Children with Special Needs and the Holidays

Children with Special Needs and the Holidays

As a psychotherapist who treats children, I work a great deal with children with special needs. Children who have Autism, ADHD, difficulties with being over stimulated by noise, processing difficulties etc. These children can respond differently to all the Holiday activities. Therefore, parents need to be prepared to cope with the Holidays. I recently read a blog by Lori Lite which gives good tips for how parents can prepare. I have provided some of her tips below.

Set Up a Safe Brain Break Space: Your child can enjoy downtime when they feel over-stimulated at your house or at your relatives. Set up a brain break space and be sure that the other children and guests know that this space is off-limits. Empower your special needs child to recognize when they need to go to their brain break space. Practice, practice, practice…. ahead of time to recognize when mood is escalating… Did I say practice? Empower children by packing a relaxation bag they can go to if they are feeling anxious. Bring earphones and their special relaxation music or stories. Play dough, stress ball, music, video game, even a camera can help children relax and give them a focus if they have social anxiety.

The Indigo Dreams Series gives you stories that incorporate actual relaxation techniques. The stories and music can be downloaded to an iPod or iPad. The other kids may actually be jealous…give them their own space to de-stress. You may start a new trend!

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece. Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children with special needs. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

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All I want for Christmas is Food

All I want for Christmas is Food

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:

See the video above

The fact that is even more heartbreaking is she was not the only child. Several children requested food and blankets.

We assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However, one in five children live below the poverty level and do not have enough to eat on a regular basis. Many of these children are homeless too. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but the cost of living in the United Stares is so high, they still cannot provide their children with the basic necessities.

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. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.

The other sad fact is that the United States government is considering cutting programs that will make life worse for these children. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase 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? We are willing to cut these vital programs that these children who are legal United States citizens and turn around and spend $5 billion dollars on a wall. Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubuno had 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work with children visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Issues Related to Texting that Teenagers Seldom Consider

Issues Related to Texting that Teenagers Seldom Consider

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other. If I go to a baseball game or the theater, I see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We now have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. While it is becoming very common with adults, it is even more common with teenagers. The teenagers I see for psychotherapy text all the time. It appears that texting is now the preferred way that teenagers communicate with each other. If you remove their cellphones and they cannot text, many teens become very upset and I have seen many become violent.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue due to texting and they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

First, it is important to note that any time you post something, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they could be violating child pornography laws by sending the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

Parents, we see adults getting into trouble due to texts they have sent, what makes us think that teenagers can’t get into trouble too? Remember they are not grown adults yet, so their ability to think logically as an adult is not fully developed. Even if it was, technology is moving so fast that adults are getting into trouble due to the rapid change in our lives due to technology. Therefore, we cannot expect teenagers to be able to sort all of this out on their own. Talk to your teen about texting, you may need to monitor their texting. There are apps that can help teenagers identify texts that may be inappropriate. Bottom line teenagers need to support and guidance from their parents regarding the ever evolving technology that we are facing. If we cannot keep up with the ethical issues, how can a teenager?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Why Men and Teenage Boys Avoid Seeking Help for Their Stress

Why Men and Teenage Boys Avoid Seeking Help for Their Stress

In our society people do not discuss mental health and it is something people feel embarrassed about. They also feel shame if they have mental health issues or if they go to a psychotherapist. However, our lives have become very complex and difficult, especially for children and teenagers. Besides coping with everyday life issues, we now face mass shootings and killings on a regular basis. Technology is advancing very quickly and the way we do things is changing very quickly too. As soon as we learn one thing, there is a new way to do the task that we need to learn. This makes our lives stressful and creates anxiety.

While we have this negative stigma about mental health, teenagers worry about it a great deal. Especially since 1 out of 5 teenagers deal with mental health issue. As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I see a large number of teens for panic attacks especially boys. I believe teenage boys are more prone to anxiety attacks because of the stereotype that boys don’t cry and they see emotions as weak. However, in our society men do cry and have emotional problems. Emotions are not a sign of weakness for men and boys. The documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” address this issue that men and boys face. I recently read an article by the basketball player, Kevin Love, which addresses this issue and explains how it impacts men and boys. I have included what he wrote so you can understand what men and boys face in our society.

On November 5th, right after halftime against the Hawks, I had a panic attack.

It came out of nowhere. I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real — as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.

“I DID ONE SEEMINGLY LITTLE THING THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A BIG THING.”

Kevin Love discusses his decision to seek help after suffering from a panic attack. (0:54)

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I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball — but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.

I know it from experience. Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act. You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own. So for 29 years of my life, I followed that playbook. And look, I’m probably not telling you anything new here. These values about men and toughness are so ordinary that they’re everywhere … and invisible at the same time, surrounding us like air or water. They’re a lot like depression or anxiety in that way.

So for 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.

PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Then came the panic attack.

It happened during a game.

It was November 5th, two months and three days after I turned 29. We were at home against the Hawks — 10th game of the season. A perfect storm of things was about to collide. I was stressed about issues I’d been having with my family. I wasn’t sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 4–5 start, were weighing on me.

I knew something was wrong almost right after tip-off.

I was winded within the first few possessions. That was strange. And my game was just off. I played 15 minutes of the first half and made one basket and two free throws.

After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.

Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, “I’ll be right back,” and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn’t find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.

The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait … then what the hell just happened?

PHOTO BY JED JACOBSOHN/THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE

I was back for our next game against the Bucks two days later. We won, and I had 32. I remember how relieved I was to be back on the court and feeling more like myself. But I distinctly remember being more relieved than anything that nobody had found out why I had left the game against Atlanta. A few people in the organization knew, sure, but most people didn’t and no one had written about it.

A few more days passed. Things were going great on the court, but something was weighing on me.

Why was I so concerned with people finding out?

It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it.

Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.

This was new territory for me, and it was pretty confusing. But I was certain about one thing: I couldn’t bury what had happened and try to move forward. As much as part of me wanted to, I couldn’t allow myself to dismiss the panic attack and everything underneath it. I didn’t want to have to deal with everything sometime in the future, when it might be worse. I knew that much.

So I did one seemingly little thing that turned out to be a big thing. The Cavs helped me find a therapist, and I set up an appointment. I gotta stop right here and just say: I’m the last person who’d have thought I’d be seeing a therapist. I remember when I was two or three years into the league, a friend asked me why NBA players didn’t see therapists. I scoffed at the idea. No way any of us is gonna talk to someone. I was 20 or 21 years old, and I’d grown up around basketball. And on basketball teams? Nobody talked about what they were struggling with on the inside. I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about? I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one. I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it. It’s like the playbook said — figure it out on your own, like everyone else around me always had.

PHOTO BY JEFF HAYNES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

But it’s kind of strange when you think about it. In the NBA, you have trained professionals to fine-tune your life in so many areas. Coaches, trainers and nutritionists have had a presence in my life for years. But none of those people could help me in the way I needed when I was lying on the floor struggling to breathe.

Still, I went to my first appointment with the therapist with some skepticism. I had one foot out the door. But he surprised me. For one thing, basketball wasn’t the main focus. He had a sense that the NBA wasn’t the main reason I was there that day, which turned out to be refreshing. Instead, we talked about a range of non-basketball things, and I realized how many issues come from places that you may not realize until you really look into them. I think it’s easy to assume we know ourselves, but once you peel back the layers it’s amazing how much there is to still discover.

A message from Kevin Love’s Grandma

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN.”

Kevin’s grandmother records a greeting for his 25th birthday in 2013. (0:33)

Since then, we’ve met up whenever I was back in town, probably a few times each month. One of the biggest breakthroughs happened one day in December when we got to talking about my Grandma Carol. She was the pillar of our family. Growing up, she lived with us, and in a lot of ways she was like another parent to me and my brother and sister. She was the woman who had a shrine to each of her grandkids in her room — pictures, awards, letters pinned up on the wall. And she was someone with simple values that I admired. It was funny, I once gave her a random pair of new Nikes, and she was so blown away that she called me to say thank you a handful of times over the year that followed.

When I made the NBA, she was getting older, and I didn’t see her as often as I used to. During my sixth year with the T-Wolves, Grandma Carol made plans to visit me in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then right before the trip, she was hospitalized for an issue with her arteries. She had to cancel her trip. Then her condition got worse quickly, and she fell into a coma. A few days later, she was gone.

I was devastated for a long time. But I hadn’t really ever talked about it. Telling a stranger about my grandma made me see how much pain it was still causing me. Digging into it, I realized that what hurt most was not being able to say a proper goodbye. I’d never had a chance to really grieve, and I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years. But I had buried those emotions since her passing and said to myself, I have to focus on basketball. I’ll deal with it later. Be a man.

The reason I’m telling you about my grandma isn’t really even about her. I still miss her a ton and I’m probably still grieving in a way, but I wanted to share that story because of how eye-opening it was to talk about it. In the short time I’ve been meeting with the therapist, I’ve seen the power of saying things out loud in a setting like that. And it’s not some magical process. It’s terrifying and awkward and hard, at least in my experience so far. I know you don’t just get rid of problems by talking about them, but I’ve learned that over time maybe you can better understand them and make them more manageable. Look, I’m not saying, Everyone go see a therapist. The biggest lesson for me since November wasn’t about a therapist — it was about confronting the fact that I needed help.

PHOTO BY BRANDON DILL/AP IMAGES

One of the reasons I wanted to write this comes from reading DeMar’s comments last week about depression. I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them. The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with. So I’m not saying everyone should share all their deepest secrets — not everything should be public and it’s every person’s choice. But creating a better environment for talking about mental health … that’s where we need to get to.

Because just by sharing what he shared, DeMar probably helped some people — and maybe a lot more people than we know — feel like they aren’t crazy or weird to be struggling with depression. His comments helped take some power away from that stigma, and I think that’s where the hope is.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have things figured out about all of this. I’m just starting to do the hard work of getting to know myself. For 29 years, I avoided that. Now, I’m trying to be truthful with myself. I’m trying to be good to the people in my life. I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly.

I want to end with something I’m trying to remind myself about these days: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

I want to write that again: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life. Like DeMar said, “You never know what that person is going through.”

Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing. No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside. Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need. So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

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How to Help Someone Who has a Mental Health Issue During the Holidays

How to Help Someone Who has a Mental Health Issue During the Holidays

For many people the Holidays can be a stressful time. For some people there is the stress of not having enough money. For others, they lost a loved one this year and this is the first Holiday without their loved one. For others, there are family issues that make this a difficult time of the year. Finally, for people with mental health issues, the Holidays can be a very difficult time.

For people with mental health issues the Holidays can be difficult for many reasons. They may be dealing with family issues, financial issues or not feeling happy. Not feeling happy can be difficult because everyone is supposed to be happy during the Holidays. At least this is what we are told by society. Also some people with mental health issues may find the Holidays difficult because their condition is not stabilized yet or the Holidays can be a trigger for their mental health issues. I see this with the patients I work with who are Bipolar or patients who are dealing with eating disorders. Just to name a couple of mental health issues that are triggered by the Holidays.

People who are suffering with mental health issues that are triggered by the Holidays need support and understanding. You cannot just tell them to pull it together or to take a pill. It is not that easy for them. If it was, they would automatically take those steps on their own to solve the situation.

There are some things that people with mental health issues can do that may help them. Dr. Pooky Knightsman, who deals with her own mental health issues, describes some of these options in her video. I have included a link to it so you can watch it. If you have a loved one who has mental health issues, please watch this video and may be you and suggest some of these ideas to your loved one. If they work that would be fantastic for the person coping with mental health issues. If they do not work, please understand the person is not having issues on purpose. If you love them you need to be patient and understanding and help them through this difficult time. Here is the link to Dr. Knightsman YouTube video https://youtu.be/ch5JLIYyPtU.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many of them are Bipolar. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Political Issues that Prevent Suicidal Teenagers from being Treated

Political Issues that Prevent Suicidal Teenagers from being Treated

Suicide is at an epidemic rate in the United States. According to the CDC it is the third leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 to 18 years old. Using a gun in the third most common method of suicide in the United States. For boys it is the most common way to attempt suicide (CDC). For many people this may not be surprising. However, it is time that we seriously try to prevent children from attempting suicide and eliminate this epidemic.

The problem with eliminating this epidemic is the access to mental health care and the stigma society places on mental health care. As a psychotherapist who treats suicidal teenagers, I have run into numerous difficulties with insurance companies when I have a suicidal teenager or child. Many insurance companies will only allow the child to be seen once a week. If the child is acutely suicidal, they usually need to be seen twice a week. Many parents can barely afford their copayments and cannot pay for an additional session on their own. This places a great deal of stress on the parents and places the child in danger.

Some people will say the teen should then be hospitalized. This is not an easy answer either. There are not many pediatric or adolescent inpatient psychiatric units in our area. I have had numerous situations where a child or teen may spend over 48 hours in an emergency room because there are no inpatient beds at any of the psychiatric units. In fact, one Thanksgiving I had a mother page me and I had never seen her son before. He was suicidal, but the hospital said they had no beds and gave her my number to call and told her she had to leave the hospital.

If a teenager is hospitalized, often they are only allowed to stay 72 hours and then discharged home. They have to be discharged because the insurance will not authorize more time. It doesn’t matter what the psychiatrist on the inpatient unit recommends. The insurance makes their own decision based on the treatment guidelines. Again this places the child in danger and creates a great deal of stress on the family. Often parents give up and accept the insurance companies decisions. It is too much dealing with a child who wants to die and getting the run around by your health insurance that you have been paying high premiums to for years. Additionally, many times the child or teen is discharged back into my care but I am never notified by the insurance company or hospital and the insurance company does not want my opinion, but they discharge the teen to me for psychotherapy treatment and to monitor.

In addition to the access to mental health care there is the negative stigma associated with it. Many parents wait a few weeks before bringing their teenager to be assessed for suicidal thoughts. They do not wait because they are bad parents, they wait due to the shame. If there child is diagnosed as depressed they are afraid about how people will react to their child and them. In fact, if a child is out of school due to being hospitalized for being suicidal, we instruct the school administrators to tell the staff the teen was out due to appendicitis or a death in the family. They are afraid if teachers or students find out the teen was suicidal that people will think the teen is crazy and not want to associate with the teenager. This may sound bizarre, but it’s true. Most patients schedule their psychotherapy appointments at times when no one will notice they are gone and try to come into the office without anyone seeing them. Our society has a very strong negative stigma about mental health. Many people with mental health issues have difficulty making friends, finding jobs or just being treated as a normal person, if others know they have mental health issues. This stigma is causing many people not to seek help. As a result, many teens due commit suicide because they kept their feelings a secret. They did not want to be labeled a “freak.” However, this stigma is ruining the lives of many children and teenagers and destroying numerous families.

Mental health care is no different from physical health care. No one is ashamed of being diabetic so why should a teen have to be ashamed of having depression? We must demand that insurance companies treat physical and mental health care the same. Additionally, our society needs to treat them the same and not be afraid of someone who is depressed or embarrassed if you are diagnosed with depression.

Finally, the last issue I want to address is the method many teenagers use. Many teenage boys use guns because they believe no one can stop them and it is guaranteed to work. However, this is a myth. Guns have a strong kick to them when fired and often move slightly. Many teenage boys try to commit suicide with a gun and instead of committing suicide, they shot their face off. Instead of dying they end up in ICU in worse condition having to undergo numerous surgeries and being scared for life. This is one reason why we need sane gun laws. We have laws about how old you have to be to drive or smoke. We also have laws mandating that we must where seat belts. We have these laws because research has shown they make us safer. These laws have not restricted our freedom so sane gun laws will not restrain our freedom.

The ABC News show 20/20 did a story about a young man who was depressed and finally attempted suicide with a gun. It goes into all the difficulties he faced when the gun moved. He was fortunate because he was eligible for one of the first face transplants. However, this story shows the destruction that occurs when they use a gun as their method of suicide and it fails. Please watch and see what this young man and his family must undergo. While watching the after effects of this failed suicide attempt, think about how senseless it is the millions of teens and families undergo this situation when it could have been prevented if they were not ashamed and had easy access to mental health care. Please watch this show, 26-year-old’s incredible face transplant journey: ‘I see me’ – ABC News – https://abcn.ws/2OLXuL5 via @ABC.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is an expert at treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice or if there is an issue you would like him to address visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.