Total well-being is the key
May 17, 2013 | 371 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the course of the past week, we have emphasized many topics — “Prevention and Cessation of Underage Tobacco Use,” “Prevention of Underage Drinking,” “Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Use,” “Prevention of Alcohol Abuse” and “Suicide Prevention.”

We have advocated education as a way to prevent or reduce the effects of substance abuse or underage drinking. By educating ourselves, we gain the advantage in overcoming many of life’s obstacles.

As the week draws to a close, so does National Prevention Week. Utilizing all the information given over the past week, we take one step closer to having better mental, emotional and behavioral well-being for our families and ourselves.

What is mental, emotional and behavioral health? Mental, emotional and behavioral health refers to the overall psychological well-being of individuals and includes the presence of positive characteristics such as the ability to manage stress, demonstrate flexibility under changing conditions and bounce back from adverse situations.

Prevention, early intervention and mental health promotion can help assure the emotional fitness of young children and adolescents. There are several core concepts behind the science of prevention and promotion. Prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders requires a shift in focus. Instead of addressing a disorder after it occurs, prevention means supporting the healthy development of young people starting from birth.

Promotion of mental health is essential throughout a young person’s developmental life cycle — from the earliest years of life through adolescence and young adulthood — as well as in a variety of settings such as families, schools, neighborhoods and communities. Successful prevention must involve many different groups, including informed parents, professional educators (e.g., elementary school teachers), as well as mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals.

Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Young people who grow up in good physical health are likely to also have good mental health; similarly, good mental health contributes to good physical health. This can also lead to a reduction in risky behaviors such as underage drinking, prescription drug abuse or other illicit drug use.

Exposure to risk and protective factors affects healthy development and mental, emotional and behavioral well-being of young people. Risk factors are conditions or characteristics that put an individual at greater risk for a specific health problem or disorder. Protective factors are personal traits or conditions in families and communities that when present, contribute to an individual’s well-being.

While protective factors can make people resilient to mental, emotional and behavioral disorders, risk factors can be detrimental to mental, emotional and behavioral well-being. Some risk factors include:

- Negative experiences when communicating with others in the home;

- An inability to confide in at least one close peer;

- The absence of positive role models;

- Loneliness, or perceived lack of safety, isolation, confusion and abuse;

- Experiencing trauma or serious loss, such as the death of a parent, or other traumatic experience, especially early in life;

- Failing to maintain good physical health;

- Physical and mental health are closely intertwined, and poor physical health can lead to the development of serious mental health issues; and

- Substance abuse, which can put someone at greater risk for mental illness, and vice versa.

Now we must ask ourselves. What can we do?

1. Parents and Caregivers: Create a positive home environment by focusing on these key elements: 1) Create and maintain a safe and secure environment which includes making children feel valued and comfortable with sharing their problems; 2) ensure positive educational experiences both at home and in school; 3) be sure that you and your children communicate effectively and often ... do not be afraid to talk to your child about the dangers of risky behaviors; and 4) limit the presence of alcohol and cigarettes, and do not use illicit drugs.

2. Community Leaders and Organizations: By funding mental-health-related programs and awareness initiatives, communities can proactively prevent behavioral health problems rather than waiting until these issues develop and treatment becomes the only option available. Communities can also develop strategies to publicly communicate the importance of mental health and the value of preventive services. Communities can implement evidence-based promotion and prevention services for young children, adolescents, and the caregivers of children with mental health issues.

3. Workplaces and Employers: Weave information about mental health-friendly policies and resources into routine communications and special workplace events such as new employee orientations and banners. Institute training for supervisors about mental illnesses and how to supervise in ways that promote mental health and decrease discrimination toward employees with mental illnesses.

The mission of the GRAAB Coalition (Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors) is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery and support for youth, families and the community.

For more information on this topic, GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available from the GRAAB Coalition, call us at 423-472-5800 or info@graabcoalition.com. Visit our website for regular updates as well at www.graabcoalition.com.

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(Editor’s Note: Today’s final installment in the National Prevention Week “Viewpoint” series was written and submitted by Tanya Southerland, executive director of the GRAAB Coalition.)