adult. Locally we have Henderson House which provides services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence victims, they can be reached 24/7 at 503 472-1503 or online at http://www.hendersonhouse.org. If you are looking for other resources on abusive relationships, I have found loveisrespect.org and heasrmyvoice.breakthecycle.org is a great teen resource!
Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among youth. According to data collected from the Monitoring the Future survey, three-fourths of twelve graders, more than two- thirds of tenth graders and about two in every five eighth graders have consumed alcohol. The data that was collected shows that when youth drink they tend to drink excessively, often consuming 4 to 5 drinks in a short period of time.
Research has begun to show that many youths begin drinking at around 14 years old, the younger a person starts to drink the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol. When youth start to drink at such a young age, they are more likely to engage in harmful behaviors to themselves and others. Such as, using other drugs, engaging in risky sexual behaviors and often failing classes.
There are also health risks that come from starting drinking at such a young age. The main health risk is the effects on the brain, a typical brain is not fully developed until a person is in their mid 20’s, drinking alcohol can have a long term effect on ones thinking and memory skills. The liver also suffers lasting effects like elevated liver enzymes that can lead to liver damage. Since the teenage years are full of bodily changes and rapid growth spurts drinking during this crucial time can offset the normal balance that is needed for one to develop normal organs, muscles, and bones.
Since underage drinking is such an epidemic there are many restrictions and harsh consequences, such as jail time and large fines for selling and buying alcohol for minors across the United States. In all 50 states the legal age limit to drink is 21, and doing so has been successful in reducing alcohol related crashes among people under 21 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All states also have a zero tolerance law, making it illegal for anyone under 21 who has been drinking to drive. Another effective approach to stopping underage drinking has been raising the price and placing a tax on alcohol sales in some states.
There are also more personalized programs that have been put in place to intervene with underage drinking. Many schools have effective programs that address the social pressures to drink and offer peer led support groups. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that one of the biggest influence on whether youth start drinking starts at home, if parents set clear rules against drinking and consistently inforce them it helps reduce the likelihood of underage drinking.
Tobacco use among Middle and High School Students has thankfully decreased from 2011 to 2017. However, 1 in 5 High School Students and 1 in 18 Middle School Students currently use tobacco products, almost half of those who use a tobacco products report using two or more tobacco products according to The Center for Tobacco Products.
While cigarette and cigar use among teens is on the decline, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices are beginning to skyrocket. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 1.5 million more students began to use e-cigarettes in 2018 vs. 2017. This is partially due the availability of flavors that can be added to the devices and how discretely they can be used on school campuses.
These devices are often seen as less harmful because there is not any tar in the product, however they still contain nicotine and many other addictive chemicals. According to The American Association of Poison Control Centers, the vapor is not harmless like many may think, it contains chemicals that cause cancer, the chemicals can cause harm to unborn babies and is a significant source of indoor air pollution.
What can be done to prevent teenage use of cigarettes and other smoking devices? Legislators are currently fighting to prevent easy access to tobacco products and end marketing of tobacco products aimed at youth such as flavors. An important factor in ending teen tobacco use is educating not only the teen but also retailers about the role they play in selling to minors.
November is National Homeless Awareness month, and a big part of raising awareness for homelessness is understanding the causes of it. Homelessness is something that affects people everywhere. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than 610,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. The biggest factor that leads to homelessness is the loss of a job. The diagram shows the main factors of homelessness but there are other factors as well like lack of affordable housing, natural disasters and traumatic experiences.
So how do we fix the rising number of people becoming homeless? Since homelessness is defined as lack of housing the number one way to make a dent in ending homelessness is to offer housing solutions, such as affordable housing or long term shelter options. Once a person has a place to call home they will often have a sense of security and begin to be able to hold a job and begin to focus on other matters such as mental issues, substance problems, education and basic health care needs.
Housing however is not the only solution. Someone who faces homelessness will need access to services. A person needs access to health care, this includes basic health care needs, behavioral and mental health care as well. Transportation services to get a person to appointments and interviews is vital, along with transportation an important service that is often needed is affordable childcare.
An important key to ending homelessness besides available housing and access to services is creating human connections. It is far too easy for a person facing such a life altering experience like homelessness to feel lonely, depressed or even suicidal. Often when a person is not in the same living situation as another there is a separation of “us” and “them”. This is a flawed view we need to as a society focus on including and connecting one another versus separating those who are different. When community members come together it often leads to a positive change and more voices are often heard.
Putting an end to homelessness is not going to happen overnight, but with enough awareness, intervention and programs geared to preventing and helping people who face homelessness a change can be made!
October is National Anti- Bullying month, it is a time to come together to prevent and stop bullying. Bullying affects everyone and is everywhere from places like school to shopping malls. Approximately ¼ of all high school aged kids have experienced being bullied because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
There are easy types of bullying to recognize such as hitting or kicking but there are also less known forms of bullying and they are:
Verbal which uses language to hurt, embarrass, harass or intimidate others.
Social involves hurting another’s social standing by intimidating, controlling or harmful actions.
Physical uses physical force to harm another person by using one’s body such as their hands or feet to cause harm or control.
Cyber bullying is when someone uses technology to cause harm like verbal and social bullying but is done through a media source.
Trust your gut, if it looks like bullying it most likely is. The best way to stop bullying is to stand up and be a part of the solution vs. being a bystander. Studies have shown that when another person intervenes, the bullying often stops because then the bully begins to feel their behavior is no longer accepted by those around them. All it takes is one person to speak up.