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Social and Emotional Learning Skills Offer Stress Relief for LGBTQ+ Youth

By Patricia Kutza

During the month of June, as they have done for over fifty years, LGBTQ+ youth and their allies around the world will join pride marches, celebrating their right to be accepted fully for who they are. They will march knowing that many gains have been made since the 1969 Stonewall riots spawned the Gay Rights Movement. (The riots were triggered by a police raid at the Greenwich Village-based Stonewall Inn in New York City, a popular gay bar.) But they will also march knowing full well that outside the welcoming confines of pride parades they are still seen as easy targets by those who prey on the marginalized.

There is no guarantee of safety in any spaces for those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. According to the findings of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)  more than a third of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed report being bullied in person while in school and almost as many (26.6%) bullied online. They have felt so threatened that at least 13.5% of them choose not to attend school at all.

Damaging Fallout

The fallout from marginalization and bullying casts a wide net: Spiraling depression – sometimes terminating in suicide – and risky substance abuse reflect youth grasping for coping mechanisms to ease the pain of abuse. And no LGBTQ+ youth, no matter their economic or social standing, escape its destructive effects. The actor Elliot Page, who publicly came out as transsexual in 2020, shared the accumulated effect of this harassment in a recent Esquire Magazine interview: “Bullying puts you in a place where, later, you have so much unlearning to do. If you’re getting teased and made fun of and called names on a daily basis, there’s no way that’s not going to get inside of you—particularly when you’re already feeling so much shame.” 

Too often internalizing that shame is a major contributor to increasing rate of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

Providing a Safe Place

Feeling safe is such an integral part of feeling whole that the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health recommends the earliest of reinforcement – providing supportive environments from infancy within their families and peers. Schools also act as incubators, building community awareness and capacity to understand and address stressors that contribute to the LGBTQ+ perilous experience.

Coupled with a variety of suicide-deterrence techniques that include skills and gatekeeper training and behavioral screening, evidence-based social emotional learning (SEL) programs within a school setting promote healthy life skills, well-being, and a positive school environment. According to a 2019 Committee for Children report, its emphasis on self-awareness, self-management and social awareness strategies create  spaces where kids can feel safe expressing their identities.

Alleviating Hopelessness by Investing in SEL

Self-esteem builds on self-awareness and makes youth more willing and capable of using stress management skills to cope with stress. Finding strategies that work often helps alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Cultivating social relationships also mitigates feelings of hopelessness, creating a less lonely environment by lowering feelings of anxiety which increase the risk of suicide.

Investing in SEL strategies at the school level offers LGBTQ+ youth a safety net, protecting them from abuse while strengthening the skills they need to fortify themselves in a world that is slow to offer the feeling of safety they deserve.

About the author:

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Jay Levin on The Great Resignation and the Future of Work

To build the more human workforce of the future, we need to start teaching all kids Emotional Intelligence skills right now. Emotional Intelligence is often call EQ. It’s like IQ for your heart.

A workforce that is curious, empathetic, imaginative, motivated, and purposeful doesn’t start with someone’s first day on the job. It starts in schools and families and communities. Businesses need to get behind this effort in a big way, or else they’ll be way behind the curve very quickly.

Read the full article

 

 

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Do One Thing for Social-Emotional Learning

Each of us doing one small thing makes a huge difference.

You could do one small thing from the list below to help some of the millions of kids suffering emotional “devastation” from Covid-era restriction, 

Declaring  a national “youth mental health crisis, U.S Surgeon General Murthy was echoed by, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which weighed in with concerns that these many damaged children face a lifetime of mental and emotional problems compounded by learning problems. 

At the same time you will be helping create preK-12 school cultures that teach kids how to manage their feelings, traumas and relationships so they don’t go on to shoot other kids.

Dr. Murthy specifically called for rapid advancement of what educators call “social and emotional learning” (SEL) in all schools. SEL has the ability to teach kids how to manage their emotional and mental states, re-open their capacity for learning, and gain life skills for success. This approach is especially needed because there aren’t sufficient counselors and child psychologists to serve kids in trouble.

YOUR ONE THNG might be one of the following (below are what your businesses can do):

  • Share this message on your social media.
  • Share information about SEL with at least one parent you know. Send them to https://equipourkids.org.
  • Ask the HR director where you work to contact us for free information or free SEL workshops that would be helpful to parenting employees at your workplace.  They can email contact@equipourkids.org.
  • Arrange for one of our speakers to talk to groups you belong to. Email contact@equipourkids.org.
  • Parent or not, call your local school (ask for the principal) or school district (ask for the superintendent) and tell that person you support comprehensive SEL in schools. It doesn’t matter if you are not a parent.
  • Call or email your state legislators and tell them you support comprehensive SEL in schools. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re not a parent.
  • If you are a parent of school-age kids or younger, practice SEL tools at home. Visit our Child/Parent Emotional Health Toolkit . And sign up for our weekly Parent Tip Newsletter.  
  • Donate a few bucks to our campaign that effectively mobilizes support for SEL from parents, the public, employers and others, as well as directly assists grassroots educator organizations in their work advancing SEL into our schools. 

FOR BUSINESSES AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS:

  •  See the real benefits to your company or organization and a range of ways to make a difference on this page. 
  • Arrange for webinars featuring parents who are SEL experts for your parenting employees and/or customer parents. You can also choose a webinar (or just a meeting) for your executive team to learn more about beneficially engaging with this national education movement and its range of options. 

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President Biden Recognizes #SELDay 2022

National Day Supporting Social-Emotional Learning
Draws Unprecedented Recognition

Across the country, educators, parents and businesses rallied on March 11 for the third Annual SEL Day in support of Social-Emotional Learning in American schools. The day was a tremendous success by every measure:

  • President and First Lady Biden recognized SEL Day and the importance of Social Emotional Learning with a White House proclamation. This signals to educators across the country that there is now support for SEL from the highest level.
  • Proclamations also came from the governors of California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • More than 2,300 schools, districts, and organizations participated across all 50 states.
  • Over 7 million views and more than 33,000 #SELday likes across social media.
  • #SELday trended on Twitter for more than 5 hours on March 11th.

EQuip Our Kids! hosted six online panels, five of which featured parents who are SEL experts describing the transformation in their own children from experiencing SEL in their schools. Panelists included:

  • Scarlett Lewis: Sandy Hook mom, Founder and Chief Movement Officer, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement
  • David Adams: CEO of The Urban Assembly, co-founder of SEL Day
  • Jennifer Miller: author of “Confident Parents, Confident Kids”
  • Michael Strambler, PhD.: Associate Professor at Yale University School of Medicine
  • Patricia Wilkinson: author of “Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It”

As Scarlett Lewis noted during the event, Social-Emotional Learning provides “Incredible life skills like knowing how to have healthy and meaningful relationships and connections, manage our emotions, how to make responsible decisions, how to grow through difficulty.”

You can watch all the sessions at the Equip Our Kids!  YouTube playlist.

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Enriching Education: SEL Day 3/11

The third annual SEL Day on March 11, 2022. SEL Day celebrates the growing movement to equip all preK – 12 students with the social and emotional life skills they need to be happy and successful in school, relationships, work, and life.

This year, EQuip Our Kids!, a nonprofit advocacy organization working to increase awareness of SEL,  is hosting an online webinar featuring parents who are SEL expert parents whose children have transformed and thrived from experiencing SEL in their schools.

Read the full article

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Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report

In his December 2021 report, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Advisory to highlight the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. This important report has recommendations for individuals, families, employers, and others to improve the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Murthy continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

The report is a call to action for various groups. Here are some key takeaways that highlight social-emotional learning as part of the solution.

We Can Take Action

Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings. This includes creating positive, safe, and affirming educational environments and expanding programming that promotes healthy development–social and emotional learning being a prime example. Also, as a society we need to provide a continuum of supports to meet the social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of children and youth. To achieve this, we must also expand and support the early childhood and education workforce.

What Young People Can Do 

Since many of the challenges young people face are outside of their control, we need a whole-of-society effort to support children’s mental health and wellbeing from birth to adulthood. That said, below are important steps children and young people themselves can take to protect, improve, and advocate for their mental health and that of their family, friends, and neighbors: 

  • Remember that mental health challenges are real, common, and treatable.
  • Ask for help.
  • Invest in healthy relationships.
  • Find ways to serve.
  • Learn and practice techniques to manage stress and other difficult emotions.
  • Take care of your body and mind.
  • Be intentional about your use of social media, video games, and other technologies.
  • Be a source of support for others.

What Family Members and Caregivers Can Do

Families and caregivers play a critical role in providing the safe, stable, and nurturing environments and relationships young people need to thrive. Below are recommendations for how families and caregivers can engage with kids during this youth mental health crisis, helping them become more resilient and addressing emerging: 

  • Be the best role model you can be for young people by taking care of your own mental and physical health. 
  • Help children and youth develop strong, safe, and stable relationships with you and other supportive adults. 
  • Encourage children and youth to build healthy social relationships with peers. 
  • Do your best to provide children and youth with a supportive, stable, and predictable home and neighborhood environment. 
  • Try to minimize negative influences and behaviors in young people’s lives. 
  • Ensure children and youth have regular check-ups with a pediatrician, family doctor, or other health care professional. 
  • Look out for warning signs of distress, and seek help when needed. 
  • Minimize children’s access to means of self-harm, including firearms and prescription medications. 
  • Be attentive to how children and youth spend time online. Digital technology can help young people connect with friends and family, learn about current events, express themselves, and access telehealth and other resources.
  • Be a voice for mental health in your community.

What Employers Can Do

Employers can play an outsized role in supporting the mental health of children and young people. They can directly help younger employees, such as high school students working part-time jobs or young adults starting out in the labor force after high school or college. For example, employers can provide affordable health insurance that covers mental health needs. Employers can also support children and youth indirectly. Below are some recommendations for how employers can support the mental health of young people:

  • Provide access to comprehensive, affordable, and age-appropriate mental health care for all employees and their families, including dependent children. 
  • Implement policies that address underlying drivers of employee mental health challenges, including both home and workplace stressors. Employers should: Offer paid family leave and sick leave where feasible. 
  • Create a workplace culture that affirms the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of all employees and their families.
  • Regularly assess employees’ sense of wellbeing within the workplace.

Want to do more in response to the youth mental health crisis? Find out how.