Health, Safety & Welfare Reports - Written and Reported by the Solon Council of PTAs Health, Safety & Welfare Committee
Mental Health - April 2022
Some of the aspects of this two-year pandemic have let up thankfully. However, recent report from the CDC indicated that the pandemic took a toll on our high school kids and these effects continue to be problematic. More than four in ten teens stated they felt “persistently sad or hopeless” and 20% indicated they had contemplated suicide. New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association also issued similar warnings last fall about the worsening state of mental health in our youth, from elementary school up. AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Children’s mental health is in crisis (apa.org)
Before Covid, one in five children had a mental disorder and only 20% of those children were receiving care. From March 2020 to October, mental health related ER visit increased 24% for children ages 5 to 11 and 31% for those 12 to 17. Having outpatient treatment or school services can help to prevent this level of care. However, access to outpatient care is uneven in our country and often schools which need the most resources have fewer school counselors.
Stress on families and isolation were an issue that affected many teens. More than half experienced emotional abuse at home (swearing at, insulting), 11% experienced physical abuse and over a quarter of students reported a parent lost a job. LBGTQ reported greater levels of emotional abuse by parents and also had worse levels of mental health and more suicide attempts.
Racism was also an issue. Over a third stated they had experienced racism with the highest levels among Asian Students (64%) and 55% of Black students and students of multiple races reported experiencing racism. Experiencing racism is linked to poor mental health, academic performance, and lifelong risk behaviors as is experiencing mental health issues.
What was also found is that feeling “school connectedness” where students feel cared for, supported, and belonging can mitigate some of these effects. Teens who felt connected to peers and adults at school were significantly less likely to feel hopeless and to consider or attempt suicide. In these last two years, student’s feelings of connectedness has declined so this is a time to rebuild. This highlights the effects we can all have as a Solon community with helping to reduce the negative effects of life stress and mental health symptoms. This is a responsibility we should all take seriously and impart on our children, parents, staff, and administration.
Sleep - March 2022
The topic of sleep is often a big one for parents, especially when our children are infants and toddlers. We can be protective of our children’s need for sleep, rearranging schedules to accommodate bedtimes and naps. There can be a tendency to be more hands off as our children get older and think they can regulate their own sleep schedules. However, many students (and parents) aren’t getting enough hours of sleep and that has a detrimental effect on behavior, brain development, health, and emotions.
However, all children thrive on a regular bedtime routine. Regular sleep deprivation often leads to some pretty difficult behaviors and health problems—irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypertension, obesity, headaches, and depression. Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, and better school performance, behavior, memory, and mental health.
So the big question always is, how much sleep does my kid need? And then upon seeing that number, a lot of statements about whether that is the case for a particular child. There are always outliers but for most of us, we truly do need more sleep and even though children may be able to technically function on less, that doesn’t mean they’re not paying a price in some way.
Here are tips from Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? - HealthyChildren.org
- Make sufficient sleep a family priority.Understand the importance of getting enough sleep and how sleep affects the overall health of you and your children. Remember that you are a role model to your child; set a good example. Staying up all night with your teen to edit his or her paper or pulling an all-nighter for work yourself isn't really sending the right message. Making sleep a priority for yourself shows your children that it's part of living a healthy lifestyle—like eating right and exercising regularly.
- Keep to a regular daily routine.The same waking time, meal times, nap time, and play times will help your child feel secure and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime. For young children, it helps to start early with a bedtime routine such as brush, book, bed. Make sure the sleep routines you use can be used anywhere, so you can help your child get to sleep wherever you may be.
- Be active during the day.Make sure your kids have interesting and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air.
- Monitor screen time.The AAP recommends keeping all screens—TVs, computers, laptops, tablets, and phones out of children's bedrooms, especially at night. To prevent sleep disruption, turn off all screens at least 60 minutes/1 hour before bedtime. Create a Family Media Use Plan and set boundaries about use before bedtime.
- Realize that teens require more sleep, not less. sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. At the same time, most high schools require students to get to school earlier and earlier. The AAP has been advocating for middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. It is important that parents and local school boards work together to implement high school start times that allow teens to get the healthy sleep they need. See the AAP policy statement, School Start Times for Adolescents, for more information.
- Avoid overscheduling.In addition to homework, many children today have scheduled evening activities (i.e., sports games, lessons, appointments, etc.) that pose challenges to getting a good night's sleep. Take time to wind down and give your children the downtime that they need.
- Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnea, and loud or heavy breathingwhile sleeping.
- Talk to your child's teacher or child care providerabout your child's alertness during the day. Sleep problems may manifest in the daytime, too. A child with not enough, or poor quality sleep may have difficulty paying attention or "zoning out" in school. Let your child's teacher know that you want to be made aware of any reports of your child falling asleep in school, as well as any learning or behavior problems.
- Talk to your child's pediatrician about sleep.Discuss your child's sleep habits and problems with your pediatrician, as most sleep problems are easily treated. He or she may ask you to keep a sleep log or have additional suggestions to improving your child's sleep habits.
Health Benefits of Time Outside - February 2022
People in general, including children, spend much less time outside than in the past. We’ve outfitted our homes to be comfortable and we have numerous distractions and forms of entertainment. But being outside has a host of benefits and may be something to work on for this year, even in this current weather.
The book “There’s no such thing as bad weather” by Linda Akeson is based on a Swedish quote: "There is no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothing." The book discusses at length the mindset of other countries, in particular Scandinavian countries, where the winter weather and rain is not a deterrent to being outside. You just need the right clothing, and you can handle anything and that is particularly applicable to us in Northeast Ohio. As a result, their culture emphasizes being outside as much as possible and this is incorporated into education and their daily family lives.
The National Wildlife Federation has put together a guide discussing the reasons and the research behind the importance of being outside. It discusses the physical as well as the emotional and cognitive benefits for children. Being outside is a key part of overall wellness and health. BeOutThere_WholeChild_V2.ashx (nwf.org)
Adults and teens benefit just as much. An article by the American Psychological association details the cognitive benefits of being outside, such as better attention, better working memory, and improved cognitive flexibility. Being outside helps to lower stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure and increases happiness, the feeling of connectiveness, and social relationships.
Here is another site detailing the health benefits of being outside in terms of exercise, bone and muscle development, Vitamin D, boosted immunity from sunlight and organic compounds in the air from plants, and improved sleep.
And if you want to make a challenge for yourself and your family, try for 1000 hours. This seems like so much and it breaks down to about 20 hours a week! There is a tracker app available and maybe the specific 1000 hours isn’t going to happen for you but it still helps to be more mindful and intentional about being outside and sets the expectation that being outside is important!
Vaping and e-Cigarettes - January 2022
Vaping was recently called an epidemic by the FDA as its popularity and prevalence has increased 900% from 2011 to 2015. In 2020, e-cigarettes remained the most common tobacco product used by high school (20%) and middle school (5%) students in the last 30 days.
Children are exposed to e-cigarette advertising in the media, and in magazines and billboards. E-cigarettes are also advertised using the same themes and tactics that have been shown to increase youth initiation of other tobacco products, including cigarettes. In 2016, about 7 in 10 middle school and high school students (69.3%)—more than 18 million youth—said they had seen e-cigarette advertising. Although it is illegal for e-cigarettes to be sold to youth under age 21, they can be ordered online.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Connections in the brain are called synapses and are formed when a new memory is created or a new skill is learned. A lot of these new connections occur in adolescence and nicotine can change the way these synapses are formed.
Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. Many young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke cigarettes. Specifically, a 2018 National Academy of Medicine report found that there was some evidence that e-cigarette use increases the frequency and amount of cigarette smoking in the future. E-cigarettes also can be used to deliver other drugs, including marijuana; in 2016, approximately one-third of U.S. middle and high school students who have ever used an e-cigarette reported using marijuana in the device.
But e-cigarette use among young people is still unsafe, even if they do not progress to future cigarette smoking. Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not to inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs. Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused some fires and explosions, a few of which have resulted in serious injuries. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes. Nationally, approximately 50% of calls to poison control centers for e-cigarettes are for kids 5 years of age or younger.
Here are some helpful links with further information. It is never too soon to talk to your child about vaping and to be on the lookout for indications they are using substances. Additionally, in the past there were not many resources for kids who needed treatment for vaping but this appears to be catching up.
ADHD/Mental Illness/Depression Screening/World Mental Health Awareness - October 2021
Many of us are feeling the effects of the stress of the last two years as are our students. It’s been a long time since things were “normal” and even when things were normal, there was still a lot to deal with. October marks the recognition of many different conditions, particularly those concerning mental health. National ADHD Awareness Month, Mental Illness Awareness Week, National Depression Screening Day, and World Mental Health Day.
O.P.E.N. had its first presentation last week and Solon’s school psychologists Valerie Smith and Gina Williams shared information about anxiety. They discussed the different types of anxiety and how it can present, as well as coping strategies families can use and when to seek additional help. Anxiety levels are high right now and this can affect functioning at school, home, and in relationships. The presentation is available to watch at https://setv.viebit.com/index.php?folder=OPEN+Meetings
It is important to take care of ourselves and our children and to be aware of symptoms and options for help. Dealing with mental health symptoms is not easy. It can be frustrating and upsetting, especially when trying to help our kids. But just as we seek information and treatment for a medical condition, it is important to do the same for mental health issues.
Nutrition and Gut Health - September 2021
I know that I tend to hear the phrase “gut health” being tossed around lately and hear snippets of how it can affect everything from basic digestive health to inflammation to your immune system to possibly your mental health. According to an article on Harvard Health, (Feed your gut - Harvard Health):
Having a healthy microbiota may help foster a healthy immune system and reduce damaging inflammation in the body. Eating probiotics regularly may also help to prevent the intestinal environment from being overrun by unhealthy bacteria, which have been linked to everything from mood disorders and obesity to diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.
That sounds great but not necessarily simple in knowing how and what to do, particularly with children. I came across this event on HealthyChildren.org which is the more parent friendly (less scientific journalish) space for the American Academy of Pediatrics to discuss issues with parents:
The event takes place on September 30th and here is the description:
- Why good nutrition and gut health are important
- How gut health affects the digestive system and overall development in kids
- How gut health and nutrition affects kids’ brains
- The importance of a healthy gut microbiome
- The difference between prebiotics and probiotics
- Which foods support healthy kids
- Why fiber is important and what fruits and vegetables have functional fibers
- Tips and tricks parents can implement to get their kids to eat fruits and vegetables
- And much more…
We hope you’re able to check it out and find out more about this development in our understanding of the mind-body connection!
Emotional Intelligence - April 2021
A report published in Forbes in 2014 (Emotional Intelligence - EQ (forbes.com) noted that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance in jobs and can account for 58% of success in jobs. It also indicated that individuals stronger in emotional intelligence skills can expect to earn up to $29,000 annually. This applies for people in all industries, at all levels, across the world. This is a different message than what was traditionally thought of being the strongest predictor of success which was IQ.
So what is emotional intelligence? It consists of four skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. And unlike IQ, which is fixed, EQ can be developed in our children as well as ourselves with practice. It affects most of what we do and say each day.
As parents and educators, how we model the handling of emotions is crucial in teaching our kids how to handle theirs. Naming and identifying emotions from an early age is a first step as well as listening and validating what our children are experiencing. Mindfulness, which our district has incorporated in the last few years, is also a way to develop emotional intelligence.
Here are several sites that have games, toys, and stories as well as apps that can help children with managing emotions and learning social awareness.
Furthermore, emphasizing these abilities is another way to develop skills and success, outside of academics, the creative arts, and sports. These skills are not only as important, but likely more important in long term success and wellbeing. So start talking about, modeling, and practicing emotional intelligence skills!
The Dangers of E-cigarettes and Vaping
In 2016, the National PTA approved a resolution to support legislation, regulation and/or other national, state and local measures to address the manufacturing of and ingredients in e-cigarettes and other ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) as well as to prohibit the advertising, marketing and sale of e-cigarettes and other ENDS, to youth (18 years or younger) and to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and other ENDS in public places and school grounds.
Unfortunately, three years later, the situation with vaping has become much worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, there was a 78% increase in high schoolers vaping and a 48% increase in middle schoolers, leading to an estimated 3.6 million U.S. middle and high schoolers who reported vaping in the last 30 days. Moreover, the majority of these students had never previously used cigarettes or other forms of tobacco, making e-cigarettes the main entry point for adolescent tobacco use. Each pod in a Juul branded device contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and as the need for more nicotine increases, youth are likely to begin to incorporate conventional cigarettes into their routine.
The CDC released a statement a week ago indicating there have been 94 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping in 14 states from June 28th to August 15th of this year. An article in Time last spring, https://time.com/5549340/vaping-addiction-treatment/ reported on the lack of available treatment for youths addicted to vaping due to its newness and the previous research that has been done on nicotine addiction has focused on adults. Juul is being criticized as well as sued for marketing devices to minors, particularly with all of the flavors it offers, as well as deceiving users about the risks.
So what can you as a parent do?
- The CDC recommends that you become very familiar with the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes, including being aware they can take the form of a flash drive or a pen
- Learn about the risks of vaping. Talk to your children about this as well. Because of the way they are marketed, students may not realize the risks to their health and in becoming addicted.
- Use the following as an additional resource: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/factsheet/index.html
Explanation of new Solon Schools e-cigarette vaping policy.
E-cigarettes, vaping, juuling, or the use of other similar devices that are used to inhale or ingest foreign substances, will initially be treated as a drug offense. Within twenty-four (24) hours of the violation, the student may complete an approved drug screen with an approved testing facility. Test results must be sent directly to the school administrator from the testing facility. Upon receipt/review of the results, if administration is able to clearly establish that no illegal substance (other than nicotine) has been discovered, the administrator may reduce the violation to a vaping offense.