Book Spotlight: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg.

Sonja+Yoerg+8x10

This is a fantastic author and I am lucky to be able to spotlight her book for you. It was an Editor’s Pick by the Historical Novel Society and it was named THE BEST BOOK EVER SET IN VERMONT by Travel & Leisure magazine. The author tackles the very difficult subject of Schizophrenia, and in 1972. It is an intricately crafted story of mental illness, magic and misfortune across three generations.

“I’m asked often why so many writers live in a state as small as Vermont, and why so many books are set here. The answer is partly the landscape, but mostly it’s the people. And in All the Best People, Sonja Yoerg has captured the magic and the madness that makes the Green Mountains a microcosm for so much of rural America. Her people are real people, authentic and quirky and troubled. I cared for them all.” — Chris Bohjalian, NYT bestselling author of The Flight Attendant

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.
But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy,  “All the Best People” celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

Buy this book here

Book Spotlight: Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL, is a complex and engrossing cross-cultural family drama that tackles big issues: in addition to themes of immigration, identity, and parenthood, it takes a 360-degree look at mental illness. The story follows the life of Lucia, a vibrant young Chinese-American woman with schizophrenia, as well as the lives of Lucia’s protective older sister, her Swiss doctor husband, a charismatic Israeli shopkeeper, and the young, undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant who fathers Lucia’s child. 
The author was gracious to participate in a Q&A with me.
Q: Your novel deals with what it’s like to have a mental illness, as well as what it’s like to love someone with a mental illness. Why this approach?
A: An illness like schizophrenia affects everyone in its wake. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more narratives about these illnesses, but they are usually memoirs told from one person’s point of view, and most often in the context of white, middle-class families. I wanted to portray mental illness from several different perspectives, and to place the illness squarely in the context of people’s lives. Lives are chaotic and messy, and I wanted to explore the conflicts these illnesses can amplify in families – in this case, a cobbled-together, unconventional family of immigrants from diverse ethnic/cultural backgrounds, but a family that is trying its hardest to love each other nonetheless.
 
Q: Have you had personal experience with mental illness?
A: Yes, I’ve seen members of my own family struggle with this illness. I’ve seen psychotic episodes up close, those breaks from reality where people may become convinced the TV is sending them secret messages, or the FBI has planted a bug in their head. It sounds silly, almost, but when it’s someone you love, and they can’t be swayed, and you’re watching them transform before your eyes into someone you don’t understand anymore — it feels both terrifying and incomprehensible. It can also be extremely difficult to know what to do – if your loved one lacks insight (the clinical term is “anosognosia”) and doesn’t acknowledge that they’re ill, it’s almost impossible to find help for them. 
 I’ve also dealt with the mental health care system, and am familiar with how frustrating it can be to finally get your loved one to a hospital, only to have them turned away because they’re not “an imminent danger.” So often, in dealing with these illnesses, family members end up feeling powerless and paralyzed.
 
Q: Lucia, the protagonist, is a fascinating character. She’s radiant, impulsive, quirky, yearning. What was writing her character like?
A: Lucia was tricky to write – yes, she has an illness, which surfaces from time to time, but she’s also still so much herself, brilliant and perceptive and full of dreams and passions. I wanted readers to relate to her as a modern woman – someone yearning for love, family, career, a sense of belonging – and to also learn something about her illness, and be able to sympathize. But at the same time her illness could not entirely let her off the hook for her actions and choices. She had to be a nuanced, fully three-dimensional character, with both strengths and flaws. And the reader would have to decide for themselves what they might’ve done in her position, or in the position of one of her family members. That was my goal for her, and the book – to have readers disagree over what each character should’ve done. 
 
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?  
A: I hope they’ll gain a sense of the issues surrounding schizophrenia, which is perhaps still the most severe and stigmatized of all the mental illnesses, but one deserving of just as much compassion. We shouldn’t need celebrities to tell us it’s okay to struggle before we accept that as the truth. I also hope people see that these illnesses are only one component of a person’s life, and can relate to the humanity at the core of each of my many characters – as sisters, mothers, husbands, lovers, as modern women, as flawed human beings who yearn for love and belonging. Finding empathy for people in situations unlike our own – I think that’s a hugely important reason to read fiction.
You can buy this incredible book at a bookstore near you or on Amazon

Book Spotlight: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

Book Summary:

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

From the Author, Barbara Claypole White:

I write hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. My aim is to create characters who challenge stereotypes of invisible disabilities and navigate everyday life with extraordinary courage. All of them are inspired by my poet-musician son, who has battled OCD for nearly twenty years. OCD is a chronic, much misunderstood, illness. It terrorizes you with unwanted thoughts, relentless what-ifs, and crippling irrational fear. Like diabetes, OCD demands constant management. The difference is that no one cracks jokes about insulin shots.

 

Popular culture is quick to focus on either the quirkiness of OCD or compulsive behaviors such as hand washing. For many, however, the struggle is purely mental and easily hidden. This is often the case with postpartum OCD, which tends to manifest as intrusive, obsessive, horrific images of harming your baby. The heroine of my fifth novel, THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, is trapped in a private hell with such thoughts. Unable to escape the misbelief that she’s Norman Bates in dirty yoga pants, Katelyn abandons her baby to protect her, to keep her safe.

 

Many new parents and grandparents suffer with postpartum OCD in silence, too ashamed to seek help. I wish we could obliterate that shame; I wish we could celebrate the strength it takes to live with mental illness and the scars it leaves. In Japan cracked objects are mended with gold—to enhance the notion that damage brings history and beauty. Or, as Leonard Cohen suggested, cracks let in the light. Amen—to finding light and gold.

 

Book Spotlight: THIS I KNOW by Eldonna Edwards

Eldonna Edwards is ​the author of best-selling memoir LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION, which follows her mission to give away a kidney to a stranger. She now brings us a story of a mother struggling with depression. Her book will release in April of 2018. It is set in a small Midwest town in the late 1960s. 

Eleven-year-old Grace Carter has a talent for hiding things. She’s had plenty of practice, burying thoughts and feelings that might anger her strict Evangelical pastor father, and concealing the deep intuition she carries inside. The Knowing, as Grace calls it, offers glimpses of people’s pasts and futures. It enables her to see into the depth of her mother’s sadness, and even allows Grace to talk to Isaac, her twin brother who died at birth. To her wise, loving Aunt Pearl, the Knowing is a family gift; to her daddy, it’s close to witchcraft.

Grace can’t see into someone’s thoughts without their permission. But it doesn’t take her special talent to know that her small community is harboring its share of secrets. A young girl has gone missing. Within Grace’s own family too, the cracks are widening, as her sisters Hope, Joy, and Chastity enjoy the normal life that eludes Grace. It’s Grace’s kinship with other outsiders that keeps her afloat–Lyle, a gentle, homeless man, and Lola, a free-spirited new girl at school. But when her mother lapses into deep depression after bringing home a new baby, Grace will face a life-changing choice–ignore her gift and become the obedient daughter her father demands, or find the courage to make herself heard, even if it means standing apart .

Read this lovely blog post about coping with depression and coming up with the story from the author herself.

When Things Fall Apart

by Eldonna Edwards

Reblogged with permission from: eldonnaedwards.blogspot.com/2017/11/when-things-fall-apart.html

We’ve all done it; pasted on a happy face to cover our fear, our sadness, our fragility. Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer and drag others down with them, right? So we stuff our vulnerable selves deep into our core and pull out a mask bearing an appropriately put-together shell. One that appears happy and confident. But on the inside, things are still falling apart.“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps inside me.” –Sylvia Plath

Growing up in the Midwest I learned from an early age that you need to “buck up” or ” “grin and bear it” when times get tough. We were taught to smile through our pain or discomfort because appearances mattered more than feelings. I was a sensitive child and cried easily so I heard it a lot. Of course, I carried this idea of stuffing your feelings well into my adulthood, until that point when I realized that a river of repressed emotions will eventually breach the damn. This flood of truth might manifest as anger or addiction or even suicide if not treated.

Such is the case for Isabelle Carter, wife of the Rev. Henry Carter, who suffers from a combination of postpartum depression and unfulfilled desires. She wanted to be a famous gospel singer. What she got instead was life as a rural minister’s wife and mother to five daughters, one of whom reminds her of long-forgotten self.

Daddy brought Mama back home two days ago. She doesn’t seem very rested if you ask me. She still naps a lot and when she is up and around she bumps into the walls. Joy won’t let Mama hold the baby unless she’s sitting down. Mama reminds me of a Dilly Bar from the Dairy Queen, like there’s only a thin shell covering what’s melting inside.

In this scene from THIS I KNOW, Mama has just come from a place where she was sent to “rest” but returns home looking anything but recovered. I wanted to underscore the disconnect that people (mostly women) from that era suffered. Faces disguised with pleasant, Stepford-like eeriness. These women were often over-prescribed “nerve pills” to calm them or “diet pills” to give them energy. Many self-medicated with alcohol and other forms of escapism. Or as in Mrs. Carter’s case, told to pray away the malaise when what she most needed was simply to be allowed to feel what she was feeling. In retrospect, it’s no wonder we’re currently struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic crisis. People want to feel good and will do anything to make the pain go away.
I enjoy what most friends and acquaintances would describe as a happy disposition. But where there is light, there is shadow. For several years I endured depression that might have been postpartum or might have been circumstantial due to life events. Or maybe it was just good old-fashioned clinical depression. What I remember most was feeling terribly ashamed, that old tape of “get over yourself” looping endlessly in my head. Eventually I sought help, got counseling, and was able to talk openly about my feelings as I surfed the waves of melancholy and despair.

During that time I learned that what depressed people most need is acceptance and support. Things young Grace strives to give her mama as the reverend’s wife struggles to find her way back to happiness  and contentmentIn THIS I KNOW, Grace’s way of helping happens to involve using her uncanny abilities to break through the membrane of consciousness to reach her sullen mother. Because sometimes a little magic is the best medicine.

Buy this book on Amazon

2017 APA Stress in America™ Survey Results — 60% Of Americans Are Significantly Stressed.

 

These are the worst stress levels found by the American Psychological Association yet.

  • Americans worry about the future of our nation — 63% indicated this as a significant source of stress.
  • Americans worry about money — 62% indicated this as a significant source of stress.
  • Americans worry about their jobs — 61% indicated this as a significant source of stress.

More than half of those who responded to the survey (59%) reported this time in US history as THE LOWEST POINT that they remember. Many of those responders have lived through the WWII and other significant traumatic events, such as September 11.

  • More than half of responders (59%) reported being stressed by the political division in this country.  Although both Democrats and Republicans were stressed.
  • More than half of responders (56%) reported feeling stress from watching the news).

Additionally, the most common issues related to stress levels were health care, the economy, trust in government, crime, conflict with other countries, terrorist attacks, unemployment, and climate change.

 

The encouraging news is that the survey also found that more than half of the responders reported that the state of the nation and the stress they have experienced have led to their desire to volunteer or support more causes than they have in the past. Most responders have either volunteered or signed petitions or boycotted a company or product in response to its social or political views or actions.

As the survey has always found, women reported significantly higher stress levels than men and Black and Hispanic men also reported a significantly higher average stress level than white men.

To read the full Stress in America report, visit Stress in America.

For additional information on stress, lifestyle and behaviors, visit the Psychology Help Center.

 

Holiday Gift Guide For Parents

I always encourage parents to create Christmas for their own current family and not to allow it to be influenced as much by their childhood Christmases. By all means—keep your family traditions. Those may be wonderful and special. But don’t let these hold you back from making new ones with your spouse and children. For example, if your parents opened one gift on Christmas Eve and your kids love that, keep that tradition. And then, maybe add a new tradition of something your children would like to do on Christmas Eve that you’ve never done as a child.

The best thing a parent can teach their child is never to compare their family to other families in terms of material goods. These comparisons tend to start at an early age and not just at Christmas. Kids will talk about electronics, clothes, sporting goods they have or don’t have but other family does. By the time they reach teen years, this kind of talk is highly damaging to self-esteem and can cause anxiety and depression.

I very much encourage parents to teach kids that material goods don’t define a human being’s worth and that anyone who compares material goods is not a good friend to keep. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that children who have FEWER material possessions but positive relationships with parents and peers demonstrate HIGHER self-esteem, LESS behavioral problems and can cope with stress better.

A good way to reinforce this concept around Christmas is to shop for presents for others and to donate clothes and toys to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and any other charity in your local area which is collecting new or used toys or items. Studies have found that people value gifts they buy for others more than gifts they receive and feel happier giving rather than receiving gifts.

Another good way to teach kids gratitude is by expressing appreciation for the things you have as a family rather than talking about things you don’t have. Teach your children that giving meaningful gifts is more important than expensive gifts.

Here are top 5 ways to give your children great gifts but make sure not to spoil them:

  1. Don’t fall into the trap of buying toys from “The Top 10 Hottest Holiday Toys.” Your child doesn’t need the latest electronic gadget. It will be forgotten by the end of January and replaced with their old favorite stuffed animal. You’ll just be stuck paying that credit card bill.
  2. Don’t teach your child that she gets all the things she asks from Santa for Christmas. I taught my children that Santa brings one toy from their list and the rest are surprises. Now that they no longer believe in Santa, they still know they can expect one of the items they ask for. And it’s usually something small but special. They value this one gift a great deal.
  3. Don’t overdo it with a number of gifts. Any parent who has done Christmas a few times can tell you that a kid’s eyes glaze over after about 2 gifts and then you have to beg them to open more. They don’t want more. That first gift they open is the only special one. So, buy 2-3 gifts and then maybe wrap a few items to put under the tree that are not toys but may be fun to open later, after some rest: some candy, stickers, a coloring book, a pack of crayons, playdough, treats to give to a pet.
  4. Make sure to buy gifts that have your child’s interests in mind. Don’t buy a musical instrument in the hope of turning your child into a musical prodigy. Don’t buy a bicycle if the street is covered in snow, just because you got one as a kid. Don’t buy dolls for a girl who loves to build with Legos or buy action figures for a boy who would rather have art supplies.
  5. Teach kids the lesson of giving at Christmas. Shop with them for gifts for others, teach them to wrap and make gifts special. Get them excited about keeping those gifts secret.

 

 

 

New Study on Teens’ Electronics Use

Studies show that U.S. teens spend an average of 8.5 hrs per day on their electronics. Unfortunately, developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and risk-taking behavior. An area of the brain, called prefrontal cortex, which specializes in judgment, impulse control, and planning is still developing in adolescence.

A new study just published in Child Development demonstrates a correlation between late night cell phone use, disturbed sleep, increased risk of depression, risk-taking behavior, and low self-esteem. The study involved 1,1000 teens (ages 13 to16) and took place over 4 years.

This is not quite new information. Psychologists and physicians have known for a while that bright light from electronic screens can interfere with sleep cycles by tricking the brain into thinking that it is still daytime and decreasing production of melatonin. Additionally, the teens continue to think about texts and content of reading/video/audio material on devices and simply can’t relax enough to go to sleep.

Sleep deprivation has previously been demonstrated in research to be linked to depression, risk-taking behavior, poor self-esteem, poor attention, and obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep every day.

Psychologists recommend the following for parents of teens:

  • Take TV, computer, tablets out of teen room permanently
  • Take cell phone out of the room at a time you both agree on (should be a time that would allow your teen to get at least 8 hrs of sleep)
  • If your teen insists on listening to music before going to sleep, buy a device that only plays music but doesn’t have a bright screen.
  • Charge all devices in the parents’ room
  • Use a regular alarm clock instead of a phone alarm clock

 

How Much Should Children Sleep?

Here are the guidelines used by Psychologists and Pediatricians:

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

(Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016)

I also recommend putting toddlers to sleep between 6 pm and 8 pm and having all children under age 5 nap at around 1 pm to help have a consistent daily schedule to prevent tantrums and behavioral difficulties.

The Problem With 13 Reasons Why

Mental health professionals have become increasingly concerned about the new hit Netflix show and its portrayal of the main character, Hannah’s, suicide. While I am very glad that the show can start conversations about bullying, sexual assaults in high schools, and teen suicides, I am also very concerned about how the show incorrectly portrays some facts about teen mental health and suicide in general.

 

Hannah’s suicide is portrayed as being caused by the actions of other people (bullies, friends, school counselor, etc). In reality, decades of research on teen suicide have shown that 90 percent of teen suicides are the result of mental illness. Teens first develop mental illness, such as depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD and then slowly, over time (1-2 years), become unable to cope with stressors in their lives. When a teen with mental illness encounters bullying, divorce, family violence, academic stressors, and other stresses present in teen lives, he or she develops thoughts of suicide and begin to contemplate ending life. This means that family, school counselors, pediatricians, mental health professionals are able to intervene and help the teen if symptoms of mental illness are caught early on.

 

Hannah comes to her school counselor for help and, while he recognizes her thoughts of suicide, he tells her to forget about her sexual assault and tells her she should get over her distress about the sexual assault. This is not a realistic portrayal of what would typically happen when a teen reaches out for mental health help. It is illegal and unethical for a counselor to behave this way. Mental health help is absolutely available for teens who have experienced sexual assault and are contemplating thoughts of suicide. The show uses this scenario for dramatization purposes and it’s not helpful for kids or parents to see this.

 

What I would really like for parents to know is that it’s really important to watch out for any signs that your teen may be struggling with mental health difficulties. Some of these signs are:

Any change in personality, behavior, appearance

Withdrawing from family activities the child previously enjoyed

Not wanting to spend time with close friends

Not wanting to go to school

Dropping grades

Sleeping all the time or being in his/her room all the time alone

Social media postings about wanting life to be over (or everything to be over)

Statements about the future being hopeless or not wanting to talk about future

Preoccupation with death or giving away possessions

Statements about not wanting to have pain or wanting to falls asleep and never wake up

 

If you notice any of these signs, please talk to your teen and take your teen to the pediatrician for a depression and mental health screening. If you are concerned about your teen, please insist on a referral to a mental health professional. Your teen may want to hide their symptoms from you to make sure you don’t worry. However, a pediatrician or a mental health professional are able to get them to open up. Suicidal thoughts are preventable if caught early on.

 

I strongly recommend for children under the age of 17 to watch the show with their parents only. The show also should not be binge-watched, but watched one episode at the time due to highly emotional dramatic content. If your teen has watched it already without you, please have a discussion with your teen about what they think of the show, of the main character and what the main point of the show was in their opinion. It’s very important to discuss with your teen that Hannah’s story is a fictional story, not a real story. In real life, teens don’t get to make everyone feel sorry for their death and don’t get memorials on their lockers.

 

The show depicts a violent death, as well as a violent sexual assault. Children are very likely to be strongly influenced by vivid depictions of suicide in the media. In fact, from numerous studies, we know that watching descriptions or depictions of suicide in the media increases the likelihood of “copycat” suicides. If your teen struggles with mental health, please mention to your pediatrician or the teen’s mental health provider that she has watched the show, so they can screen your teen for suicidal thoughts.

 

If your teen has been struggling with mental health difficulties, please seek help from your pediatrician or a school counselor.

 

If your teen is struggling with thoughts of suicide today, please call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or text START to 741741 for immediate help.

 

For more information about how to discuss 13 Reasons Why with your child, please visit www.jedfoundation.org or www.nasponline.org.

 

 

School Anxiety

Helping Your Child Cope With Anxiety In Middle School/High School

Most children will have anxiety about starting Middle School or High School. They worry about being good enough for sports or other electives, being smart enough for their preAP or AP classes, and fitting in with peers who all seem taller, prettier, smarter, more socially savvy than they are. Each year brings new anxiety and most children will have some degree of anxiety and worry on their first day of school, even when it’s not their first year of Middle or High School or even if they have many friends going with them to the same school.

How to help your child cope on his first day of school?

Explain to your child that absolutely everyone will be anxious on their first day of school. Try to attend every orientation event and social event prior to the start of school and visit the school building as many times as possible prior to the start of school. Once you get your child’s schedule, walk the hallways with your child. The most common fear expressed by children about starting Middle School or High School is that they will get lost on the way to classes.

Start transitioning your child to the school wake/sleep schedule a few weeks prior to the start of school. Wake them half an hour earlier every day until they start waking at their normal school wake time a few days prior to the start of school. This will ensure they are not going to school for the first week sleep deprived and anxious from sleep deprivation.

Allow your child to choose any outfit he wishes for the first day and any breakfast he wishes for the first day. Wake her a few minutes prior to usual wake time so she is not rushed and feels confident and calm before going to school. Have him listen to some music or watch some TV or his favorite YouTube channel before leaving.

If your child’s anxiety is very high, consider discussing this with a school counselor or seeking advice from a child psychologist to help your child transition positively. Children who feel successful starting in a new school will continue to do well throughout the year.

How to help your teen feel that she fits in?

The most common worry for teens is fitting in with a new, and usually much larger group of peers. Adolescence is the time when teens struggle to find their identity and struggle to figure out which group of peers they wish to fit in with. Schools have multiple groups for teens to try and there will always be a group that will accept your teen. Reassure your child that he will absolutely find peers and acceptance. Encourage her to express her interests but also to try new things. Adolescence is a good time to experiment and try new hobbies. Encourage him to try different extracurricular activities, based on not just abilities but also interests. Especially, encourage children to try something outside of what their group of peers is doing, as often teens get stuck choosing activities based on whether they will grant an automatic acceptance to a clique.

How to help your child fit in with his looks?

Pre-teens and teens become more aware of their looks and what others think of their looks. Hairstyles (and colors), makeup, certain styles of clothing give kids both an individual and group identity. Boys and girls feel pressure to look or dress a certain way to be accepted. Make sure to recognize their need to belong and feel accepted and express understanding of this need. Don’t comment negatively on their clothing/looks/hair. Remember, you were a teen once and also conformed to peer pressure to look a certain way. If you don’t like the way your child dresses or does her hair, explain to her what your concerns are in a calm way and see if you can compromise between your standards and her needs to look in such a way to belong to her group.

How to help your child feel she is smart enough?

There is tremendous pressure on pre-teens and teens to achieve and take a greater number of standardized tests than ever. Schools focus increasingly on preparing children for college and pushing for higher scores on standardized tests. Psychologists see an increasing number of children with stress-related medical disorders as early as Middle School. Many teens spend most of their free time inside studying for hours in order to compete for their top 10% rating at their High School.

As academic competition heats up, remind your teen that colleges don’t just accept kids with top grades, they also want a well-rounded happy individual who will succeed for 4 years. College acceptances are based on many factors, not just on all As in AP classes. Make sure your child is able to carry the load he is carrying. While many parents desire a top college choice for their child, being a parent also means ensuring your child has good mental and physical health. If your child becomes so overwhelmed and burned out by fighting for college admission, that she is constantly ill and depressed, you are not teaching her important life lessons about coping with stress.

When to get professional help:

Sometimes, stress, anxiety and worry about school become too severe for a teen and family to cope with. If your child’s anxiety is so high that she can’t attend school or can’t get through the day without calling you and reporting anxiety and panic, please seek help from a school counselor or a child psychologist.

On Bullying and Cyberbullying

My Child Is Being Bullied. What Should I Do?

There are more and more stories from children and media about bullying in the schools. Finding out that your child is being bullied is frightening and you may wonder how much to worry and what to do to help your child. Here are some basic tips on what we know about bullying and ways to handle situations involving your child and bullying.

What is bullying?

  • Spreading rumors
  • Making threats
  • Physical/verbal attacks
  • Excluding someone from a group on purpose
  • Can happen on-line – Cyberbullying

What effect does bullying have on children and teens?

  • Victims, bullies, and witnesses of bullying all experience mental health difficulties from the bullying
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor social functioning
  • Low grades
  • Poor attendance at school
  • Increase in suicide-related behavior

What do we know about children and suicide?

  • According to the CDC, for children ages 10-24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. It results in 4600 deaths each year. 45% of deaths are due to firearms. 40% are due to suffocation. 80% of deaths are males.
  • Involvement in bullying (as a victim or a bully) increases a child’s risk for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempt.
  • Factors that can further increase a bullied child’s risk for suicide are: family conflict, exposure to violence, substance abuse, lack of connectedness at school, lack of access to resources/support, emotional distress, disabilities/learning difficulties, sexual/gender identity differences.

What can parents do?

  • Help your child connect at their school. Enroll your child in clubs, sports, or activities at school. Find an adult at school the child likes and trusts.
  • Teach your child coping/life skills and problem-solving skills. Teach your child to speak to a bully in an assertive manner rather than angry manner.
  • Ask your child frequently about being bullied. Teach your child how to respond to bullying rather than be a passive victim. A child needs to be able to feel more power in the situation. Saying things like, “That’s not cool!” “Keep your hands to yourself” or “I don’t understand why you would say something like that” in a firm voice can be a good first response to bullying.
  • Seek help from a pediatrician, psychologist, or a school counselor if needed.
  • Make sure your school has anti-bullying policies and implements them.
  • Don’t allow your child to have social media accounts until your child is 14. Follow your child on all social media accounts to see any cyberbullying your child may be subjected to.
  • Be sure you know the online communities your child participates in. Review your child’s posts. It’s not an invasion of your child’s privacy. Use of computer, smart phone, or tablet should be a privilege and not a right at your home. Be upfront with your child that you will periodically check on all online activity. Watch out for your child’s secretive behavior on electronics.
  • Watch out for signs of bullying or cyberbullying. These are: depression, anxiety, anger, avoidance of friends, decline in grades, refusal to go to school.
  • Teach your child to never retaliate online or engage in a physical fight. Teach your child to speak to you about bullying. Anger shows weakness, which will encourage more bullying. Assertive and calm responses work better.
  • Save all evidence of bullying or cyberbullying, identify the bullies, and file a complaint with the school or a specific social media site. Contact the bully’s parents if possible via a letter, not in person.
  • Contact the police if there are threats of violence, harassing messages, hate or bias messages, sexual messages, or any other crimes involved against your child by a bully. You can also contact an attorney.

For more information, please contact your Pediatrician, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network http://www.nctsn.org/, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry http://www.aacap.org/, or Center for Disease Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/

Dawn Among the Stars: Latinas Battling Mental Health and Fighting Aliens

DAMN AMONG THE STARS is a debut science fiction by Samantha Heuwagen, MA LAMFT ACS

Samantha Heuwagen works as a Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in Sex Therapy in Atlanta, GA. She is a graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine where she earned her second Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her first Master’s degree is in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida where she first realized her passion for sex education. She is a certified sexologist with the American College of Sexologists. When she isn’t working with clients, she teaches at Kennesaw State University sharing her knowledge about sex and feminism.

From the author:

As a therapist, I’ve seen the best and worst of Humanity. I’ve listened to sexual assault survivors tell their stories with strength and dignity; watched male clients open up emotionally and meet their authentic selves for the very first time. I’ve even helped couples come back together after years of separations and emotional isolation.

Dawn Among the Stars is an opportunity to showcase mental health and change the narrative around individuals who push through every day. I wanted to focus on those fighting the good fight, reaching a place of health.

The main protagonist, Kayin Aves, a twenty-something Latina, strives to make the world a better place. Her primary focus is to keep Earth’s rights in the hands of humans at all costs. However, she meets resistance when the Shielders, a potential Earth ally, push for control of Earth’s governments and resources. Through it all, her panic attacks threaten to derail her everyday life.

Though society tries to say otherwise, people are not weak because they’re depressed, have anxiety, or suffer PTSD. They struggle to do menial daily tasks while a giant cloud follows them. With The Starless Series, I wanted to showcase a character that could handle mental health issues and still be a hero that can save the day.

With my experience as a feminist and a mental health practitioner, I believe I have unique insight into a myriad of perspectives. This perspicacity allows me to write natural characters that would feel at home in any setting despite being thrust into an extraordinary situation. One of my goals with writing, Dawn Among the Stars, has always been to depict mental health issues as realistically as possible–– to open the door to a more realistic view of mental health.  I want readers to connect with the different aspects of Kayin’s struggle and offer them a positive role model instead of the tired, old stereotypes we see in books and movies every day.

My clients are some of the strongest people I have ever met and Dawn Among the Stars is my monument to them and anyone else struggling with mental health.

You can find me writing and doing therapy in Atlanta, GA. If you’re interested in my services as a mental health provider please visit my website.

 

You can buy this fantastic book below

Amazon

Other

Check out the author’s Website: SamanthaHeuwagen.com
Find the book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/75884217-samantha-heuwagen

 

 

 

 

On Bullying and Cyberbullying

My Child Is Being Bullied. What Should I Do?

There are more and more stories from children and media about bullying in the schools. Finding out that your child is being bullied is frightening and you may wonder how much to worry and what to do to help your child. Here are some basic tips on what we know about bullying and ways to handle situations involving your child and bullying.

What is bullying?

  • Spreading rumors
  • Making threats
  • Physical/verbal attacks
  • Excluding someone from a group on purpose
  • Can happen on-line – Cyberbullying

What effect does bullying have on children and teens?

  • Victims, bullies, and witnesses of bullying all experience mental health difficulties from the bullying
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor social functioning
  • Low grades
  • Poor attendance at school
  • Increase in suicide-related behavior

What do we know about children and suicide?

  • According to the CDC, for children ages 10-24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. It results in 4600 deaths each year. 45% of deaths are due to firearms. 40% are due to suffocation. 80% of deaths are males.
  • Involvement in bullying (as a victim or a bully) increases a child’s risk for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempt.
  • Factors that can further increase a bullied child’s risk for suicide are: family conflict, exposure to violence, substance abuse, lack of connectedness at school, lack of access to resources/support, emotional distress, disabilities/learning difficulties, sexual/gender identity differences.

What can parents do?

  • Help your child connect at their school. Enroll your child in clubs, sports, or activities at school. Find an adult at school the child likes and trusts.
  • Teach your child coping/life skills and problem-solving skills. Teach your child to speak to a bully in an assertive manner rather than angry manner.
  • Ask your child frequently about being bullied. Teach your child how to respond to bullying rather than be a passive victim. A child needs to be able to feel more power in the situation. Saying things like, “That’s not cool!” “Keep your hands to yourself” or “I don’t understand why you would say something like that” in a firm voice can be a good first response to bullying.
  • Seek help from a pediatrician, psychologist, or a school counselor if needed.
  • Make sure your school has anti-bullying policies and implements them.
  • Don’t allow your child to have social media accounts until your child is 14. Follow your child on all social media accounts to see any cyberbullying your child may be subjected to.
  • Be sure you know the online communities your child participates in. Review your child’s posts. It’s not an invasion of your child’s privacy. Use of computer, smart phone, or tablet should be a privilege and not a right at your home. Be upfront with your child that you will periodically check on all online activity. Watch out for your child’s secretive behavior on electronics.
  • Watch out for signs of bullying or cyberbullying. These are: depression, anxiety, anger, avoidance of friends, decline in grades, refusal to go to school.
  • Teach your child to never retaliate online or engage in a physical fight. Teach your child to speak to you about bullying. Anger shows weakness, which will encourage more bullying. Assertive and calm responses work better.
  • Save all evidence of bullying or cyberbullying, identify the bullies, and file a complaint with the school or a specific social media site. Contact the bully’s parents if possible via a letter, not in person.
  • Contact the police if there are threats of violence, harassing messages, hate or bias messages, sexual messages, or any other crimes involved against your child by a bully. You can also contact an attorney.

For more information, please contact your Pediatrician, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network http://www.nctsn.org/, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry http://www.aacap.org/, or Center for Disease Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/

Teaching Your Teen to Cope with Stress

According to recent American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, our younger generation is increasingly more stressed. More than 1 in 4 teens and young adults say they do not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress, compared with about 1 in 10 older adults.

The APA’s survey also indicated that teens are more likely to report using passive rather than active coping strategies, which are not always as helpful. Teens rely mainly on taking a nap, listening to music, going online, eating and playing video games to cope with stress and depression. Below are some more active ways of coping which parents can easily discuss and teach to their children.

 Physical Activity

One in five teens and young adults report exercising less than once a week or not at all. Exercise is one of the most effective stress and anxiety relievers. Any of these activities are helpful: yoga, hiking, biking, walking, dancing, running, rock climbing, skateboarding. The best activity is one which involves a social component. Doesn’t need to be a team sport.

Get Enough Sleep

The recommended amount of sleep for teens is 8-10 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 recommendations. However, Stress in America Survey found that most teens sleep on average only 7.4 hours. Lack of sleep is related to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and decreased academic performance. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are 4 times as likely to develop depression as those who are well-rested. Optimum sleep hours for young people start at 11 pm and end at 8 am according to research.

 Resist Pressure

Teens are pressured more than ever to make so many choices, to know exactly who they are, to perform perfectly all the time, to achieve greater and greater. There is competition, social judgement, pressure from parents and teachers and society. Teach them they don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to get it right at any age, can always change their minds and their personality when they are older. What they do now will not determine their entire lives.

Reduce Time Spent On Social Media

Psychologist and pediatricians believe that increasing dependence on social media by teenagers is leading to increased rates of depression and anxiety, especially for girls, although boys are not immune. Girls are more likely to use social media and depend on it for communication, exposing them at greater rates to cyberbullying and preventing other healthier ways of social support. Girls are prone to comparing themselves to peers and defining their identify via others’ opinions, making them very vulnerable to depression after repeated exposures to social media.

There are estimates that the average teen spends 7.5 hours on social media on a typical day. That means your teen feels under pressure to be “clever, smart, popular” for the entire day, first at school and then on social media. It also means your teen is being judged and criticized all day long, exposing your teen to constant social pressure. A rumor spread on social media reaches thousands of people in a second.

It’s stressful, draining and damaging.

A recent Swedish study found that teens who spend a lot of time on the internet are as likely to become depressed and suicidal as teens who use drugs and skip school.

Don’t allow your teen on social media until age 14-15. Teach your teen to limit the number of friends they have on social media and limit how many social media apps they use. Follow your teen on social media to monitor their activity. Teach them to block all cyberbullies and only stay in groups that are fun, entertaining, social. Teach your teen no to use social media for mental health support or share their inner most secrets on social media.

Cut Down On Sugar And Eat More Foods That Give Energy

Your teen should always eat breakfast. Teach them to eat foods that are easy to digest but will give them energy: fruit, nuts, yogurt. Teach them to eat more protein and vegetables and less refined carbs and fast foods.

Meditate or Practice Mindfullness

Mindfullness refers to paying attention to life in the present. Being fully aware of your surroundings and what you are doing. Being in the moment and enjoying it fully, rather than constantly being distracted by electronics, social media, etc. When we don’t have the ability to be in the moment, anxiety can sneak up on us. People who are always distracted and always worry about the future, begin to struggle with chronic stress and anxiety.

Teach your teen to put away their phone at the dinner table or turn off your TV next time that your family is eating dinner. Just focus on eating your food and enjoying its flavors. Or next time your teen is watching a Netflix show, teach them to not Tweet about it or talk to friends about it at the same time. Just discuss fully tuning in to the show. It’s that simple.

Talk To Someone About Your Stress

Everyone is feeling more stressed out these day. It’s absolutely OK to talk about it. Teach your teen to talk to you and other family members about it, to talk to their friends, and, finally, ask to talk to a psychologist about it. There are also many books you can browse on the topic.

Why Do Women Suffer More From Anxiety and Depression Than Men?

Dr. Amen and his team in California just released results from a SPECT imaging study conducted on thousands of men and women. The participants were scanned at baseline (not doing a task) and during a concentration task. The scans analyzed 128 brain regions.

The study revealed that women’s brain activity was high in 65 brain regions at baseline, while men’s brain activity was only high in 9. During the concentration task, women’s brains were activated in 48 regions, while men’s brains showed increased activity in only 22 regions.

According to the study authors, in women, brain activity was significantly higher in the region associated with impulse control and decision-making and the regions which play a role in emotions, mood, and anxiety.

The authors believe that this study may shed some light as to why women suffer double the rates of mood and anxiety disorders and double the rates of Alzheimer’s.

For complete information on the study, see Article on Dr. Amen’s study