Coping with the Winter and Mental Health

Coping with the Winter and Mental Health

Coping with mental health issues during the winter and during Covid can be very difficult. Many of the options available to people during the spring and summer are not available during the winter which makes dealing with mental health issues during the winter difficult. I have many patients who report having a harder time dealing with their mental health during the winter because many of their coping strategies are not available such as spending the day outside. Additionally, we are dealing with another surge of the Coronaviruses so being around people is difficult right now. Jina Swani wrote an article about dealing with physical and mental health issues during the winter. Her views regarding how to manage your mental health during the winter are very good. Therefore, I am discussing her points below.

Mental health tips for individuals dealing with the stress of winter?

Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment without judgement for how you are feeling. It’s always important to remember that whatever emotions you may be feeling are OK. This year has been tough enough, and it will continue to hold many unique challenges for us all. When you feel stressed:

• Stop and take a moment to acknowledge your feelings. It’s OK to say to yourself, “I am feeling stressed.”

• Take a deep breath. First, breathe in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, let your shoulders drop down away from your ears.

• Take another deep breath and scan your body for tension. Then, try and actively release any tension from your muscles.

• After a few more breaths, refocus your attention on the next task that is within your realm of control. Now, you’ll be ready to move on with your day.  

How can people cope with loneliness this year?  

Reach out to others if you are struggling. Send a friend a message and set up a plan to talk via phone or video chat. We sometimes forget that chances are, if you are feeling lonely, your loved ones are likely feeling the same way and missing you.

It’s smart to create a routine for regular check-ins with friends and family. Sometimes, something as simple as starting a group text chat can really help people feel connected. Remember to never be afraid of letting others know how you are feeling.  

With seasonal stress, food-related problems may arise. How can individuals manage these issues?   

The holidays can lead to more snacking, larger meals and overindulging in things like desserts and alcohol. By setting intentions with yourself about your food and drink intake, you can better monitor your portions.

In addition, meal planning can help you pay attention to what and when you are eating. Ultimately, this practice has the power to help you cut down on overeating or indulging in foods due to convenience.

Lastly, I always tell my patients to be aware of their emotions. For some, increased levels of stress, anxiety, sadness or loneliness can lead to emotional eating. Always consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you are concerned about your moods or the general state of your mental health. You’re never alone.

Hopefully you will find these ideas helpful. Remember you are never alone. While many psychotherapists are very busy, you can still find a psychotherapist for psychotherapy. There are a number of call lines you can call and talk to someone. Finally, there is always friends and family. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. Mental health is something everyone deals with and that everyone needs help with at times, especially now during the pandemic. It’s as normal as a headache or backache so no need to be embarrassed. However, it’s hard to receive help if you refuse to ask or refuse to accept it when people offer it.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience and he specializes in treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Stress Teenagers Face During Finals and the Holidays

Stress Teenagers Face During Finals and the Holidays

The end of the Fall semester is around the corner and it is a time of year that students panic because it’s Finals time. Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot going on right now. Seniors are trying to complete college applications, seniors and juniors are worried about grades because these grades will impact which colleges they can go to. In addition, there is time off for Christmas so many teenagers are focusing on spending time with their friends. However, due to the outbreak of another Coronavirus variant, they may not be able to see their friends and if they can what they can do is limited because of precautions trying to prevent the spread of the virus. Also they need to allow for time with their families too.

As I stated besides finals, teenagers are having to balance between friends and family during another surge in Coronavirus cases. In addition to spending time with friends there are the parties that probably will not be occurring due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, they are dealing with another winter break which is severely limited due to the virus. over. Besides having to balance time between family and friends, they still have to keep the homework current and study for finals or complete semester projects. They are getting tired of having to focus on school and not be free to see their friends because it seems like this virus is never going away.

In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges Juniors can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. Also for seniors these are the grades colleges will be using to determine who they accept or reject. Seniors know they need a decent Fall semester GPA to have a chance of being accepted by a college.

As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships have increased so has the stress on high school students.

Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis and even death.

Most teens want to do things on there own so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future. They also do not always think about the long term consequences about some of the things they are using.

If your teenager is getting angry very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign.

What do you do if you notice anything that is making you worry, you should sit down and talk to your teenager. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad and they are not in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.

One thing you may want to do, is say to your teenager you know the end of the semester is a stressful time. Ask them if they need any help studying or help organizing their time. Let them know if there is any way you can help, you are there to help. Remind them, all they need to do is ask you for help and you will help. Many teenagers hate to ask for help, so you may want to comment on how you see them struggling and discuss how you can help, even if they don’t think they need it. Ask them to allow you to help because you can’t help it but you worry about them and by helping them, they would be helping you cope with your stress.

Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything, but it is obvious they are using drugs, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they really need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Good luck.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teens and has over 24 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Teaching Teenagers to Respect Everyone

Teaching Teenagers to Respect Everyone

In past years there have been debates between people saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. The United States has people from various ethnic backgrounds and religions living in our Country. There are also many people who have no religious beliefs. Our Country is suppose to be the “great melting pot.” Therefore, we are suppose to all live together peacefully and respectfully together.

Unfortunately, it does not appear we are living up to the goal of being the “great melting pot.” We have people who are singling out certain nationalities and trying to prevent them from immigrating to the United States. We have also seen a 57% increase in crimes against people of Jewish decent. For example, last year the largest amount of Jewish people in the United States where killed at one time as they were worshiping in their Temple. This type of violence has not occurred for decades, but it is back. Freedom of religion is one of the core beliefs of the United States. However, it does appear that core belief is eroding and possibly disappearing.

In addition to increase discrimination towards ethnicities and religions, there is an increase in the discrimination towards people who are homosexual or identify as anything other than heterosexual. The United States Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the beliefs that our Country is based on and what our Country represents. It states “all men” not just Caucasian people, not just Christian people and not just people who are heterosexual.

The Declaration of Independence and Constitution assume that we may have differences in our cultures or religious beliefs, but that we can all live together peacefully and respect one another. Unfortunately, when we see a 57% rise in hate crimes towards people who are Jewish, and an increase in crimes against Asian Americans, we are not living together peacefully or respectfully.

This brings me to the debate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I am a proud Italian, Catholic, American, however, my family taught me to respect people regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Therefore, I always wish people Happy Holidays. In the United States during this time of year we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa (I am sure there are some religious celebrations I missed) and New Years. If I am going to be respectful, Happy Holidays is the most appropriate saying not Merry Christmas. Some one may not be Christian and they may have no religious beliefs at all. However, most likely they celebrate Thanksgiving and New Years. Happy Holidays covers this without imposing my beliefs on someone else. Everyone who is Christian think about this point, what if you were not allowed to say Merry Christmas or if the entire Country acted like Christmas did not exist? How would that make you feel? You probably would not like it.

Therefore, I think we need to return to our roots: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a very powerful statement and in order to honor it we must respect all cultures, religions and sexual orientations. This statement is what makes the United States so different from every other country in the world. If we are going to honor our Country then Happy Holidays is the appropriate greeting during this time of year not Merry Christmas. If you are Christian it is appropriate to say in your home and at your Church not at work or out in public.

We also need to look at the amount of violence that is occurring in our Country. Besides fire drills at schools, now children are having to do mass shooting drills. Schools are actually practicing and teaching first and second graders what they need to do if there is a mass shooting at their school. Many children are frightened by these drills. They do not know if they are practice or real and they are afraid that they will be killed at school. There are a number of reasons why we have these mass killings, but the lack of respect we show to each other cannot be helping the situation. Therefore, out of respect for everyone when you are in public try using Happy Holidays. When you are at home or among family and friends use the greeting that works for your family.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teaching Teens about being Grateful

Teaching Teens about being Grateful

We live in an area where most kids have more than they need. For example, most fifth graders have Smartphones, IPads and laptops. However, many parents worry are they providing their children with enough. Many parents are so worried about if the teen or child has enough that they often don’t realize how fortunate most children are in this area.

While parents are worrying about meeting the needs of their teens so they have they same amount of stuff as other kids, they often forget to teach their teens about gratitude. Yes it is very important to meet a child’s basic needs, but it is also important that teens are grateful for what they do have and the sacrifices their parents make for them.

Gratitude is an important lesson and gift for children. What some parents may want to do is instead of buying your child a large number of things is to teach their child about gratitude. In the United States, we have many children who are homeless and hungry. Yes, in the United States, we do have homeless children. We also have many children who have more toys than they need and are unaware that there are children who are homeless in our Country. Therefore, think about taking you and your family to the store to buy children who’s families cannot afford gifts, some gifts for the Holidays. May be you and your family can donate some time at a homeless shelter or cleaning out your closets and donate items you are no longer using to the Salvation Army. While doing these things, teach your child about the fact that there are others in need and to appreciate what they have in their lives. Also that giving can be more important than receiving.

Furthermore, I read an article by Joshua Becker and he listed gifts that parents give to their children every day and that children usually do not forget these gifts. I think it is important for parents to remember the daily priceless gifts we give children daily. Especially when your teen tries to make you feel guilty because other parents give their teens more.

Here are some of Joshua Becker’s thoughts. I have countless memories. Very few childhood memories actually include the things I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget:

1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.

2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…

3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.

4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.

5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.

6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.

7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?

8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.

9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.

10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.

11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.

12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.

13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.

14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.

15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.

16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.

17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.

18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.

19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.

20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.

21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.

22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?

23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.

24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.

25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.

26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.

27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.

28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.

29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.

30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.

31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.

32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.

33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.

34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.

35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 24 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or visit his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What Have We Learned Since Sandy Hook?

What Have We Learned Since Sandy Hook?

Today, December 14th, marks the nine year anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school where many children and adults where senselessly killed. Since Sunny Hook more than 500,000 people in the United States have been killed by senseless gun violence. Additionally, there have been 350 school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary and 28 of those shootings occurred this year (CDC). Also since the Columbine shooting in 1999, 278,000 students have been exposed to gun violence, 157 students have been killed and 357 students have been injured by school shootings (Gun Violence Archive).

In reviewing the subject of school shootings, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since it is the nine year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting and it has been 3 years since the Parkland school shootings, Fenwick’s article about children and guns is very important. His article also outlines a strong connection to guns and the senseless shootings and to the alarming numbers of teenagers who commit suicide with a gun. The article by, Fenwick, confirmed what I am hearing from teenagers and children in psychotherapy. Additionally, other school shootings, such as the one in Nashville, or the shootings in the Synagogue in Pennsylvania or in the Texas Church, confirm the need for gun control. A point the statistics in Fenwick’s article support.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in any area of the United States are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before in other articles that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of those killed due to a gun were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that Caucasian and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking by caring knives or guns, the boys tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing. Violence in our society has become so severe that many teenagers do not expect to live to the age of 30. Think about that fact.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.The students at Park Side High School and the Parents from Sunny Hook have marched and petitioned for sane gun control laws. However, nothing has happened so why should children believe us when we say we can keep them safe?

Also the recent school shooting in Oxford, Michigan shows how we are not protecting children from gun violence or providing mental health care when needed. Here is an adolescent teenage boy who one one day researching buying ammunition and the next day drawing a picture of people being killed and saying I can’t stop the thoughts and I need help. The teen should have been hospitalized immediately for being a danger to self or others. Instead the school and the parents have a meeting and they decide the boy needs psychotherapy within 48 hours. Instead of sending the boy home, he is allowed to return to the classroom because the parents decide he should stay at school. As I said he should have been hospitalized and the school should have demanded he leave the campus immediately. However, because the adults failed to follow their duties, students at the school were killed and injured senselessly. You think we would have learned after Columbine, Sandy Hook or Parkland, but we didn’t. How many kids have to die at school before we act? Why won’t we enact sane gun laws?

Dr. Rubino has 24 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

“I Don’t Like that Gift”

“I Don’t Like that Gift”

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and making sure they get gifts for everyone they need to. This year due to the Coronavirus, the Holidays continue to be different including shopping for gifts and also families having money to afford food and rent in addition to Holiday gifts.

Furthermore, as I stated above, many people are out of work, they also are worried about having enough money for the Holidays. Besides buying gifts, people still need to pay the rent and buy food for the family. Therefore, some people will need to cut back on how much they spend on gifts and some people may not be able to afford to give gifts at all this year.

A common situation many parents worry about during the Holidays is what to do when your child receives a gift they don’t like or want. They are worried about their child saying something in front of their grandparents or their great aunt that they don’t like the gift and tossing it to the side. The parents feel embarrassed and are concerned that their child hurt their grandparents or great aunt’s feelings especially since many people are having difficulties affording gifts. This definitely applies to grandparents who are living on limited incomes.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about the spirit of the Holidays. The Holidays are about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts. Granted due to the Coronavirus, we may have to do this by Zoom instead of in person, but it’s acknowledging those people in our lives that are important to us which is the most important part of the Holidays.

If you child says something inappropriate about a gift, remember you cannot control what children will say all the time. Also the adults should understand that children do not think the same way as adults and will try not to take it personally.

All you can do is talk to you children about what to do if they receive a gift they don’t like so they will not hurt someone’s feelings. Additionally, you hope that Great Aunt Sally is mature enough to understand how children act. However, once again the focus should be on celebrating life and love not gifts.

As a helpful resource and gift I have included a link to a guide to your questions about giving & receiving Christmas gifts & how to handle gift situations http://www.designsponge.com/20… via designsponge

Dr Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 24 years experience working with children and adolescents. In addition to working with trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work and

Teenagers are Crying Out for Help

Teenagers are Crying Out for Help

Today’s teenagers are under a great deal pressure. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 out of every teenager has a diagnosable mental health issue. In addition, depression, anxiety, drug overdoses and suicide are currently at epidemic rates for teenagers. In fact, suicide was the third leading cause of death for teenagers and now it is the second leading cause of death (CDC). Furthermore, cutting or self-harming behaviors are also at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Self-harming behaviors include teenagers cutting themselves with knives or scissors in addition to scratching themselves severely and sometimes teenagers may even use erasers to erase their skin and cause sores. These are only a few examples.

Let’s look at the pressure teenagers are facing today. One major stressor is social media. They look at the accounts of other teens who post everything is going great in their lives and they have a lot of friends. This is not the reality, but most teenagers are not aware of this fact and they start to wonder what is wrong with them. Why don’t they have the same wonderful lives full of friends and good grades?

Another stressor for teenagers is the Coronavirus. Over 700,000 Americans have died from Covid and 1200 Americans are still dying daily (CDC). Therefore, many teenagers are grieving the loss of family members and friends and the grief is especially difficult during the Holidays. Additionally, we do not have a firm grip on the Coronavirus and information is changing daily. Therefore, teenagers are still dealing with restrictions at school and are not able to see their friends on a regular basis. Furthermore, they don’t know if their lives are ever going to return to pre-pandemic routines or have their lives and childhood been permanently changed.

Finally, teenagers today are dealing with school shootings which continue on a regular basis. The school shootings impact more teenagers than we think are impacted by them. When there is a school shooting every student at that school, in that community and in our Country is effected. They are traumatized again and again begin to worry, will I be killed today at school. This is why the shooter in Oxford was charged with terrorism. Every student, teacher, parent and first responders were terrified about would they be killed, would someone they know be killed, how are they going to cope with what they find at the school and students, parents are teachers all over the Country worried about could this happen at our school? As a result, many teenagers do not want to go to school because they don’t feel safe and parents worry when their child leaves that day for school, could it be the last time they see their child alive. All of these factors are a lot to expect a 13 year old to cope with on a daily basis, year after year.

Ten years ago as part of my initial evaluation of a teenager I would ask, if they were cutting or had ever cut, once in a while I would get an answer of yes. Today when you ask teenagers about cutting most teenagers answer yes. They say they have used cutting to cope with the stress of life or they have thought about it. In fact, it’s no longer just teenagers. Children as young as 8 or 10 years old often respond yes to this question. This is alarming, but it is evidence of the amount of emotional pressure these kids have to deal with today. They apologize for trying it or thinking about it, but they explain life was so stressful they didn’t know how to cope with the emotions they were feeling. Again these teenagers are facing stress because they are admitting that life has become too stressful. They are afraid that I will be upset with them or that their parents may be upset that they cannot handle everything that is going on in their lives.

When you ask a teenager about cutting behavior, they usually respond it was easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional turmoil they were dealing with inside. Others will say the cutting takes their mind off of the emotional situation and others even say it makes them feel human. So as you can see there are numerous reasons, but teenagers are also very embarrassed and ashamed about the cutting behavior, as I stated above. If I am treating a teen who is engaging in cutting I must be very sensitive and non-judgmental about the behavior if I’m going to help. In addition, the family needs to be non-judgmental as well. Teenagers do not cut for the attention and as I stated above they are embarrassed about their behavior. If they sense that someone is viewing them in a negative way, they will not talk about it. Additionally, teenagers who are engaged in cutting hide their cuts so no one will know about their behavior.

Therefore, when treating or dealing with a teenager who is cutting you need to be patient and non-judgmental. Remember they are resorting to this behavior because it is the only way they are able to deal with the emotions they are feeling and the situations they are facing. Life today can be very overwhelming and often teenagers are not prepared for what they have to face in life and they are embarrassed to ask for help too. Often they are embarrassed because our society looks down on people dealing with mental health issues. I recently had a 13 year old ask me, “why don’t we place more emphasis on mental health so people can get the help when they need it?” A very good question to ask. Our society has a very strong negative stereotype regarding mental health and therapy. As a result, it is very difficult for teenagers to ask for and receive the mental health care they need.

After being treated for cutting, many teenagers are still embarrassed and feel awkward about their past behavior. Many times teenagers are left with scars on their bodies from cutting. Most families cannot afford plastic surgery and insurance will not cover it, even though it is a mental health need and in my opinion should be covered. The point is many teenagers continue to feel embarrassed and ashamed of the scars years after they have stopped cutting. Below is a blog from a teenager who discusses how they feel about their scars and people’s reactions. It also may help give you some insight to what teenagers are going through these days and how many of them are feeling overwhelmed by life. Instead of ignoring their cries for help we need to figure out how we can help them without making them feel embarrassed or crazy.

A teenager’s blog about cutting. My self-harm scars are “hideous.” I’m covered in them. Head to toe. No amount of time, no amount of fading will make them unnoticeable. That doesn’t mean I hate them. It doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed by them. I am aware that they make other people uncomfortable and there are times, when out of respect for others, I will cover them. There are other times when I won’t cover them. Whether I choose to cover them or not, I don’t feel that I should have to explain my choice. If I choose to cover them, it doesn’t mean I’m ashamed or feel forced to cover them. If I choose not to cover them, it doesn’t mean I want attention.

I regularly see people comment on social media saying, “If you make a public post people have the right to say whatever they want.” Apparently this entitles people to be nasty and judgmental. It excuses them from filtering what they say and think. It exempts them from extending basic decency and courtesy to others.

I’ve heard the same said about people who walk around with self-harm scars exposed. No. Just because you can see my scars doesn’t give you a free pass to say what you want. You don’t get to say, “You’re too pretty for that.” You don’t get to say, “You’re too smart for that.” It doesn’t matter whether you know me or not. They are my scars from my battles. Even if you know me, I can guarantee you won’t know all about my battles. You won’t know my darkest moments or thoughts. If you’re a stranger? What could you possibly think you know about my life? You don’t get a say on what my scars look like. You don’t get a say on whether or not I’m too pretty, too smart or too strong for that. You don’t get a say on whether or not I cover them.

Yes, you can see them. Yes, they are “hideous.” Look away. Walk away. Think about it by all means. Talk to someone else about it. If you’re game, educate yourself on it. Take responsibility for what you are doing. Take responsibility for what you are saying. Yes, you can see my scars but that doesn’t make me responsible for your reaction.

This is how one teenager tries to explain cutting to adults and how it makes them feel years after they have stopped cutting. Really read and think about what this teenager is saying. Should any teenager have to feel this way because they are feeling overwhelmed by life? Overwhelmed by circumstances which are not their fault and they cannot control? Is it fair they should suffer this way, when they are asking for help, but insurance companies deny to help them? What responsibility do we have to help these teenagers who are begging for help?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers. In addition, he specializes in treating victims of trauma and first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

School Shootings are Creating A Nation of Traumatized Kids

School Shootings are Creating A Nation of Traumatized Kids

I have written many articles about mass shootings and the impact they are having on children. In light of this week’s events it appears another article is needed. There was another mass shooting and at least 4 people lost their lives with many students shot and hospitalized. This shooting also created more fear regarding mass shootings. The Gun Violence Archive recorded 417 mass shootings in 2019. For 2021, the Gun Violence Archive has recorded 650 mass shootings and the year is not over yet.

I anticipate that I will be hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend, but given the number of mass shootings in makes sense. I hear them say you never know if someone will come to school with a gun. Imagine the trauma these students live with daily.

However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11, or were not even born yet, when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about numerous terrorist alerts or attacks around the world and here in the United States. They also hear how the TSA at times are putting tighter security on travelers and places such as Disneyland are increasing security due to concerns about terrorism.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. With the recent shooting it is estimated that there have been over 230 school shootings since the year 2000 (CNN). This number is for high schools and elementary schools, it does not include Universities. According to the statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. Also it is estimated that every 11.8 days there is a mass shooting in the United States (CDC). This does not include suicides. For the group we are discussing, suicide was the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old. It is now the second leading cause of death for teens and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.

Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news nightly and the video games they play daily. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States, or any where in the world, there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days too. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. Since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.

Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. Besides growing up with school shootings, since 2019 they have had to cope with the Coronavirus. Over 700,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus so far and 1,200 Americans continue to die daily (CDC). In addition, now another Coronavirus variant has been identified that maybe deadlier than the original virus. Children may not be facing the traumatic experiences personally everyday, but they are experiencing vicarious trauma daily. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up with in the world. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can demand that the Senate act. Telephone Senator’s McConnell office at 202-224-2541and demand that he stop refusing to allow Senators to vote for sane gun laws. Parents can monitor how much exposure children are receiving to the news when mass shootings occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. Again, we must demand that the Congress and the Senate pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon or silencer to hunt a deer. All the weapons in this last shooting were purchased legally. The government must act.

The United States, the most powerful nation in the world, is the only country dealing with these mass shootings. Children in the United States are more likely to be killed by guns than children living in the Middle East (CDC). Additionally, New Zealand had one mass shooting event and within 2 weeks all assault weapons were banned. This ban did not stop people from owning guns or using guns to hunt. Therefore, sane gun laws pose no threat to the 2nd amendment.

Another thing parents can do is listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have a talk with your child or have them assessed by a psychotherapist. I have included a link to an article by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which describes what parents can do http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.