Going upstream is the story of village inhabitants regularly saving people drowning in a river; those apparently thrown in somewhere upstream. Rather than figuring out what was happening upstream, the “Downstreamers” were perfectly content to keep saving those drowning, rather than finding out the upstream root cause of the drowning. This has been the standard of practice with many health and social issues that are being treated in a silo. We, as a nation, should honor the robust and plentiful science regarding root cause issues. The Center for Relationship Education team has done the due diligence regarding the research and have isolated a root cause issue to address. Disconnection or misconnection (being involved in unhealthy relationships) is a root cause for many types of deleterious life outcomes especially for adolescents. Research journals are filled with studies that outline risk behaviors such as alcohol or drug use, skipping school, academic underachievement, increased dropout rates, violence, crime, teen pregnancy, depression and suicide ideation, including childhood obesity as one of the many behavioral risk factors stemming from being disconnected or misconnected. Colorado, especially, needs to take note as the rate of teen suicide in Colorado has increased by 58% in 3 years, making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths.
How do we, as a country, address this root cause of many health and social issues? It has been oft repeated in leadership and sales programs, “It’s all about relationships.” Building relationships has been used to sell real estate, cars, and other high-ticket items. Doctors and nurses are trained to improve their bedside manners. Relationship training has been utilized to call center operators to calm down and “relate” to irate, unhappy customers. Educators are trained to motivate and inspire with skills to make a connection with their students. Even ambulance-chaser lawyer commercials are riddled with connection language of, “You are known to us and we care about you.”
There is robust evidence that healthy relationships play a vital role in healing trauma, building resilience, increasing academic performance, creating protective factors in multiple areas of human capital development and flourishing which increases pro-social behaviors.
There is a disconnection between data, programming and funding. We say relationships are key, but do not make them a priority in our families, friendships, schools, neighborhoods, the workplace or in prevention initiatives. We do we not teach etiquette, grooming, social pleasantries, kindness, effective conflict resolution strategies, the art of conversation or operationalize healthy relationship skills to children in school as an essential part of the curriculum in every class. We do not invest in this foundational human experience. There is a lot of money being allocated to the prevention of suicide, substance abuse, addictions, poverty, dropout rates, violence, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, gangs and other risk behaviors. All humans yearn for authentic, meaningful and satisfying relationships and positive social connections. Perhaps we need to start teaching relationship development skills to combat disconnectedness and mis-connectedness. Let’s become “Upstreamers”! The time is now! email@example.com; www.myrelationshipcenter.org
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