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The Role of Technology (Texting) in Prevention Efforts

Shana Ingram, BA
Shana Ingram, BA

Based on recent statistics from Pew Research Center (2018b), in 2002, 62% of adults in the United States owned a cellphone, and, in 2011, 35% owned a smartphone. Currently, 95% of adults in the US own a cellphone and 77% own a smartphone. This substantial increase in mobile technology ownership demonstrates the growing presence of technology in our lives. In addition to more people owning cellphones and smartphones, people are increasing the amount of times they access the internet each day. Recent polls found that, in 2018, 26% of adults report being online frequently every day, while in 2015, 21% reported frequent daily usage (Pew Research Center, 2018a). Although younger adults are commonly thought of as the age group seeking out the most screen time, adults aged 30 to 49 increased their frequent daily internet usage from 24% to 36% from 2015 to 2018, and adults aged 50 to 64 increased their frequent daily internet usage from 12% to 17% during this same time (Pew Research Center, 2018a).

Although this growing dependence on technology has been associated with harmful effects such as cyberbullying (Siegle, 2010), the positive benefits that can be gained from increased accessibility to information and resources should not be overlooked. For example, some programs rely solely on technology or minimal support to administer therapy while some clinicians and therapists utilize technology to assist them in their therapeutic practice. For those that use programs to replace the therapist, results from one study have shown that patients who experienced the interactive technology program improved more across stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms as well as in daily functioning than participants who received only information (Proudfoot et al., 2013). For those who use technology in conjunction with conventional therapeutic practices, results from one study found that combining technology with family therapy led to greater decreases in depression symptoms than family therapy alone, however results did vary by ethnicity and participant gender (Eisendorf et al., 2003). In addition to these benefits, the addition of texting features to hotline numbers provides a great prevention resource for individuals, especially for those who are unable to reach out for assistance through a phone call. Although there are many reasons why someone may not be able to seek assistance through a phone call, one article noted that text hotlines are essential for people with hearing impairments and for those who do not feel safe discussing personal information when it could be overheard (Park, 2016). Since hotlines provide vital information and support for a wide range of issues (e.g., depression, trauma, suicidal ideation, domestic violence), and since these issues, especially when left untreated, are linked to suicidal ideation and attempts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 (CDC), using technology to increase the availability of resources is essential.

Below are some important numbers to know that provide support via text messaging.

Every texter is connected with a Crisis Counselor, a real-life human being trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem solving. All of Crisis Text Line’s Crisis Counselors are volunteers, donating their time to helping people in crisis.

Please share these so that others are aware of the resources available to assist them.

Crisis Text Line
741741 (HELLO)

HopeLine
919-231-4525 (call or text)
1-877-235-4525 (call or text)

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Preventing suicide. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/preventingsuicide/index.html

Eisendorf, C., Czaja, S. J., Loewenstein, D. A., Rubert, M. P., Arguelles, S., Mitrani, V. B., & Szapocznik, J. (2003). The effect of a family therapy and technology-based intervention on caregiver depression. The Gerontologist, 43(4), 521-531.

Park, M. (2016). Crisis text line takes suicide prevention into the age of texting. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/06/24/crisis-text-line-takes-suicide-prevention-into-age-texting/83766122/

Pew Research Center. (2018a). About a quarter of U.S. adults say that they are ‘almost constantly’ online. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/14/about-a-quarter-of-americans-report-going-online-almost-constantly/

Pew Research Center. (2018b). Mobile fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

Proudfoot, J., Clarke, J., Birch, M., Whitton, A. E., Parker, G., Manicavasagar, V., Harrison, V., Christensen, H., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2013). Impact of a mobile phone and web program on symptom and functional outcomes for people with mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and stress: A randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 13, 1-12.

Siegle, D. (2010). Cyberbullying and sexting: Technology abuses of the 21st century. Gifted Child Today, 33(2), 14-65.

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Using Group-Prevention to Target School Climate

Shana Ingram, BA
Shana Ingram, BA

Using Group-Prevention to Target School Climate

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but its presence in our schools and its harmful effects not only in childhood and adolescence but throughout life is one of the most pressing reasons behind finding and implementing successful, sustainable prevention programs. If children do not feel safe in school, how can they be expected to learn? Providing a safe, supportive school environment is crucial in fostering academic and socioemotional success (Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009). This school environment, also known as school climate, reflects the quality of life experienced while at school and consists of students’, parents’, and other school personnel’s experiences (National School Climate Council, 2012). Research has shown that positive school climates promote academic achievement and social development (McEvoy & Welker, 2000), while negative school climates lead to increased aggression (i.e., bullying, assault), lower levels of academic achievement, and truancy (Astor, Guerra, & Van Acker, 2010). Regarding the prevalence of bullying in schools, recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES] show that, in 2015, approximately 21% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 experienced bullying while at school. Overall, 13.3% reported verbal harassment and 5.1% reported physical harassment. While females reported higher rates of overall bullying, specifically bullying relating to verbal harassment, males reported higher rates of physical assaults. Based on this study, bullying appears to occur more during middle school. Also, Black and White students reported more instances of bullying than Hispanic students.

Although there have been many programs that have worked to address socioemotional concerns in school systems, the majority of these programs have been found to be ineffective for a variety of reasons. However, the Safe and Welcoming Schools project at the University of Georgia focuses on improving school climate using prevention methods that are tailored to the school’s needs, and early findings related to the program’s effectiveness have been encouraging (Raczynski, n.d.).

I would like to invite others to share their experiences with programs that have effectively used prevention to target school climate and/or bullying within secondary schools.    

Shana Ingram seingram526@gmail.com

 

 

 

References

 

Astor, R. A., Guerra, N., Van Acker, R. (2010). How can we improve school safety research? Educational Researcher, 39, 69-78.

Cohen, J., McCabe, E. M., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180-213.

McEvoy, A., & Welker, R. (2000). Antisocial behavior, academic failure, and school climate: A critical review. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(3), 130-140.

National School Climate Council. (2012). School climate. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/

Raczynski, K. (n.d.). The Safe and Welcoming Schools Partnership: A university-school district collaboration for improving school climate. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/safe-schools/university-school-district.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 (NCES 2017-064), Indicator 11.

 

 

 

 

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Brief Articles

Prevention Corner: Preventing Stigma and Suicide Through Mental Health Awareness

Shana Ingram, BA
Shana Ingram, BA

Prevention Corner: Preventing Stigma and Suicide Through Mental Health Awareness

While fall can be a very exciting time of year for kids going back to school, freshmen just starting college, and gatherings with loved ones for the numerous holidays throughout the season, it inevitably brings about change, sometimes life-altering change, which can be very unsettling for many individuals. For some, this time of year means returning to an environment where personal safety is a concern due to bullying, or becoming familiarized with a new environment away from home proves challenging, or perhaps making it through the holiday season with or without loved ones becomes more difficult than expected. Regardless of the different types of obstacles people encounter during this season, many people will also experience the unwelcome feelings of anxiety, depression, and despair as a result of these struggles. While not everyone who experiences these feelings will ultimately seek mental health services for a variety of reasons, unfortunately, these feelings, especially when left untreated, will result in suicidal ideation and attempts for many individuals. Some of the risk factors associated with suicidal ideation and attempts include stressful life events, history of substance use, history of mental illness, and stigma surrounding mental illness and help-seeking behaviors (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2017). Despite the many treatment routes individuals can choose to alleviate the thoughts and feelings associated with suicide, if people feel stigmatized for seeking mental health services, treatment will likely be avoided, or discontinued, and issues may continue to worsen until it is too late. One way to diminish the harmful and deadly effects of stigma surrounding mental health issues is to better educate the public by engaging in more open discussions about mental health, and also by challenging media interpretations of individuals suffering from mental illness (Corrigan, 2004). There are many successful organizations working around the world to fight mental health stigma, particularly the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the United States (Rüsch, Angermeyer, & Corrigan, 2005). NAMI provides a wide range of services relating to mental health, including educational classes and support groups for individuals with mental health needs and for families of individuals with mental illness, as well as presentations focusing on promoting mental health awareness (NAMI, 2017). Recent research has noted the positive impact this organization has had on mental health advocacy efforts (Fitzpatrick, 2017).

While efforts to promote mental health awareness and decrease the stigma associated with mental health issues, including suicide, is important for everyone across all age groups, prevention efforts are particularly important for individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 since suicide rates are one of the leading causes of death during this time (CDC, 2015). This is understandable since this wide range of time encompasses extensive changes, such as the social and emotional changes related to adolescent development and the onset of mental health issues (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, & Merikangas, 2005). In the following issue of this column, I will invite individuals who have experience working in prevention efforts targeting areas associated with stigma and suicide with individuals in this age range, such as school climate and bullying, to share their experiences.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). 10 leading causes of death, United States. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from https://webappa.cdc.gov/cgi-bin/broker.exe

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Preventing suicide. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/preventingsuicide/index.html

Corrigan, P. (2004). How stigma interferes with mental health care. American Psychologist, 59(7), 614-625.

Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2017). Psychiatric mental health nurses and family caregivers: Creating synergy. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 31(5), 431.

Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., & Merikangas, K. R. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593-602.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). NAMI programs. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-Programs.

Rüsch, N., Angermeyer, M. C., & Corrigan, P. W. (2005). Mental illness stigma: Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma. European Psychiatry, 20(8), 529-539.

Categories
Brief Articles

Prevention Corner: Reading Orienteering Club

Shana Ingram, BA
Shana Ingram, BA

Prevention Corner: Reading Orienteering Club

As of 2015, 64% of fourth grade and 66% of eighth grade students were still reading below national proficiency standards (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015).  These numbers are troubling since illiteracy has been linked to lower socioeconomic status and poor health (Dugdale & Clark, 2008).  The importance of learning how to read cannot be understated, and, as such, it is vital that prevention programs target reading skills in childhood.  One program that aims to help children overcome difficulties with reading, as well as difficulties with interpersonal relationships, is the Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) founded by Dr. Clanton Harpine.  This program combines teaching and counseling in order to maximize academic benefits in an approach known as group-centered prevention (Clanton Harpine, 2015).  This format for a reading prevention group is incredibly important for two reasons.  First, combining academic and therapeutic interventions in prevention programs has been linked to a higher likelihood of obtaining academic success (Baskin, Slaten, Sorenson, Glover-Russell, & Merson, 2010), and, second, research has shown that teaching in groups, especially in small groups, leads to better results than other forms of teaching instruction (National Reading Panel, 2000).  Although this program originated in Ohio, it has found a home in Aiken, South Carolina, and, under the careful direction of Dr. Clanton Harpine, has experienced great success in improving children’s reading abilities and interpersonal skills for many years.  Even though Dr. Clanton Harpine is retiring this year, the ROC will continue under the guidance of Collytte Cederstrom, a former intern whom I worked with at the clinic while I was an undergraduate, as well as three additional team members, Sara Puckett, Matt Haslinger, and Ashley Conklin, and a rotation of church, community, and student volunteers.  Dr. Clanton Harpine was kind enough to share her thoughts on building and continuing a sustainable student-run reading prevention program, as well as the important effects of these programs for students and the larger community.  

While the ROC has typically depended on student volunteers from local undergraduate courses in order to operate fully, this proved challenging at times due to the high number of children in the program, the fluctuating number of volunteers, and the small number of permanent team members working in the clinic.  This past year, Dr. Clanton Harpine sought to enlarge her team of permanent members in order to provide more stability to the program, and, did so successfully.  The ROC now has four permanent team members and each member is in charge of their own room within the clinic with the children rotating throughout the workstations in each room.  Having this consistent, larger student presence in the clinic has not only provided a stronger base for the program, but will also continue to provide more opportunities for students and community members to gain experience working in a prevention group setting.  In addition to these permanent team members, the clinic will still rely on student volunteers, as well as community volunteers, and a rotation of church volunteers.  Community involvement has always played a role in the success of the ROC, but it seems the remarkable improvement shown by students in the program these past few years has garnered even more community and financial support, which will be vital in continuing this program.  

Although group prevention programs for academic purposes are often overlooked in favor of individual tutoring, for the 2016-2017 academic year, the ROC had two students move up four grade levels, three students move up three grade levels, and five students move up two grade levels.  In addition to the success the program has had in improving students’ reading abilities, this program, as well as others like it, also provide an area for job growth, specifically for students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in psychology who do not wish to, or are unable to, attend graduate school (Clanton Harpine, 2016).  Overall, group prevention programs represent a field that will not only benefit the participants in the programs, but also the communities they are a part of by providing more opportunities for support and job expansion.    

References

Baskin, T. W., Slaten, C. D., Sorenson, C., Glover-Russell, J., & Merson, D. N. (2010). Does youth psychotherapy improve academically related outcomes?: A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 290-296.

Clanton Harpine, E. (2015). Group-Centered Prevention in Mental Health: Theory, Training, and Practice. New York: Springer.

Clanton Harpine, E. (2016). Prevention Corner: Why can’t I get a job with a four year degree in psychology. The Group Psychologist, 26(2).

Dugdale, G., & Clark, C. (2008). Literacy changes lives: An advocacy resource. London, UK: National Literacy Trust.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2011 (NCES 2015-457). Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4754).