Another Halloween with the Coronavirus

Another Halloween with the Coronavirus

It will soon be Halloween and kids are looking forward to one of their favorite holidays. However, again this year many children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant. While over the past two weeks there has been a decrease in cases and hospitalizations, we still don’t have the Coronavirus under control especially for children. Therefore, it is still not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year in most areas of our Country. In addition to missing Halloween, many children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacations. One year was bad enough, but now we are going on missing birthdays and holidays for two years. Yes we have vaccinations that help adults and children over 12 years old, but children under 12 do not have a vaccine that has been approved for their age group yet. Therefore, they remain at risk of catching the coronavirus. As a result, many children are feeling depressed and anxious and tired of waiting for vaccinations.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Sunday this year, let them wear these costumes all weekend. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all weekend. You can also look online for Halloween treats they can make and have for the weekend. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing and the parents are fully vaccinated so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus and you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat and you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken and they would be fully vaccinated to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and are contracting the Coronavirus. The research also shows that some children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

New California Laws Regarding Condoms

New California Laws Regarding Condoms

Consent is very important in our lives, however, teenagers may not understand how important consent can be in life. A medical doctor cannot treat anyone without their consent. Teenagers may not be aware of how important consent is in life because they rely on their parents to provide consent for them. Since they are under 18 in most situations they need parental consent. Therefore, it is not an issue they deal with and it is not something that they think about on a daily basis.

There are some situations where teenagers need to be aware of consent and think about consent. The major area where they need to be aware of consent is dating. Consent starts with both the boy and girl agreeing that they want to go on a date with each other. If a relationship begins to develop and one or both of them want to make the relationship a sexual relationship then both the girl and the boy must agree and consent to a sexual relationship. They both need to consent to the sexual activity they are going to engage in. This may seem fairly basic but many boys are not aware of consent in all these situations.

Another major issue related to sexual relationships that teenagers are not usually aware of is that no means stop. If a girl says no at anytime while they are having sex, the boy must stop immediately. If the boy doesn’t stop as soon as the girl says no, he has committed rape. This is a fact that many teenage boys are not aware of regarding sex and consent. It is something we need to educate teenage boys about when they receive sexual education.

There is a new consent issue that teenage boys need to be educated about when they receive sex education. California has a new consent law referred to as “stealthing.” Governor Newsom just signed a new law making stealthing illegal without proper consent. You may be wondering what is stealthing? Stealthing is when a male opens a condom wrapper before the other person has consented to sex. Therefore, if a teenage boy opens a condom anticipating that he is going to have sex, he can be charged with sexual assault if the girl has not consented to having sex yet.

Currently the law doesn’t state that the boy would go to juvenile hall, but the law states they can be sued in civil court. I would advise patients who have teenagers to look up this new law and review all of the details. How do we know if someone consented to having sex before or after the condom is opened. There are not going to be a lot of witnesses when the condom is opened (hopefully, not). Do teenage boys need to record their sexual experiences to prove they had consent?

I understand that the intent of the law is so no one is pressured into doing anything sexually that they don’t want to do, but I think this law goes to far. In my professional opinion, we need to provide teenagers more education about sex and consent. They also need education about responsibility and sex too. Besides focusing on the fact that sex is physically enjoyable, we need to discuss when you have sex are you prepared to be parent? No contraception device is 100% effective. Therefore, every time you have sex you could become a parent. Also are you prepared to handle your emotions and the other person’s emotions associated with sex? Finally, are you mature enough to tell your physician so if you contract a sexually transmitted disease, you and your partner can receive the appropriate treatment.

Consent is important. However, there is much more involved with sex than the physical act and getting proper consent. If this is all we focus on, we are not doing our teenagers any favors. There is much more involved regarding being sexually intimate with a person. We need to focus on these issues and educate teenagers about these issues too.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents Respect

As an adolescent psychotherapist one of the major issues I deal with is respect. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and parents feel dissected by their teenagers. At this time of year with high school beginning many teenagers believe they are entitled to more respect because they are now high school students. They feel they should be allowed to make more of their own decisions and that their parents do not need to know everything about their friends or activities.

This article is somewhat different from the ones I usually write. While it is helpful for parents, I am directing a great deal of it towards teenagers.

Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you have graduated from middle school or high school doesn’t mean you are in charge of or that you are ready to handle all aspects of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There are still a number of life experiences for you to learn from and until you do, your parents are responsible for and probably need to help you.

A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 years old you can do as you like. This is the case if you are in a situation where you can financially support yourself and provide for all your needs. If you are still financially dependent on your parents, even though you are 18, your parents do have a right to set certain rules that you need to follow.

Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are legally responsible for the damage. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall. These are just a few examples that your parents have being your parent.

You may think that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do in life. Even if they give you permission to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18.

As I started off as a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis, doing your homework, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or drugs. For teenagers who have graduated high school you may feel the above guidelines do not apply to you. However, if you parents are assisting to pay for college, your living expenses and such things as your health insurance, the guidelines apply to you too. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.

Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.

Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because you graduated high school. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.

Parents while your teenagers have a lot to learn and do need to demonstrate they can handle responsibility, you need to give them opportunities to earn your respect. You have to have faith in your teenager and say yes sometimes even when you have doubts. Obviously you start by saying yes to the little request and allow them to earn your respect. Also if you have doubts or concerns talk to your teenager about high school or college. If you have open minded conversations with your teenager, they will respect and trust you. This provides a situation where you and your teen can have open, honest conversations in the good and bad times. It can help you develop a closer relationship with your teen and you can assist your teenager in becoming a responsible young adult you can be proud of.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating adolescents and children. To learn more about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Is Your Child Dealing with Anxiety due to the Pandemic or ADHD

Is Your Child Dealing with Anxiety due to the Pandemic or ADHD

Schools are starting to reopen during a pandemic. Many schools are still arguing about if teachers and students over 12 years old must be vaccinated in addition to arguing if students and teachers must wear masks while at school. While these debates are occurring students are adjusting to be back at school and many students are adjusting to new schools entirely. A student who was a freshman in high school last year never set foot on the high school campus because most schools were operating remotely. Therefore, they are sophomores this year, but it is the first time they have been on campus or interacted with other students and teachers. For many students they are experiencing anxiety and panic attacks as they return to school. Additionally for high school students, they really missed out on an entire year of their high school experience. How will this impact them?

Now that schools have resumed so has the fighting parents and teenagers have over getting homework completed and turned in on time. This means parents are once again getting notices from their children’s schools that their child is not doing homework and not paying attention in class. When kids were attending school remotely, many teachers and parents were not as concerned because they knew doing school remotely was very difficult. However, now that students are back in the classroom, teachers and parents are no longer ignoring attention issues or difficulties with homework.

As a result, some schools and family members may be suggesting to parents that their child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication. Additionally given everything children have been through with the pandemic and remote learning, we need to be very careful about labeling a child with ADHD. There are a number of other options such as depression, anxiety and boredom.

According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males, however it does also occur in families. According to the CDC 15.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.

If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. It’s important to get them the accommodations they need. Children who have ADHD, but do not receive accommodations tend to show signs of low self-esteem around the fifth grade. Accommodations for ADHD can be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.

If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.

As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.

The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.

Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.

Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.

Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. Also remember many children are experiencing anxiety due to the pandemic. Anxiety can easily look like ADHD. Therefore, instead of medication, maybe your child needs therapy for anxiety.

The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 24 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Reasons Why Teenage Boys Dislike Psychotherapy

Reasons Why Teenage Boys Dislike Psychotherapy

Many people have noticed that teenage boys and men hate to go to therapy. Therefore, let’s address this issue. Here is a link for a movie, “The Mask You Live In” https://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo. The above trailer contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you will have a very good idea why.

In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, and can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that.” You don’t have to because it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the school staff picks him up and tells him to shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. If a boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You have even seen examples of this attitude on ABCs show “Dancing with The Stars”. A couple of times some of the men have started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.

Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Another popular activity with boys as a way to demonstrate their manhood is for boys to get into a fight and have a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. They also check their posts and compare who’s post has the most number of view. All of this to prove they are a “man.”

Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does cry he is called a “sissy, or a fag” just to list a few.

If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy they pretend to be. Also they know physicians and therapists treat other men and they are afraid how they might be compared to other males. They are afraid that the physician or therapist doesn’t see them as tall or as strong as other guys and the physician or therapist may think that they are not as tough as other guys. Now physicians and therapists are not making these judgments but the guys being treated still feel like a failure.

Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men and teenagers who cry in my office all the time. They all get really embarrassed and beg me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry have ever cried in my office. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the male stereotype.

We need teenage boys to focus on their emotions. The best way for us to help boys and men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype. Challenge Day is an excellent organization which tries to help teenage males face their feelings. Also monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This stereotype has a tendency to lead men and teenagers to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks, strokes and suicide. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.

If we take a moment and examine teenage boys more closely, the CDC statistics indicate that one in five boys would benefit from therapy. Additionally, anxiety and depression are at epidemic rates for teenagers especially boys. Furthermore, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenage boys and the preferred method for suicide are guns. Finally, the research indicates that teenage boys who try to conform to the stereotype are more likely to report feeling lonely and isolated. Given the situation with the pandemic, this is not a good time for teen boys to feel lonely or isolated. Therapy could be a tremendous help to teenage boys.

While teenage boys resist therapy for the above stated reasons, you need to remember you are the parent. If you notice your teenage boy is depressed and talking about suicide, therapy is not a choice. Additionally, if they appear depressed and you suspect they are abusing alcohol or drugs, therapy is not a choice. Yes you want to give choices about their lives, but remember they still are kids and cognitively not able to reason as an adult. Therefore, at times you must say there is no choice. Would you give them a choice of having surgery, if they had appendicitis?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience who specializes in treating children, teenagers and victims of trauma. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Connection between Bullying and Suicide in Children

The Connection between Bullying and Suicide in Children

Before the pandemic most kids and teenagers complained how they hated school and wanted to stay home. However, after a year of remote learning most kids and teenagers want to go back to the classroom and also see their friends again. However, as kids return to school a common issue is returning. The issue is kids being teased and bullied. In the 21st century bullying doesn’t just happen at school, it now occurs on line via texting and by kids posting things on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to name a few social media sites. Therefore bullying and teasing can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore, kids who are being bullied or teased never get a break from it.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on YouTube and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. As I noted above, today’s bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have turned to suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase, the number of suicides and drug use increase too. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 10 year old kids according to the CDC statistics.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied on line or at school as schools reopen. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame them or be ashamed of them. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 23 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

Transitioning from high school is difficult. Many freshmen deal with depression or anxiety or both. This year maybe more difficult due to the Coronavirus and the chaos we are experiencing in our Country. Therefore, it’s helpful if family and friends are aware that someone starting college are at risk for depression and check-in with them. If you think they are depressed do your best to be supportive and maybe recommend therapy.

The National Association of the Mental Illness examined this issue. Here are some of the facts that NAMI discovered that maybe helpful to some college freshmen.

In 2018, more than 63% of college students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety during their enrollment and nearly 42% reported feeling so depressed that they had trouble functioning at some point during the last 12 months. Some of these students may not have battled a mental health challenge before attending college and might not know how to deal with depression in this new environment.

Meanwhile, friends, roommates and classmates often have difficulty recognizing symptoms of depression in students. However, if these peers understand the warning signs to look for, they will be empowered to check in with the college students in their lives who may be struggling sooner and assist them in getting help. Better yet, a familiarity with the warning signs could help curb the thousands of preventable deaths by suicide each year.

So, if you want to be an attentive friend or support system for someone dealing with depression — and help your fellow students — keep an eye out for the following warning signs so you can begin a conversation with anyone you may be concerned about.

Negative Emotions

One of the first warning signs of depression is expressing or showing negative feelings or emotions. For instance, someone might reveal they’re feeling sad, anxious or numb, or perhaps they’ll share that they’re dealing with more stress than usual. Others may not express what they are feeling, but it may be obvious that they are feeling more anger, frustration or sadness than in the past. For example, they may have a short temper, exhibit less engagement in conversation and normal activities or experience sudden outbursts.

Often, people with depression can’t identify why they’re feeling sad or when they began to experience these emotions. It’s also possible that if you ask more questions about “why” or “when,” they may shut down and become avoidant or unresponsive.

What to say:

Let’s say you’re concerned about your roommate. It can be helpful to avoid asking too many questions, remind them they’re not alone, validate their feelings, and prepare to listen if they do open up.

  • You: “I noticed you’ve been quieter than usual lately. I’m not sure what you’re going through, but I’m here for you if you want to talk.”
  • Them: “Yeah. I’ve felt kind of numb these past few weeks and I’m not really sure why. But I don’t want to talk about it.”
  • You: “It’s okay to feel low sometimes. I’m your friend no matter what, and we can get through this together.”

Irregular Sleeping And Eating Habits

If you pay close attention, you might notice irregular eating habits in your friend or roommate. Do they skip meals regularly? Do they eat whenever they are stressed? Both undereating and overeating are warning signs of depression.

Depression also affects people’s sleep schedules. For instance, if your roommate is experiencing depressive symptoms, they may repeatedly sleep for more than 10 hours a night while someone else with depression might struggle with insomnia.

What to say:

It’s best not to comment on someone’s eating or sleeping habits, but rather inquire about the underlying reasons they might be engaging in that behavior.

  • You: “You look like you could use some caffeine. Have you been staying up late to catch up on your favorite show?”
  • Them: “Actually, I haven’t been able to fall asleep lately, so I turned on the TV hoping it’d knock me out.”
  • You: “Has anything been bothering you? I know I struggle to sleep when something’s on my mind. I hope you know I’m always here if you want to talk.”

Disinterest In Extracurricular Activities

Hobbies are a great way to explore your interests and relieve stress while you’re in college. However, students struggling with depression might not care to engage in activities they used to enjoy. They might also avoid social situations, including time with friends.

This general lack of interest is a telling sign of depression and can often perpetuate more feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness.

What to say:

If your roommate rarely leaves the dorm, offer to do something — or nothing — together.

  • You: “Hey, do you want to go get ice cream with me?”
  • Them: “No thanks. I don’t really feel like going anywhere or doing anything.”
  • You: “Okay, well, I don’t have anything going on. We can just chill here and do nothing together.”

Unexplainable Guilt

Depression doesn’t always come from specific circumstances, and people from all backgrounds and situations can experience it. Unfortunately, this can cause guilty feelings in students who have “had it good” and still struggle with depression.

As a result, these feelings can cause students to spiral because they perceive themselves as a burden or as “incomplete,” which can make symptoms even worse. Therefore, it’s essential to watch out for negative self-talk and twinges of guilt.

What to say:

Discourage negative self-talk, validate your roommate’s feelings and remind them of their worth.

  • Them: “I shouldn’t complain so much. So many people have it worse than I do. Maybe I should just suck it up and move on.”
  • You: “No. You have every right to feel that way. Your experiences are real, and you can take as much time as you need to work through your past trauma. You deserve to feel whole again, too.”

Persistent Pain

Depression can cause unexplainable pain, chronic illness, and discomfort independent of any injury. Muscle aches and joint pain in the chest, back, neck and shoulders are all potential warning signs.

Of course, these symptoms are easy to spot if they’re severe and cause great discomfort. However, if your roommate is avoiding you — or is just really good at hiding their true feelings — you might go weeks without noticing their aches and pains.

What to say:

Ask about potential injuries or underlying conditions before jumping to conclusions. Then, work together to find ways to alleviate discomfort.

  • Them: “Ugh. My lower back is killing me lately.”
  • You: “Did you sleep funny or hurt it playing basketball the other day?”
  • Them: “No. I think it might have something to do with my sleep schedule, but I’ve also felt off lately.”
  • You: “Well, I’m not sure why you feel bad either, but some movement might help. Maybe we can do some stretches later or take a yoga class together. If that doesn’t help, would you consider talking to a doctor?”

If you notice any of these warning signs of depression in college students, it’s crucial that you reach out and encourage them to seek help. Your empathy and concern could save someone’s life, so the sooner you speak up, the better.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. If you are interested in his work, please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

How Many Teenagers Die because of the Shame associated with Mental Health

How Many Teenagers Die because of the Shame associated with Mental Health

In our society there is a huge negative stereotype about mental illness and treatment for mental illness. You would think with all the advancements in the world and society, that our attitude towards mental health would have changed by now. However, it has not and that is why the month of September is dedicated to Suicide awareness. Many people are surprised that in the United States in the 21st century, statistics show that 1 in 5 people could benefit from psychotherapy (CDC). Also suicide is the second leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC).

Most people when they think about psychotherapy or mental illness, think of someone sleeping in the street or some one with severe schizophrenia. Because of this stereotype many people feel ashamed or embarrassed if they are told they need therapy. Family members also feel ashamed and embarrassed and never mention it to other people if someone in their family needs psychotherapy. People are afraid that other people will think they are “crazy” too, if someone in their family is going to therapy. However, most people who need treatment for a mental illness need treatment for depression or anxiety not schizophrenia. Diane Swayer, who use to anchor ABC news, started a non-profit because her sister has Bipolar Disorder. She was not ashamed to announce this publicly. Also we all witnessed how the world responded when, Simone Biles, decided not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health issues. We need more examples like Diane and Simone.

Research studies show that most depression is due to a chemical imbalance in brain. Similarly, Diabetes is due to the pancreas not being able to coordinate glucose levels in the body. We don’t make a person with diabetes feel embarrassed or ashamed so why do we make someone dealing with depression feel embarrassed or ashamed? Both issues are due to chemical imbalances in our bodies.

What is the cost of this stereotype? People who have depression are at risk for suicide. The Center for Disease Control statistics show that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged10 to 24. Yes ten year old children are suffering from depression and are killing themselves. One of the most common methods is a gun. People assume this is a guarantee. Wrong, a gun is not a guarantee. Quite often the gun jumps and the person lives. However, they have to undergo multiple surgeries to try to rebuild their face. However, no matter how good the surgeon, the person is left with multiple permanent scars. Psychotherapy and medication might have prevented the suicide attempt.

However, because of our negative stereotype, depression and suicide have never been taken seriously. As a result, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most common place in the world for people to attempt suicide by trying to jump off the Bridge. It wasn’t until just recently that the Bridge District voted on what type of anti-suicide barrier they are going to build. However, even though they have voted for an anti-suicide net, they are still debating the details. The Golden Gate Bridge is over 78 years old. It has taken over 78 years to do something about a life or death issue and they are still debating over minor details. As they do, over 200 people a year try killing them selves by jumping off the Bridge. According to the Bridge District, there have been 1700 recorded deaths. The longer we wait, more people can die. BART has been around for decades and people had been jumping in front of trains for years. However, BART understands the issue and that it must be addressed despite the stigma. BART has an anti-suicide campaign showing we can address the issue of mental health without shame.

Often we assume it is a money issue. Only poor people commit suicide because they cannot afford treatment. The suicide of Robin Williams destroyed that myth. He had plenty of financial resources for treatment and had been in and out of treatment centers for years. In an interview with Dyane Swayer he described how overwhelming depression is, he said, “no matter what there is always that little voice in the back of my mind saying jump.” If that voice is always there but society is saying there is something wrong with you for having depression in the first place or because you have not over come it, are you going to ask for help or keep seeking help? No.

Yes society often blames the patient. Why don’t they try harder? Why didn’t they think of their family? After Robin Williams’ suicide a number of comedians and actors talked about their silent struggle with depression. Rosie O’Donnell stated it best, “when you are that deep down in that black hole with intense emotional pain, the only think you can think about is how to stop the pain. You don’t think about your family or anything else.”

I ask you to think about your opinion or thoughts about mental illness. Think about a 10 year old boy feeling that suicide is the only way out of his pain. Think about the fact that he is dealing with a medical diagnosis similar to diabetes or high blood pressure. If this is right, why is there this negative stigma about mental illness? If a child has diabetes he receives medical treatment, there are summer camps and there is no shame put on the child or the family. Think about the fact that the bill President Trump try to make Depression and anxiety pre-existing conditions so insurance companies could deny people health care.

We need to make a change in how we view or react to mental illness. We live in the United States of America and we are supposed to be the super power in the world. You wouldn’t think that in the most powerful nation in the world that the second leading cause of death for our children is suicide. We must change this ridiculous stereotype we have about mental illness and start providing people and children with appropriate treatment for their mental illness. The life you save might be your’s child’s life or the life of a family member or friend.

We may want to look at England. The Duke and Duchesses of Cambridge have formed a program called, Heads Together. The goal of the program is to eliminate the negative stereotype about mental health and to make sure people who need psychotherapy receive it. In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge said publicly that if her children ever need psychotherapy that they will receive it. We might want to follow their example.

Also consider these facts and points Chris Cuomo made about how we stigmatize mental health on his CNN show https://youtu.be/9nSN9eDnhmk. It’s worth listening to.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist. He is very active in eliminating the stereotype about mental health. He is an active member in Heads Together in London, a non-profit founded by Prince Willam and Princess Kate to help people understand that people need mental health care. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice or his work visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Lessons about 9/11 that We Forgot

Lessons about 9/11 that We Forgot

Today is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Our Country said it is a day we will never forget, however people in the early 20s were too young to remember and teenagers were not even born. They most likely have heard numerous stories about that day, but they did not experience the fear we all felt and the uncertainty we all were struggling with that day. 9/11 was the first time in history that the mainland of the United States had ever been attacked. It happened often in Europe but never here in the United States. On that day the safety we all were use to was destroyed. There will be a number of television documentaries this weekend about 9/11. Parents you may want to watch one of these documentaries with your children and discuss with them how they feel and answer any questions it may bring up.

There was something else that changed that day too. We witnessed how our first responders all pulled together in order to help victims and secure the Country. They did not come together for a day, they came together for months and exposed themselves to deadly dust and the possibility that building may further crash in on them killing them. They thought nothing about themselves. They were only thinking about helping survivors and families who lost loved ones. It was also amazing to see how first responders from all over the Country came to New York City and Washington D.C. to help. They also planned on being there for as long as needed which was several months. Regardless of the length of time our first responders were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week and no one complained.

We also witnessed citizens volunteer to help the first responders. We even witnessed a plane of citizens sacrifice their lives in order to protect a plane that was planning on hitting the White House. We all came together regardless of race, sexual preference, socioeconomic status and worked together. We were all Americans and we were going to work together to prove to the terrorist and the world that no one could stop the United States of America. Besides the citizens who volunteered at the sites that were attacked, people from all over the Country donated money, clothes and supplies for homes. Many people had lost their homes, survivors had medical bills and the first responders needed food, clothes and places to sleep. The main point is we all came together as Americans so we could help protect and save Americans impacted by this attack.

We owe a great debt to our first responders and we still do. Our first responders are responding the same way to the pandemic. They are working 24/7 to help victims of the pandemic and to help families who have lost loved ones. Many physicians and nurses have not had a day off since the pandemic started. The first responders continue helping victims of the pandemic while having to also help victims of hurricanes, floods and fires all over the Country. They do not think about themselves, they only think about the jobs and the people they need to save.

While our first responders continue to selflessly respond to the needs of our country, the citizens of our Country do not. Instead we are fighting with each other about who is right. The part that is really disgraceful is we are fighting with first responders and essential workers. When they have asked people to follow guidelines which have been established many of them have been beaten and some even have been shot and killed. We have a pandemic that has killed over 650,000 Americans. The tragedy on 9/11 killed over 3000 Americans. What would have happened after the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11 if we argued with first responders and if we shot at the first responders? I am afraid to think what would have happened.

Parents if you compare what is happening in our Country today with how people responded on 9/11, it is very disappointing. It seems like we have forgotten. We are not acting together as one Country, we are fighting with each other and we are emphasizing our differences. Parents try thinking back 20 years ago and explain to your children what it was like when we all acted together as one and we were all proud of our Country and that we were all working together. Maybe if we can explain this to our children and teenagers maybe they can start to work together and once again be proud about all of us being Americans.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple

Examining the Issue of Teenage Suicide

Examining the Issue of Teenage Suicide

September is suicide awareness month. Many parents of teenagers ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? I have been getting this question even more now that the pandemic has lasted so long. As a result of teenagers and children having to stay in the house for so long and not being able to see friends and now just starting to return to school, many teenagers are feeling isolated and lonely. Suicidal feeling have been increasing for teenagers for several years. As a result, the CDC has increased suicide from the the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. As I stated, since the quarantine and pandemic has occurred, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. A recent study by the CDC has found that during the pandemic, the idea of suicide for teenagers has increased. Currently, 1 out of 4 teenagers have been having suicidal thoughts (CDC). Also for adults, suicidal ideations have increased by 11%. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine and pandemic, parents were had already started worrying about their teenager being suicidal because a study by the CDC indicated that survivors of mass shootings were more likely to attempt suicide. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they think their teen is suicidal. This creates a great deal of anxiety for parents because we were discussing there is an epidemic rate of teenage suicide, and since the pandemic has lasted so long, the number of teenagers thinking about suicide has increased significantly (CDC). Parents have been isolated due to the pandemic so besides the fact they are dealing with their own feelings of isolation and fatigue, they are faced with trying to decide what is the best thing to do for their teenager.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a major tragedy for the teen and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same. Some teenagers may need a face transplant which is a new technique surgeons have as an option.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal. I have looked at the study and questions and I highly recommend the Lighthouse Project.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter. It provides you with symptoms and signs to watch for in teenagers. It also helps you talk to your teen about their feelings and opinions you can use for help. The bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Remember today’s teenagers have had to deal with a lot over the past couple of years. They had to worry about being shot at school by a mass shooter, bullying has significantly increased so has the pressure to succeed and now they have had to cope with 4 months of being quarantined, their school was abruptly closed and now many are having to return to school remotely. They are all saying the same thing to me, when do I get to see me friends and when will life return to normal. Since many are now feeling life will never be normal, they are feeling suicidal. We need to be there for them and help them through these very confusing times. These times are confusing for adults imagine how they are for teenagers and children. So if you teen or child seem depressed or are talking an suicide make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on a teenager attempting suicide, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify or Apple.