stress-related and psychological disorders
The human system can usually adapt to a certain amount of stress, but if that stress is repeated or prolonged, the body eventually shows signs of wear and tear. It seems that everyone has a weak spot, a target organ of stress. Although all parts of the body are equally exposed to stress, the weakest link, as in a chain, breaks down.
The link between stress and killer diseases like cardiovascular illnesses and cancer has been established for some years. Stress also plays a part in digestive disorders such as colitis, constipation or diarrhoea. What comes as a surprise to some of us is that those everday, annoyng illnesses like the flu, colds, and viruses may also be stress-related.
In 1976, Dr. Thomas Holmes of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, developed a scoring system for life events that were likely to create stress. These life events all involved a degree of change to the status quo in the life of the individual, and the more the change could stress a person, the higher mean value was given to that change. Life events given the highest mean value were the death of a spouse and divorce. The more changes with high mean values a person experienced within two years, the more likely he or she would be ill in the near future.
Stress is now vying with back pain and the common cold (both of which can also be related to stress) to be the most frequent reason for taking time off work. Latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive suggest that at least one empolyee in five is stressed, and that the problem is costing the British economy nearly £5 billion a year.
Work related stress also takes its toll. Men and women between the ages of 35 and 45 tend to be most affected and the pressure appears to get worse, rather than better, with time - the longer a person has been doing a job, the more likely he/she is to take time off work because of stress. The following are the most recent statistics concerning stress at work:
- The 2006/07 survey of Self-reported Work-related Illness (SWI06/07) prevalence estimate indicated that around 530,000 individuals in Britain believed in 2006/07 that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill.
- Estimates from SWI06/07 indicate that self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety account for an estimated 13.8 million reported lost working days per year in Britain.
- Occupation and industry groups containing teachers and nurses, along with professional and managerial groups particularly those in the public sector have high prevalence rates of work-related stress in the SWI and SHAW surveys. The THOR datasets SOSMI and OPRA also report high incident rates of work-related mental illness for these occupational groups, along with medical practitioners and those in public sector security based occupations such as police officers, prison officers, and UK armed forces personnel.
England and Wales have the highest divorce rate in Europe and it is estimated that 41% of all marriages that took place in 2000 will end in divorce. At the moment over 25% of children under 16 experience their parents divorce, and an additional 3 million children are living in step-family stuations.
According to a study by Winston's Wish, every 30 minutes in the UK a child is bereaved of a parent. This equates to 53 children a day, 20,000 children every year. Many more children are bereaved of siblings or other relatives.
Public perception of one parent families is often based on prejudice. The facts tell a different story:
- One in four families is headed by a lone parent
- The average age of a lone parent is 35 and only 2% of lone parents are teenage mothers
- One in ten lone parents is a father
- 13% of lone parents come from black or ethic minority communities
- 85% of lone mums were married to or living with the father of their child before becoming a lone parent.
- 57% of lone parents are in work; and many more would like to be
Why do lone parents need support?
- Nearly half (48%) of one parent families live in poverty, more than twice the proportion of any other family type including pensioners
- 42% of all poor children live in one parent families
- Over 25% of lone parents care for a sick or disabled child
- One parent families are six times as likely as married couples to have an income of less than £200 per week
- Over 69% of lone parents receive no maintenance from the other parent
- Almost a third of parents leave their job at the time of becoming a lone parent
The government encourages lone parents to work, but this robs them of time to raise their offspring. Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood (Orion 2006), points out that however much government seeks to support the working parent with breakfast and after-school clubs, no such initiatives can impart life-skills which grow self-confidence. Emotional intelligence and social awareness are caught rather than taught; they come through the security of a loving home and real life interactions with the loving adults in their lives. When this is missing, other influences are waiting in the wings to claim the child's attention.
Children grow up assuming their parents will always be there, providing them with protection, keeping them healthy and emotionally secure. When the death of a parent or sibling occurs, or one parent moves out, the entire world of the child crashes down. They do not know what will happen next, who will care the them, or if they will be abandoned by the remaining parent. They cannot imagine what their lives will be like in the future.
Often these children find that they cannot express their feelings to their parents, and often the parents are so distracted by their own grief, that they do not recognise that their children are grieving too. There is a real need of caring adults to help young people work through their grief, and come to an acceptance of what has happened in their families. This is the work of Growing Through.
is a paper produced by the government giving five outcomes needed in services to young people:
Safety Health Achieve Positive Economic well-being
Safety - A report of calls to Childline showed that some young people, already vulnerable, seemed to be at increased risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse as a result of their bereavement. Our support groups help young people stay safe by teaching them about how to establish personal boundaries and how to uphold them through assertive, rather than passive or aggressive behaviour. A session on trust helps participants learn how to discern betweeen trustworthy and non-trustworthy people. Each participant is also given a booklet explaning what to do and who to call in case of abuse.
Health - Bereaved young people often develop a range of somatic complaints such as headaches and stomach aches. A variety of factors also cause bereaved young people to have a lower self-esteem than their non-bereaved peers. Our support groups help by teaching young people how to recognize symptoms of stress in the body. Participants also learn that each of them is a unique, one-of-a-kind, special creation of God.
Achieve and enjoy - Young people are often too distracted by their bereavement to be able to concentrate in school. Their loss can overshadow their interest in learning or in pursuing enjoyable activities. Of course, 'opposite effects' may emerge in the case of young people who try to block out negative feelings by pushing themselves to excel in academics or sports. Our support groups help by teaching young people how to identify and verbalise negative feelings rather than keeping them locked inside. Participants also learn to express themselves through art and drama and they learn that music can greatly affect or alter their mood.
Positive Contribution - A paper by the Childhood Bereavement Network cites studies that suggest higher rates of aggressive or disruptive behaviours among parentally bereaved children and young people than among the general population. Our support groups teach life skills to help young people deal successfully with significant life changes and challenges. Several young people who have participated in our support groups have become peer mentors in their school and one was even chosen to be Head Teacher for a day!
Economic well-being - The paper by the Childhood Bereavement Network cites another sudy which found that men bereaved of a parent before they were 16 were more likely to be unemployed at 36 than their non-bereaved peers. Our support groups teach young people the necessity of accepting the reality of an unwelcome event, and the need to adjust to difficult changes by seeing them as challenges. As they develop emotional intelligence and self-confidence, young people will have the resilience needed to rebound from adversities and persevere through life's challenges.