Believe it or not, we (geeky school psychologists, social workers, professors, and clinical psychologists) sometimes meet for lunch.

Sometimes, while eating lunch, we will compare notes, talk about stressors from work or rewarding efforts.

On a rare occasion, if we’re lucky, one of us mental health professionals will drop a “From-The-Gut-Bomb” (FTGB) comment.

What’s an FTGB comment?

It’s pretty great.

It’s a comment we would never say in a professional context because we’ve all been trained to avoid generalized statements not grounded on concrete data or research literature. It’s professionalism, but it’s also boring.

So, when our guards are down, sometimes, one of us mental health geeks will drop an FTGB. Today, at such a lunch, an unnamed, seasoned mental health professional who has been working in the field for 20-plus years dropped this FTGB:

“Back when I did wilderness programs 20 years ago, the kids’ parents struggled with the with blatant outward behavior problems. You know, punching holes through walls, screaming at their parents and teachers. That was the majority of our clientele. Now? It is the quiet kids. It’s the kids that the parents had no idea were struggling. According to most parents we work with now, they’re shocked that their child is really struggling.

“Too often, families and teachers consider zero outward problems as problem-free. This is a crisis because we are all so isolated now. Our kids are stuck on their screens and for the adults in the room, no news is good news. No noise, no problem, you know? We’re disconnected. We’re isolated, and that is what our youth are struggling with the most. Kids and teens feel like ghosts within their families and their classrooms.”

F-T-G-B! Boom! Am I right?

Now, because we’re nerds, we can’t just let an FTGB explode like that without a challenge.

So, is there some research to support this conclusion? Are there less kids struggling with outward behavior problems? Are there more kids struggling with internal problems? Are we isolating ourselves?

Let’s take a look:

  1. Are there less kids struggling with outward behavior problems? It’s hard to say, (which is why most discussions are boring, but honestly, there’s not a ton of current research on these rates). The research that we do have suggests that this number is staying pretty static with approximately 37% of school age youth having at least some type of externalizing behavior problem in their school careers (i.e., cumulative prevalence; Forness, Freeman, Paparella, Kauffman, & Walker, 2012). In other words, there aren’t less kids acting out, they’re still acting out.
  2. Are there more kids struggling with internalizing problems like anxiety and depression? Well, we can safely conclude that there are more than we realize, mostly because it’s hard to spot. Lifetime prevalence rates suggest that 46.6% of the population will demonstrate internalizing disorders, with half of the cases occurring by age 14 (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, & Waters, 2005). I’m no math whiz, but that’s essentially half of all human beings. So are there plenty of kids and teens struggling with anxiety and depression? Half of our classrooms and half of our kids in our families are struggling.
  3. Are we isolating ourselves? Are we lonely? According to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA), yes and it’s a crisis. One of the authors, Julianne Holt-Lunstad from BYU said, “These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness.” Holt-Lunstad presented data from two meta-analyses and found loneliness was equal or exceeded the effect of well-accepted risk factors such as obesity (2016).

There you have it. After fact-checking the FTGB, we’ve got some scoring to do:

Are kids not acting out as much? Nope, kids are still acting out. FTGB = 0, Facts = 1

Are more kids struggling with depression and anxiety? Tons of kids are struggling with anxiety and depression. FTGB = 1, Facts = 1 (It’s a tie, because it’s not necessarily on the rise, there’s just a ton of kids struggling with internalizing issues.)

Are we isolating ourselves more than in the past? FTGB = 2, Facts = 1 (The FTGB gets 2 points because it was such a bold statement from the gut AND it was accurate!)

So what the heck do we do about it? How do we respond to this FTGB and the facts?

Well, we need families and school teams trained in how to help kids acting out and kids struggling with depression and anxiety. We need to focus on what brings contentment and joy back to our families and our classrooms. We need to connect with real, meaningful relationships at home and at school.

Totem PD is here to help. Our programs are tailor made for school personnel and families. Our programs include effective strategies that focus on what works for kids instead of just focusing on what is broken. Our programs focus on technical behavioral management skills peppered with relationship-based approaches.

Are we a company trying to sell you a product—you’re damn right. We’re proud of our products.

We don’t create fluff.

We create meaningful moments of learning and applicaiton. Our products are not designed to be some plastic knick-knack that gets lost in your basement or gives you access to funny cat videos on YouTube. Our products are designed to help.

We all need a little help sometimes. We feel comfortable doing just that. Contact us now for our excellent training packages, customized consultation, and plenty of FTGBs (fact-checked, of course).