At Carving The Future, we are committed to spreading awareness and continuing the “hard” conversations that could save lives. We do this by giving our local youth connection and a sense of community.
Jackson is one of the most incredible locations in the world, however there is a stark dichotomy of extremes. Wyoming’s teen suicide rate is triple the national average. From 2015 to 2019, teen suicide in Wyoming jumped 40% in just three years.
Our founder, Adam Dowell, when he was only 16 had to endure the unimaginable struggle of his older brother Levi’s suicide. And, throughout his life has had many friends in the Jackson area make attempts on their life.
In Jackson Wyoming, poor mental health stems from:
- Physical Needs Not Being Met
- High Cost of Living
- Housing Crisis
- Transient Residents-Lack of Lasting Community
- Opportunity Gaps
- Long Winters-Lack of Sunlight- SAD (Seasonal Affects Disorder)
- High Altitude “Suicide Belt”
- Exposure to Substance Abuse
- Addiction- Including Social Media and Technology
- Cultural Separation
“The U. researchers reviewed several U.S. studies that found suicide rates increased with altitude. One that examined nearly 9,000 suicide deaths in 2006 across 15 states found the suicide rate at high altitudes was three times higher than for those living near sea level. Another study noted a “threshold effect,” where suicide rates increased dramatically between 2,000 and 3,000 feet.”
“Low atmospheric pressure at altitude causes declining blood oxygen levels. This affects the body’s levels of serotonin, the chemical that helps regulate mood, the U. researchers wrote, adding that lower oxygen also impairs energy flows through our brains.” https://www.sltrib.com/news/health/2018/07/01/university-utah-research/
All of these factors can put our youth at risk.
Trauma, when not understood in a family or community, harms learning, health, adult life and even life expectancy. Growing up in a financially segregated and often culturally segregated town is exceptionally stressful for children. They ultimately have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES):
Children that experience trauma in the household are…
- 4.5X more likely to suffer from depression
- 12X more likely to have suicidal ideation
- 3.5X more likely to get pulmonary or ischemic heart disease
- 3X more likely to get lung cancer
- Life expectancy is 20 years less than an individual who has not endured adverse childhood experiences.
Teachers and counselors are still seeing so many kids who are left behind.
In Wyoming, there is a lack of funding for poor mental health prevention and support.
Professionals are burnt out and there’s not enough of them to provide attention to a vast number of youth who do not have the resources they need.
Mental Health Should Be a Community Response…
Many of these challenging statistics regarding adverse childhood experiences can be “significantly improved if a child has at least one person in their life who believes in them.” (cdc.gov)
…A sense of belonging can be found through connection to members of a community.
Technology Addiction and Social Media
We have gone from the information age into the disinformation age.
Designers, corporations and advertisers are preying on human biology and psychology to make money.
We live in one of the loneliest, depressed and suicidal worlds in history. Children are being affected at an extremely young age and at an increasing rate.
Social media is not trying to protect children. It takes over kids’ sense of self worth and identity during a detrimental time in brain development.
“We have not evolved to be aware of what one thousand people think of us or to seek approval from the masses every five minutes.”-The Social Dilemma
A child’s sense of reality and personal value is likely to be distorted by a “social culture” that breeds disconnection.
The psychology of persuasion is built into technology. “We have come from a tools-based technological environment to a manipulation and addiction-based technological environment.”-The Social Dilemma
Historically, those living today feel more loneliness, alienation, polarization, distraction, populism than ever before.
There is a gigantic increase in depression and anxiety for american teenagers. In 2011, 100,000 girls were admitted to a hospital because they cut or harmed themselves. These numbers went way up to 62% for older teen girls and for preteen girls it tripled up to 189%.
Suicide holds the same pattern. In older youth, numbers went up to 70% compared to the first decade of the century. Preteen numbers went up to 151%. This is the first generation to be engaged on social media in middle school.
“Ya know it’s funny, what’s happening to us. Our lives have become digital. Our friends, now virtual. And, anything you could ever wanna know is just a click away. Experiencing the world through second hand information isn’t enough. If we want authenticity we have to initiate it. We will never know our full potential unless we push ourselves to find it. It’s this self-discovery that inevitably takes us to the wildest places on earth.”-Travis Rice, professional snowboarder
How do we move forward?
Regarding technology addiction and social media, we need to agree on what is ethical and true. One solution is to take individual responsibility for our own social media use and take steps to protect our youth.
There is something we can all do to step away from the virtual world and step back into reality with real connections. Help each other GET UP and GET OUT!
Mental health is a multi faceted realm that involves many aspects. Safety, nutrition, sleep, exercise, self awareness, a sense of belonging and community support.
With community support, children have greater monitoring, better adjustment and a better sense of belonging.
Neighborhood Cohesion is Associated With:
- Reduced internalization of problems
- Increased physical activity
- Better physical health
- Reduced levels of antisocial behavior
- Kids are able to form a positive sense of identity
- Feel empowered
- Build more self-esteem
- Cultivate a sense of purpose
- Construct a positive view of their future
By providing an opportunity for children to practice challenges in a safe environment, they can build better interpersonal and cognitive skills, develop a social network of peers and adults and contribute to something bigger than themselves.
We can start by spreading awareness. Through educating our families, friends and community, we can then address problems pertaining to the lack of physical needs, safety, the effects of living at higher altitudes, Seasonal Affects Disorder, financial stress, substance abuse, opportunity gaps, segregation, ACES-trauma, technological addiction and social media use.
Within our communities, we can look closer at the elements causing disruption and bring together the resources youth need to succeed.
We need to continue talking about it, notice the signs and combat the sources of disconnection for our youth. There is so much hope. This hope resides in connection. AND IT STARTS… WITH YOU.
Carving the Future is a 501(c)3 that exists to “Empower Youth through snowboarding and skateboarding.”
By providing gear, financial scholarships, programs, clinics, competitions, lessons and lift access, our aim is that no child is stuck inside during our long winters. We believe every student should have the opportunity to feel connected to a positive outlet, our mountain culture and our community.
To conclude this post, here is a photographic slideshow that displays Carving the Future’s impact in 2020 and how we are promoting neighborhood cohesion through board sports in Jackson, WY.