June 15 2022
Oregon City Together: Coalition has requested 10% of the city’s marijuana retail tax dollars be invested in preventing youth substance abuse.
Thank you, Clackamas County commissioners, for helping prevent youth drug use in Oregon City. Oregon City commissioners should do the same.
Oregon City Together, a drug-free community coalition, was recently awarded a generous Clackamas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Grant. We will use the grant to provide an in-school program in our two middle schools to reduce risks of youth substance use in Oregon City.
The coalition acknowledges the county commissioners’ leadership and wisdom in investing in prevention. It’s a smart investment. Because the cost of addiction is very high and the cost of prevention is very low.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, the cost of substance abuse in the United States is more than over $600 billion annually and growing. Substance abuse costs society in increased health care and treatment costs, crime and lost productivity. It also costs us in in terms of unemployment, domestic abuse, foster care, divorce and homelessness. And one cannot even begin to measure the heartbreaking costs of a young life and futures lost to drugs.
On the other hand, prevention is quite cost-effective. The county’s return on its investment will pay off in years to come. Studies by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that for every $1 spent on preventing substance use addiction we save an average of $10 in the long-term. In-school programs, like the one Oregon City Together is providing with county dollars, have been shown to save $7 to $34 for every dollar invested.
Focusing prevention efforts on youth and their parents is absolutely essential. Why? Whether tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, federal research shows the majority of adults with substance use disorders began using before the age of 18. Unfortunately, the younger a person begins using substances like alcohol and marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted.
With prevention being cost-effective and the costs of drug addiction so high, why doesn’t the Oregon City Commission make a similar investment from their dispensary revenue? Protecting youth against drugs is everybody’s job. All jurisdictions receiving money from allowing marijuana sales should invest some of the funds to help reduce the negative impact of legalization on teens. For three years now, our coalition has requested 10% of the city’s marijuana retail tax dollars be invested in preventing youth substance abuse. To date, no such action has been taken.
In contrast, the Clackamas County commissioners have been in action helping our community’s youth live up to their full potential. Again, a big thank you goes to Clackamas County for investing in healthy drug-free Oregon City youth.
I urge all Oregon City residents to ask the Oregon City commissioners to make the same smart investment.
Brian Shaw is Oregon City Together’s community organizing representative.
Enter Oregon City Together’s Halloween Poster Celebration for a chance to win one of more than 140 fun prizes!
Dan Siegal, M.D., provides thoughtful, easy-to-understand explanations of adolescent brain development.
Crystal Collier, Ph.D., herself a person in long-term recovery, comes to us from Houston, Texas via Zoom. She is a therapist and educator who works with adolescents and adults with mental illness, behavior concerns and substance use disorders. Her areas of expertise include adolescent brain development, prevention programming, parent coaching and addiction. Dr. Collier received the Outstanding Research Award from the Association of Alternative Peer Groups and was named Counselor of the Year by the Houston Counseling Association. Her book, The NeuroWhereAbouts Guide, includes prevention science tools for families who want to prevent youth risky behavior.
Nothing about this year is “normal.” Or perhaps our new norm IS stress, anxiety and uncertainty.
The Oregon City School District’s Virtual learning was scheduled to begin September 8. And then the fires came. With the new school year beginning this week, parents will continue to juggle a myriad of issues as well as continued concerns about health, finances, food and housing. These concerns may differ for each family but they all cause stress and anxiety.
How can we cope as well as help our children cope?
There’s a reason airlines tell parents to put the oxygen masks on themselves first then their child. Easier said than done, but parents who deal with their own stress are usually better equipped to help their kids cope.
First and foremost, go easy on yourself. You are doing the best you can in an impossible situation. We absolutely need to offer ourselves, and others, grace during these difficult times. It can help to manage your own expectations. For example, don’t feel you must be the best home teacher in the world if you’re not trained for it. And even if you are, teaching a classroom of kids while trying to help your own child is no easy task. Don’t expect to be at your productive best when you are working at home and taking care of your own child, elderly parents, spouses, partners, etc.
Start by practicing your own self-care. Take a walk. Talk to a friend. Enjoy a quiet meal with your partner. Do something at least once a week that brings you joy. Even 30 minutes of something you enjoy can help you cope better.
Managing stress and anxiety for all family members
Breathing has been proven time and again to have incredible health benefits. A simple breathing technique can physically calm your brain and body. Think of it like food. Breathing from your diaphragm, or belly, is like eating fruits and vegetables, good proteins and healthy grains. If you breathe only from your chest where you’re not able to fully inflate your lungs, you’re not getting good ‘nutrition.’ It would be like eating fast food, cookies or ice cream all of the time. Maybe sustainable in the moment, but doesn’t fuel you to be your best and healthiest self.
Do a self-assessment. Lay down on your bed or the couch and put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. You should primarily feel the hand on your stomach rising and falling as you breathe in and out. If you only feel your chest rising, you need to train yourself to breathe from your diaphragm or belly.
Practice by putting your hand on your stomach and taking a deep breath in through your nose. You should feel your stomach inflate almost like you have a balloon in your belly. Breathe in to the count of four . . . hold for four seconds . . . and then breathe out to the count of four. Repeat this four times. Try it out here. Have your kids and other family members do it with you.
CREATE NEW ROUTINES
Decision-making fatigue is generating considerable stress for parents and others. It may not be the particular event that causes stress, but all the hassles that arise as a result. Clearly, routines that worked in the past no longer work. If you have not already done so, replace old routines with entirely new routines. Putting fresh routines in place can require fewer “modifying” decisions to the old routines to exhaust us. These new routines can help things feel normal and help you feel in control.
This goes for your kids as well. No matter their age, don’t assume your kids know what to expect even though they experienced virtual learning last spring. Talking about new routines and creating a visual schedule of what their day will look like can help normalize the new school year and reduce stress. Knowing what’s ahead can be comforting.
Build time in the schedule for staying connected to their friends. Youth who feel supported and accepted are more resilient and better positioned to weather stressful times. For younger kids, this may mean regular lunches together via Zoom and art projects they can send each other in the mail. Tweens and teens really need time on their devices to connect with friends and activities. Helping teens stay connected with peers is important.
Encourage teens to keep up any fun things they have been doing for the past six months, especially those involving physical activity. Even if they weren’t active in a sport or had a PE class, kids were getting opportunities for exercise during recess or going from class to class within their school. These opportunities are limited and with fall and winter on the way, we all may need to get creative and think of new ways to stay active.
FOCUS ON WHAT CAN BE CONTROLLED
Practice acceptance. Categorize what you can and can’t control. Focusing mostly on what you can control can go a long way toward reducing stress.
What to watch for with mental health issues
As this pandemic goes on … and on, mental health issues will keep emerging.
Being sad makes sense as a logical reaction to loss and unmet expectations, such as graduation ceremonies, parties and life as we knew it to be. There is no silly reason to be sad, especially during these days of COVID.
Talk to your kids often about how they are feeling. They may not know they are sad but are feeling numb or angry. Some kids are unaware of their feelings and are silent. Don’t take this as a sign that all is ok. Ask questions like, How are you feeling about doing school online right now?” or “What have you been thinking about lately?” to open the conversation and check in with them. It can be helpful to use a feelings chart with younger kids to help them recognize various emotions or an emotion thermometer to help them evaluate their feelings. For teens, some coping skills may be helpful or just taking time to explore their worry to help them identify what might happen vs what will happen.
All feelings have an important reason for being there. It’s not the feeling that causes the problem, but what we do with it. Pushing it away or pretending it doesn’t exist can make things worse.
Always validate your child and teen’s sadness. It is a healthy, normal emotion. Do not try to get them to let go and move on too quickly. But encourage them to seek positive social interactions with friends and family members, enjoy physical activities and eat well.
With that said, watch that the sadness doesn’t continue for too long. If the sadness becomes persistent, or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork or family life, it may indicate that they are depressed.
The symptoms of depression in children and teens vary. They can include:
- Continued feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Increased sensitivity to rejection
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite — either increased or decreased
- Anger, vocal outbursts, crying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy
- Physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches, that don’t respond to treatment
- Reduced ability to function at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
Likewise, you might notice an increase in symptoms of anxiety in children and teens which can include:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
We have to be careful not to fall into a cycle of anxiety during this time of COVID given that much of us feel a great amount of uncertainty during this time. This article from Psychology Today gives some helpful tips on how you can help your teen struggling with anxiety.
If any of these conditions last, seek help. Your family practitioner or pediatrician can help diagnose the problem and offer solutions. Oregon’s “telehealth” rules have been loosened and it is now possible for counselors to take care of people online. School counselors continue to be a good resource as well. Ogden Middle School resources. Gardiner Middle School resources.
Here’s to a good school year. Remember, we are all doing the best we can in an impossible situation! Breathe!
Paige Hirt, LPC, NCC, CADC1
Paige is a parent, counselor and founding member of the Oregon City Together Coalition