By David Joel Miller.
“Can you feel the stress in this room?” The person next to me bent over and whispered in my ear. “Yes,” I replied. “I have never felt it this strongly,” they said.
Are you feeling it too?
These days people are collapsing under stress as never before. Fear is stalking us.
We are daily reminded about two wars – should we make that three – and counting? Housing prices continue to crumble; most homeowners are under water if they haven’t lost their home to foreclosure already. Unemployment is up – stubbornly up. In my area, unemployment flirts with the 20% mark. Is it any wonder we are stressed?
The gridlock in Washington hasn’t reduced the stress level of anyone I know. Did I hear that right – politicians almost let us default on the NATIONAL DEBT! And the stock market makes my stomach hurt worse than any roller coaster I ever rode on. Consumer confidence is near the bottom. Did I read that right – one credit card company emailed me a warning – I did not owe them anything but they were warning me THEY didn’t have the money to lend me?
Are company presidents really bragging about the number of American jobs they have eliminated? It is not just the low-skilled unemployed that are out of work. People with college degrees are unable to find jobs; some are running out of unemployment benefits. And the once safe place – government employment – has become a scary place as huge numbers of government employees at all levels are being laid off.
There was a time when the way to escape economic uncertainty was to go back to school, usually to college and get a degree. A degree is still a wonderful thing, but occupations are changing so rapidly a degree is no guarantee of finding a job.
California has traditionally been the land of second chances. And third and fourth … But as the budgets shrink colleges everywhere are raising tuition, cutting classes and capping enrollment So even if someone chooses to go back to school there are no guarantees of admission, classes or a career afterward. That is causing students a lot of stress.
Being a parent is even more stressful. Lots of kids are not finishing school. The numbers going to juvenile halls show no sign of declining. Teen pregnancies and drug use are everywhere you look. If parents had known the risks beforehand we might not have become parents.
It’s only adults that stress right? Kids don’t understand stress, right? They don’t know we are stressed, we are hiding it well. Wrong! The hospital emergency rooms are seeing those kids. I read on the internet, a study which said over the last ten years the number of children admitted to psychiatric hospitals has continued to rise. These are kids who say they want to commit suicide, kids who wish they were never born, or they wish that they were dead.
No, not every kid says that, but the numbers who do are rising. Kids who never before knew what homelessness meant are learning the hard way. Kids tell me they have moved 3 – 4 – 7 times or more because the family couldn’t pay the rent. Several families move in together in a house too small for one family.
Some kids get kicked out of school. I am seeing a wave of home-schooled; self-taught students who couldn’t be kept in the classroom anymore because of their behavior – or their parent’s behavior.
Lots of those kids who end up in contact with the official system, welfare, Child protective services, juvenile hall, where are their parents? They are in prison and jail. In our society, for a long time, one in three black men went to prison. But the numbers are changing now. More Hispanics, more women, and more white men are going to prison. Nowadays everyone gets a chance to do time.
Our prisons are overcrowded and soon we will have start letting people out to make room for the new prisoners.
Some kids are looking forward to seeing their parents freshly released from prison; some are scared for the same reason.
It’s the drugs, right? We have been fighting the war on drugs so long our battle flag is torn and covered in blood. More children and younger ones are trying drugs. Some are doing the drugs with their parents; others are stealing their parent’s drugs.
And it’s not just the same old drugs, six new drugs, maybe more, have arrived on the streets of America in the last couple of years. Some of these drugs aren’t illegal yet. Most don’t show on the hospital screening tests. And the kids who tell me they are using drugs – they keep getting younger and younger.
And the drugs that hurt the most are not the rare illegal ones. They are not the ones that sneak in through the windows but the ones that we openly carry in the front door. Alcohol and Tobacco related deaths account for over 95 percent of all drug-related deaths. Abused prescription drugs are in second place with all illegal drugs a distant third.
So what causes these children to succumb to all this stress? Why do some parents cave in under the stress and others make it through? In the future, I will write more about my thoughts on withstanding stress, but now I would like to know –
What do you think?
How do you cope with stress?
How can those of us that are in the helping professions, counselors, therapists, doctors, nurses and others – how can we help people to withstand these horrific levels of stress?
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the books, trainings and classes category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.