What If My Teenager, Is Suicidal?

What If My Teenager, Is Suicidal?

Since the number of teenagers who are suicidal continues to increase, I decided to write this article for parents. Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine for the Coronavirus there has been a significant increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings due to survivors dealing with survivor guilt. 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 feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child 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.

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 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.

Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 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.

Are Kids Being Educated About MLK’s Message?

Are Kids Being Educated About MLK’s Message?

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This day was created to honor the memory of Dr. King and his message of acceptance and tolerance. However, are we honoring his memory and message? An argument could be made that no we are not honoring him or his message. In fact, you can say we have forgotten his message. On Monday schools will be closed in honor of Martin Luther King Day. However, when I mention to children and teenagers that they have a holiday on Monday, many kids are surprised. In fact, many kids do not even know why we have a holiday on Monday. How are we honoring the life and message of Martin Luther King, if students have no idea why they are having a holiday? Additionally, we have men and women in the Congress continuing to argue how we need to secure our southern border because “Mexican” immigrants are bringing drugs and crime into our country. The emphasis is on our southern border. The Congress doesn’t seem to worry about our Northern border or the thousands of people who enter our Country via planes and cruise ships. They appear not to worry about the immigrants and tend to focus on the “Mexican” immigrants. If we continue to view the world in this manner, are we remembering and honoring the memory and message of Martin Luther King?

Also let’s look at what is happening in our Country. Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Transgender individuals and minorities in general (CDC). Many Asian Americans are afraid to leave their homes and walk on the streets. They are afraid of being attacked by someone on the street because some people are blaming Asian Americans for Covid. Attacks on Jewish Temples and Anti-Semitic violence has been significantly increasing every year for several years now. Many Jewish Americans have been attacked and killed in Temples and Synagogues for no reason except they are Jewish. The Transgender and Transsexual communities are also afraid to go out and socialize because many of their clubs have been targets of mass shootings and many people have been killed senselessly (CDC). Again, how are we honoring Dr. King’s memory and legacy, if people are afraid to leave their homes and live their lives because they might be killed for being themselves.

Finally, the biggest point showing we are not honoring Dr. King is our elections. Many Southern States changed their voting laws for the 2022 election. A majority of these laws made it very difficult and almost impossible for every African American to cast their vote. Instead of moving forward, we have been moving backwards especially in the South. The changes are making voting for African Americans look like it did during the 1950s. Limiting the hours they can vote and making it illegal to give people waiting in line to vote a drink of water. What are we doing making it illegal to give someone a drink of water. Many older people or people with health issues need more water especially if they are standing in line for hours. The new voting laws were making people choose between exercising their right as an American to vote or taking care of their health. What type of choice is this? I am sure Dr. King never was advocating for laws such as these laws. In fact, he was advocating against these type of laws and that every person deserves to be treated with dignity regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation.

If we are not honoring his message, what are we teaching children born after the year 2000? These children never had a chance to be exposed to Dr. King’s message nor have they seen the discrimination that has occurred in the past. Many teenagers are wearing shirts or getting tattoos with racist symbols. Many of these teens have no idea what these symbols really mean. For many people we have felt we made a great deal of progress in our country regarding race relations. In fact, we had an African-America President. Therefore, some people have felt we did not need to teach children about past discrimination. However, we need to go further with education in the United States. I attended UC Berkeley and I took an American history class taught by a leading expert in United States history. I was never taught about the African American Wall Street and how it was destroyed. I was suppose to be getting one of the best educations in the Country because I was attending one of the best Universities in the Country. However, my education failed to address very important issues regarding race that I should have been educated about. If I did not receive a complete education regarding issues related to race and I attended one of the top Universities in the Country, what are other students receiving?

However, discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexuality and physical ability is very much alive in the United States. We do need to teach children about Hitler and the Holocaust. We also need to teach children about the White Supremest. We need to educate our children about their message and their symbols they use. We also need to educate children about how easily these people can come back and that discrimination still exist in the United States.

Dr. King’s message was to accept everyone and respect their human dignity. We have no right to judge someone based on race, color, creed, sexuality or physical ability. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated respectfully. He did point out that there are people who will decide to judge and hate others based on differences. Dr. King, like Ghandi before him, pointed out that we accept these people too. They are still people even though they are choosing to be cruel to others.

While he told people to acknowledge these people as human beings, he did not say to accept their hate. His message, like Ghandi, was nonviolence. You can accept the person without being cruel to them because of their message. Dr. King believed the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. Finding away to accept and love those who judge you is the strongest way of fighting the hate in their hearts.

If we look around, this message is still be taught to children. As adults we need to reinforce it. The Disney movie Frozen is an example. In the movie it teaches children how if someone does not feel love they will act out and make poor decisions. It also teaches that “love will thaw.” In other words, love is a stronger force than hate and can eliminate hate. This movie also looks at judging people based on differences. So here is a modern day example of Dr. King’s message. Love and acceptance will triumph over hate. As adults we need to reinforce this message to our children.

It is very important that we do so at this time in our country. We have people killing people due to the color of the skin, their religion or sexuality. This is not what Dr. King was teaching us. We have people in our government who want to treat people differently because of their color, religion or sexuality. Again this is not Dr. King’s message. Dr. King did not want us to hate these people either. He encouraged all of us to accept and love each other. Love can triumph over hate. It has in the past and it can again.

Therefore, in order to honor Dr. King and his message sit down with your children and teenagers and educate them about Dr. King’s message. Love is stronger than hate. I have included one of his quotes at the top of this blog that you can use.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Connection between Super Bowl Parties & Domestic Violence

The Connection between Super Bowl Parties & Domestic Violence

The Super Bowl is coming up quickly and many people are planning Super Bowl parties. It is a traditional weekend when family and friends gather together for Super Bowl parties. This has been a tradition for people for many years. However, due to the Coronavirus many people have had to skip their traditional parties. This year with restrictions being decreased many people are looking forward to more traditional parties. However, we still need to take precautions due to the Coronavirus. In addition to the Coronavirus, Super Bowl Sunday in is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States (CDC). This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

The first thing is to remember it is just a football game and it’s supposed to be a fun time for everyone. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treating domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

What do we do when 6 year old boys are shooting their teachers?

What do we do when 6 year old boys are shooting their teachers?

Parents, teachers and students have been worried about mass shootings and school shootings. Many children are afraid to go to school because they are afraid of being killed at school. Many children are frightened by the mass shooter drills. It makes sense why students, teachers and parents would worry about these issues and situations. However, now we have turned a very scary corner regarding school shootings. On Friday a six year old in Virginia had a disagreement with his teacher and he took a gun out of his backpack and shot his teacher (CNN, ABC, CBS news). Thank God, the teacher survived and is recovering in the hospital.

This brings up a whole new set of questions and concerns. How did a six year old boy manage to get a hold of a gun? How did he get it into his school? How did he know how to use a gun? Are teachers now going to need to be concerned that if a student is upset with them that the student might shoot them? Do they need to wear bulletproof vests while working? Do we need metal detectors in elementary schools? These are a lot of questions and unfortunately we don’t have any firm answers yet.

If we look at the history of school and mass shootings maybe we should have seen this incident coming. In 2022 we had an increase of 50% in the number of mass shootings compared to 2020 (Gun Violence Archive). The year 2022 had the most mass shootings on record for a year and the year held that record before 2022 was even over (CDC, Brady Gunn Violence Campaign). As I stated many children are afraid of attending school due to school shootings such as in Uvlade, Texas where 18 elementary school children and 2 teachers were killed. However, the police and school failed to give parents direct answers about what occurred that day even after several months had passed since the shooting. Can we blame children for being afraid when every weekend there are numerous mass shootings across the country with numerous people being killed. Also the shootings are usually done with an automatic gun. The most common is the AR15.

As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I hear many children and teens talking about their safety at school and around town while they are playing or hanging out. I have had many children state they are afraid to go to school because they are afraid of being killed. Yes anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly since the pandemic, however, anxiety and depression in children and teenagers were increasing prior to the pandemic. Anxiety and depression disorders started increasing as school mass shootings increased (CDC). I have seen this in public too. I was attending the play Oklahoma and when they shot the stage gun, the 12 year old behind me started having a panic attack and had to leave because they were afraid of being killed. It did not matter what the parents said or did. They automatically had a link between the sound of a gun and people dying. No child should have to be that afraid.

Teenagers are taking somewhat of a different response to the mass shootings. Many teenagers are also suffering from anxiety and depression disorders such as elementary children (CDC). However, many teenagers also seem to believe if they have a gun that will keep them safe. While researching this issue of gun violence, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since there has been a significant increase in mass shootings, more teenagers have been trying to find ways to have access to guns. As I stated for some teenagers they say they feel safer if they can access a gun. However, the major issue is that suicide has been significantly increasing for teenagers over the years (CDC). Suicide is now an epidemic in teenagers and guns are one of the most popular methods of suicide for teenagers. Many children who are bullied are choosing guns for suicide too. Therefore, as we examine how mass shootings are impacting our society, it’s important to look at how easy access to guns is resulting in an increasing number of teenagers committing suicide.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette or Orinda that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a 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 by guns. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries. For teenagers who commit suicide, guns are the second-leading cause of death. The CDC has recently moved suicide from the third-leading cause of death for teenagers to the second-leading cause of death. This is a scary fact that the rate of teenage suicides are increasing not decreasing.

The study in the Journal of Pediatrics 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 regardless of where they live. Therefore, teenagers in our area 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 that suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. It is now the second leading cause of death for boys 10 to 18 years old. 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? At the age of 10, he has given up hope for a decent life. This is a sad fact. Can you imagine being the parent or sibling of a 10 year old suicide victim and finding your child’s brains all over the room? How did a 10 year old get a gun for suicide? How does a teenager get a gun to shot and kill people at their high school?

We now need to answer how does a six year old get a gun and take it to school? If teenagers are feeling the need to carry guns and 10 year old boys are using guns for suicide, is it really a surprise that a six year old boy has a gun at school? If we examine the research as the number of school shootings have increased so have the number of students feeling that they need to have guns to be safe. Furthermore, as we follow the research the age of students feeling they need a gun is getting younger and younger. Ten year old boys were selecting guns for suicide so why wouldn’t they and younger boys start to feel that they needed guns to be safe?

If we are getting to this point with mass and school shootings, we must figure out why they are so common in the United States and start to implement remedies to stop them. Additionally, we need to examine and implement sane gun laws so that 6 and 10 year old boys cannot get access to and use guns for suicide or to kill someone else. We have laws preventing children from driving cars, drinking alcohol and even voting. These laws do not interfere with any adults from driving, drinking alcohol or voting. Therefore, safe, sane gun laws designed to protect children will not interfere with any adult’s second amendment rights. We must realize that the arguments the Gun lobby makes that laws protecting children are ridiculous and need to be ignored. Or do we want to have schools where a first grader can kill his teacher because he was upset with her? Think about that type of school.

While you are considering those facts here are some additional findings from the research study. The study also 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 deaths by guns 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 white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun. How did they get access to the guns?

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 or there will be a mass shooting 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 which went bad. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking carrying a gun, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old anyway. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.

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? How are adolescent boys getting access to guns? 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, Lafayette, Orinda and Danville.

What is happening in the United States? We are seeing mass shootings increase, violence against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, Transgender teenagers and police killings. What is happening in the United States? We are the only Country in the world dealing with mass shootings? However, we claim to be the most advanced nation in the world. Maybe Congress needs to look at these numbers and think about their actions. For example, Republicans stating the attack on the US Capital was not violent is crazy. It was violent. Several police officers were killed and they wanted to hang the Vice President. I think that qualifies as violent. We have videos of people assaulting the Capital Police and demanding to hang the Vice President. The Republicans in the House of Representatives remove Represetative Cheney from her leadership post because she won’t lie and say that Biden did not win the Presidential Election. Finally, you have a Republican representative comparing the requirement to wear masks in the House Chambers because everyone in the House of Representatives are not vaccinated. Someone who speaks the truth is removed and someone who makes racist, homophobic and anti Semitic statements is praised. This may be one part of the issue. We need to support people who are treating other people appropriately and we need to speak out and refuse to allow people who are treating people like garbage to continue to be allowed to treat people like garbage. Bottom line, we can no longer ignore the public health emergency created by guns and we must act an enact sane gun laws. People have to wear seatbelts in cars but you can still drive. As I stated above, you need to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol, but this law has not prevented adults from using alcohol. Therefore, sane gun laws will not take away guns from everyone! We are a nation of intelligent people please start using your common sense regarding guns.

If we don’t start to address this public health issue, we are going to continue to have children and teenagers who have severe anxiety and depression disorders and suicide rates for children and teenagers will continue to increase. By not controlling guns, mass shootings and the other violence, such as hate crimes, we are expecting children to grow up in a very scary, unpredictable world. Anxiety and depression are the sane responses. Are we going to allow mass shootings to continue or are we going to enact sane gun laws and provide children with a safe place where they can grow up? We owe it to the children.

Dr. Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Deal with the Bullying Epidemic at Schools

How to Deal with the Bullying Epidemic at Schools

As the Holiday Break comes to an end and kids return to elementary and high school, many return to the issue of being bullied. For many kids, the bullying continued over the Holiday Break so the student received no relief from the bullying they are experiencing. Bullying is a big problem in our society. In fact, many consider it an epidemic. Also bullying often results in the victim committing suicide. Due to the Pandemic and many children attending school remotely, many people assume bullying is not a big issue at this time. However, bullying no longer just occurs at school. Today most bullying occurs online or via texting. Children who are being bullied are receiving emails, texts and having insults posted on Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat. Most kids and teens don’t have the cognitive ability to cope with non-stop cyber bullying. Cyber bullying also can occur seven days a week 24 hours a day. As a result, the victims often feel suicide is the only way to stop the bullying.

Statistics by the CDC indicate that between 1 out of every 3 or 4 kids are bullied during their lives. The majority of bullying occurs during middle school. The kids most likely to be bullied are those that are considered different in some way. A boy may be emotional or a girl may not wear the right brand of clothes. These are common reasons many kids are bullied. If you think about it, these are no reasons to bully someone. In fact, there is no reason that justifies bullying.

Bullying has life long effects on those who are bullied, those who bully and those who stand by and watch the bullying happen. Let’s examine the impact of bullying on these different groups:

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

• Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.

• Health complaints

• Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

• Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults

• Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school

• Engage in early sexual activity

• Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults 

• Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

• Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety

• Miss or skip school

Because Donald Trump bullied many adults on Twitter, many adults failed to realize how cyber bullying impacts teenagers and children. However, as I just outlined above, it does have a serious impact.

The Harlem Globtrotters realized that bullying has a serious impact on children and have developed a program to help address and stop bullying. They call it the ABC program. It is not very difficult and makes a lot of sense. Here is the program:

Action – when you see bullying or are being bullied tell your parents or a teacher.

Bravery – don’t be afraid to walk away from someone who is bullying you. If you see someone bullying someone tell them to stop.

Compassion – if you know someone is being bullied or looks down go over and be nice to the person. Compliment them or encourage them to ignore the bully.

Here is a link to the ABC program so you can watch it and discuss it with your children https://youtu.be/O-TF7x3Q_sk.

If we don’t become active when bullying is occurring, it will never stop. This means teaching our children to speak out against it too. Look at the list above, bullying impacts everyone. It has life long effects on the bullied, the bullies and those who see it. Therefore, we must all act. Additionally, if we assume bullying is not occurring because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are wrong!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 yrs experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He is a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, an anti bullying program. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

A new study on teenage brains shows that social media has a negative impact on teenage brains. Many parents have been concerned about this fact and wondering if social media impacts a teen’s brain. Now we have an MRI study which shows the effects on teen brains

While we can see the changes, we don’t know how they affect teens yet. So teens are recommended to take breaks from social media sites until we know the changes. Below is a link to the research study:

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/03/health/social-media-checking-teen-development-wellness/index.html

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

Teenagers have been experimenting and using drugs for decades. Prior to the pandemic opioids were a major issue and so was heroine. In 2017, Opioids were becoming more expensive and teenagers started turning to heroine. Teens were turning to heroine because it was available and cheap. However, it was responsible for a large number of teenage overdosing and dying from heroine. The CDC documented a significant increase in teenage deaths due to heroine between 2010 and 2017. However, during this time fentanyl was being introduced to teenagers and it became very popular. In fact, more teenagers were dying from fentanyl overdoses than heroine. In 2022, the number of deaths due to fentanyl overdose increased by 23% (CDC) and the rate continues to increase.

As it became more popular, people became aware of how strong fentanyl can be and how deadly it is in reality. It was cheaper than heroine but also more deadly. It is also very easy to overdose on. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 times more powerful than heroine and 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly. In fact 2mg of fentanyl can be deadly. Additionally, the drug is more deadly to people who have not used fentanyl before. Therefore, your first time could be your last.

During the pandemic, teenagers were bored having to stay inside and not being able to see their friends as much as they would like to. Furthermore, remote schooling was a failure and many teenagers developed anxiety and depression issues. In fact since the pandemic, depression and anxiety disorders in adolescents are at epidemic rates (CDC). However, many teenagers are not receiving the mental health care they need because many psychotherapists, who treat adolescents, are fully booked and cannot accept new patients. Also because our society doesn’t feel mental health is necessary and for teenagers and many times we just assume that is how teenagers and therefore they never receive psychotherapy they desperately need. As a result teenagers started to self-medicate and experimenting with Fentanyl because it was new, cheap and promised a great high. Many teenagers are able to get fentanyl via social media. So Snapchat, Instragram and Facebook are popular places for teenagers to find drugs. A major problem is they may think they are just buying marijuana, heroine or another opioid which is laced with fentanyl and they don’t know it. Remember the less experience you have with this drug, the more likely someone is going to overdose. It also became obvious that the drug was very deadly when deaths such as the singer Prince, who overdosed accidentally on Fentanyl, made it very clear that it was a very deadly drug. As a result of public health campaigns, parents and teenagers started to become aware of how deadly the drug was and people became cautious about it.

Obviously this did not sit to well with drug dealers. Fentanyl was still popular but it could be even more popular. The solution is that colored fentanyl pills and powders have been developed. These colored fentanyl pills and powders are becoming popular with teenagers. The colored pills and powders look safer and teenagers are therefore more willing to try and use it. This is putting a significant number of teenagers at risk of dying due to overdosing (CDC). As a result, 9 out of 10 teenage drug overdoses involve fentanyl is some form and the death typically occurs at home (Boston University).

According to the government the “brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.” Furthermore, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” according to the DEA. Additionally, these brightly colored fentanyl forms appear safer to teenagers and as a result there is an increase in the number of teenagers using them. In addition to more teenagers using the colored fentanyl, more teenagers are dying due to the colored fentanyl (CDC, DEA).

More than 109,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending March 2022, according to provisional data published this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in that time — up from just over half at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, annual drug overdose deaths have jumped 44%. There were 75,702 deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2020, compared with 109,247 deaths in the latest 12-month period ending March 2022.

Drug deaths among children are relatively rare. But unintentional overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, and experts suspect that the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.

Parents, please take this time to discuss and educate your teenagers about the colored fentanyl. Everyone does not know about it and many teenagers are believing the lies that the colored fentanyl is not really dangerous. Remember teenagers think they know more than they do and their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed so their reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore do not approach this topic as a lecture, approach it as a casual conversation. Allow your teen to open up and talk freely. You may hear information that may help you save their lives. Remember, many teenagers can be misled about fentanyl because it does not look as dangerous as other drugs do. Therefore, take the opportunity to educate yourself and your teenagers and if you feel your teenager is already involved with it, seek professional help. If they are using fentanyl typically you will notice personality changes that are more extreme than just teenage personality issues. You may save the life of your teenager by talking to them. Anyone can get mixed up with fentanyl.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with Family Arguments during the Holidays

Coping with Family Arguments during the Holidays

Many parents, who have teenagers, often encounter power struggles with their teenager. Typically the power struggle occurs because the teenager disagrees with the limits their parents are setting. Many parents get frustrated by the power struggles, but teenagers at times enjoy the power struggle. If they get their parents into an argument most parents forget the main point of the discussion and the teenager wins.

This is the situation which occurs in normal life. However, we are not living during normal times. We are dealing with a pandemic and the possibility that another pandemic maybe beginning. We still are struggling with the Coronavirus and now we have another virus, monkeypox, beginning. By this time many families are tired of dealing with the pandemic and want to return to their lives prior to the Coronavirus. Therefore, we are in a situation with families tired of dealing with a virus and inflation and people can get annoyed easily.

Additionally, it is the Holiday Season with family dinners and get togethers. These can create uncomfortable situations too. Family issues they may not have been settled may come up or arguments over politics may come up. The point is besides being a little when families have good times together, it is also a time when family arguments occur. The guidelines below can help with the Holidays too.

At this point, it is important for parents to remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and other executive functions such as making decisions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to be able to participate in a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough. To put it another way, you are not debating the house rules regarding curfew or issues related to the Coronavirus with a 16 year old, you are debating the rules with a fifth grader in terms of their physical and emotional development. Therefore, they are more likely to argue and to be disrespectful. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy arguments and avoid destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement. Many people may think this idea is crazy, but it’s not.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always is a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. Especially now, with most people feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future there are bound to be things that irritate everyone. Instead of ignoring these issues until everyone is screaming and yelling. It is better to address these issues in a healthy manner and lower everyone’s stress level. Besides lowering the stress level in the house, you are modeling for your teenager how to have a reasonable discussion about differences of opinions without having to say hurtful things to each other.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers and children need to remember that their children’s Frontal Lobes are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. This is one of the reasons fair fighting was developed. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another. You can also teach your children how to use these rules with each other. This should help reduce fighting between siblings.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your family and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Explain that times are difficult on everyone and these rules can help make this time a little easier. Take the time and go over each rule so all family members understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night and some people have difficulty with change.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples too. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules. This way the entire family can start using these rules and hopefully improve communication within the family.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children, trauma victims and their families including first responders. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.

Allowing Everyone to Celebrate Their Holiday

Allowing Everyone to Celebrate Their Holiday

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. Additionally, 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, the largest amount of Jewish people in the United States killed at one time were killed while 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. However, crimes against the LGBT+ community have increased significantly over the past couple of years (CDC).

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, and the LGBTQ+ community, 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 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

“I want food for Christmas “

The Holiday Season is here again, however, this year it still will not be our typical Holiday Season because we are still dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus and inflation. Over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus and people are still dying daily due to the virus (CDC). So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents, friends and children. Furthermore, due to inflation and a significant increase in the cost of food, many parents are having difficulties affording food, rent and their other monthly bills.

Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children. Many of these people have well paying jobs prior to the pandemic and they never dreamed that they would be going to food banks or churches looking for food. However due to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and inflation, they are finding it difficult to pay all their monthly bills.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for Christmas not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, the former President Trump continues to lie about how he did not lose the election and spreading lies about the pandemic and inflation which only serve to make these children’s lives worse. Many have asked him to stop the lying and misinformation, but he ignores the pleas.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but they still cannot afford the prices for food and gas due to inflation. I have children who tell me they are happy to be going back to school because public schools now provide free breakfast and lunch. Therefore, by going to school they get to eat and not have to starve.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. Many children I see I need to see pro bono or for a very low fee because their families don’t have insurance or their parents cannot afford the copayments the insurance companies require.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire soon. However, the Senate refuses to cooperate with President Biden who is proposing programs to help these families and to give them their dignity back. Many of these programs are their only source of food and shelter for children. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will decrease the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders . For more information about his work with children visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.