5 Steps

5 Steps

On Monday morning, I had supervision with my boss and was going over a DBT case conceptionalization worksheet. We were talking about my current clients in DBT. The goal of the worksheet is to figure out how they got there. It’s a bio social evaluation. Bio meaning, what you are born with. Social meaning, what you are exposed to. From a DBT standpoint, the most “critical” social environment is an invalidating one.

She used the example of a child having a learning disorder and parents not understanding why the child can’t get the work done. Or, when a child doesn’t clean their room and a parent suggests it’s because they don’t listen or they don’t care. The child then internalizes and believes there is something wrong, off, or bad about them, not the behavior.

“Omg, did I do that to Bug?” was ruminating as I tried to listen.

“Keep focus Britt, there is a reason and a need for you to know this.”

We got through as much of the worksheet that we could in our hour session. My exterior is composed, while inside, I’m panicking. I muster out,

“What if people don’t realize or mean harm when they say those things? What if it’s the only way they think they can get through or spark a fire to motivate the other person.”

My boss then said, “Most invalidation is done without malicious intent. But, it doesn’t change how the invalidated person feels in the moment, malicious or not.”

BINGO, there it is!

I left my supervision and immediately called my sister.

“Ash, do you think Bug had a learning disorder and that’s why she was struggling so badly?”

“Oh my Britt, I never even thought of that.”

“Me either, she was so smart, quick-witted, and advanced in so many other area’s. She had so many friends. I just assumed she was putting her social relationships ahead of her school work. I never thought there was actually something wrong with how she was processing the information. Fuck Ash, I invalidated her, I missed it. What if I was wrong this whole time?”

“I don’t know, Britt. Sadly, for the rest of our lives we will question, what if’s, and, shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. But you can’t be too hard on yourself. I never thought about it either. It’s also the teachers responsibility to notice these type of things. As a parent, you are not in the school environment with her. The teachers should have said something if she needed testing. But, they always just assumed she was more into her friends than work.”

Damnit, invalidating environment number 2!

I hung up the phone and headed to the Goodwill. I was crying and apologizing to Bug, speaking out loud. As, I pulled into the donation line, the first thing I see is this,

You are right, Bug. I will pray! Thank you for the reminder.

With this being the last week of September, Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, I wanted to circle back on what I believe is the most efficient way to tackle this epidemic. As I’ve eluded to in past blogs, it starts in schools.

  • STEP 1: Social, emotional and mental health have to be as important as academics. Meaning, children are taught how to emotionally regulate, meditate, identify and speak about their feelings, empathy, resolve conflict, and connect with others. Without cognitive, social and emotional control in a classroom, learning cannot occur.
  • STEP 2: We must increase mental health support in our school systems. 1 professional to 734 students is unacceptable. There needs to be 5 mental health professionals in each school.
  • 2A: TWO professionals working one on one mental health therapy. Students can get it outside of school. But, it should be offered in school as well.
  • 2B: ONE professional to deal with any “fires”, issues, or trauma that may arise during the school day.
  • 2C: TWO professionals that deal with academic planning, goal setting, and IEP’s. They work directly with the special education providers and team.
  • Then depending on the need of the children, all 5 mental health professionals can work together to provide appropriate care.
  • STEP 3: It is a proven fact that talking about suicide does not make people complete. Its not talking about it when it becomes dangerous. I propose at least one seminar a year where students learn about suicide prevention, in school, starting in 5th grade. The seminar will teach them signs to look for in themselves and their peers. They will learn about resources and crisis lines. The students will then make ” a safety plan.” They pick 2 adults that they feel comfortable with and inform them they are their ” Suicide Safety Friend.” These adults will provide them with any additional support if they feel suicidal. The adult’s will commit to talking to them and meeting with them in their time of need. Also, help them decide if any further measures need to be taken to keep them safe.
  • STEP 4: Providing parenting skill courses, just like our children are learning about suicide prevention, and social and emotional wellbeing. We need to teach the parents to model those behaviors. Parents today are the guinea pig generation for balancing how to raise children in such a social media influenced culture. It is very different from how we were raised. Making parents aware of what our children are exposed to daily and how it effects their brains. Teaching parents how to implement healthy coping strategies. Emphasizing how important it is to validate your children’s feelings and emotions, while, helping them w/ their academics.
  • STEP 5: Using a restorative practice model with children who “misbehave” in the classroom. Suspension should be taken off the table, it doesn’t work. The restorative model is to be used instead of simply punishing the student for breaking the rules. With the right questioning and understanding the impact of the behavior, it will ultimately decrease the behavior in the future.

I have said a million times, what does prevention actually look like? To me, this is a tangible and attainable model that fully supports mental health and well-being starting young. With the goal that it will decrease suicide rates in children and adults.

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