YouthThink believes that it is not enough to just tell children and teens (no) not to do something. We must understand that feelings such as sad, bored, disappointed, alone and frustrated will come. When a feeling comes to anyone, a behavior will follow. Often as our children get older they mistakenly turn to behaviors that may make them feel better temporarily such as alcohol, marijuana and other drugs but actually lead to dangerous consequences. At YouthThink we believe that real alcohol and other drug prevention must start early and it must start with understanding the link between feelings and behaviors.
We also believe that one of the most powerful and misunderstood feeling is the feeling of boredom. The brain hates the feeling of boredom. Experts say there is even the possibility that the more bored you are, the more likely you are to die early. Psychologist Stephen Vodanovich of the University of West Florida shared with the magazine Scientific American that research from the past two decades shows boredom increases your risk of:
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Anger and aggressive behavior
- Lack of interpersonal skills
- Performing poorly at work and school
No one wants to be bored and especially now with the knowledge base of what boredom can lead to. But do we know how to deal with boredom? When a bored youth experiments with alcohol or other drugs that also interact with the pleasure center of their brain that buzzed or high feeling is understandably more desirable than the bored feeling their brain was originally struggling to deal with.
By helping parents and other caring adults understand brain biology and the science of addiction we believe that we can play a larger role in actually “growing” our children’s brain and strengthening the neural pathways that help them choose productive and healthy ways to deal with powerful feelings instead of numbing out with alcohol or other drugs.
YouthThink is also focused on SEL because of the potential long-term benefits, including economic gains. While most research on SEL efforts focus on behavior some new research in also demonstrating promising economic benefits. An example is the Seattle Social Development Project – a program based on improving child social and emotional functioning across elementary school into early middle school. This project was found to have a positive effect on outcomes extending into young adulthood and improved mental and emotional health, as well as reduced crime and substance use. The economic evaluation associated with the project estimated a return on investment that exceeded $2,500 per participant on outcomes such as increased likelihood of high school graduation, lower rates of initial sexual activity, and less criminal activity among youth participants. (Lee et al., 2012)
Additional studies have also noted the potential economic benefits of focusing on SEL as a promotion and prevention tool. A 2008 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA) summarized the economic benefits of effective programs targeting substance use and misuse (which teach SEL skills) would produce an $18 return per dollar invested and save state and local governments an estimated $1.3 billion (Miller & Hendri, 2009). That report was back in 2008, years before recreational marijuana use become legal for adults in the state of Oregon.
Further research conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pennsylvania State University note the following key findings:
- SEL programs can promote academic achievement and healthy, positive behaviors.
- SEL is critical to student’s success and shows a positive return on investment.
- Effective programs address everything from individual student instruction to overall school climate.
- SEL programs are also evidence-bases, are improved by partnering with families, are culturally and linguistically sensitive, and include teacher training.
YouthThink is committed to helping all families and children. We are determined not to wait until the crises hits our door but to “Do Something” now. We believe in focusing our efforts to include our younger population. We will empower our parents and other caring adults to create the resiliency skills need for a thriving future individual and community. At YouthThink we don’t just talk about it …we “Do Something” about it!