There is No Reason to be Ashamed of Mental Health

There is No Reason to be Ashamed of Mental Health

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and is the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past twenty years.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause, as I stated above. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Furthermore, at this time in our world, when we are in the middle of a pandemic which besides killing thousands of people daily, it is creating mental health issues for those in quarantine, those with the virus and our first responders. These issues will not disappear quickly just like the virus will not disappear quickly. As a result, we will have even more people needing mental health care. How will they receive it if they feel ashamed for needing treatment or if we continue to treat mental health as a disease? Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, when will we treat them equally?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

New Condom Laws Teenagers Need to Understand

New Condom Laws Teenagers Need to Understand

We have a tendency to look at teenagers as young adults due to their bodies. Most adolescent boys bodies and girls bodies tend to look like and function like adults. However, their brains do not function like a grown adult brain. The frontal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for reasoning, making decisions, are not fully developed until teenagers are 25 years old. Therefore, a 16 year old may look like an adult but the frontal lobe of the brain is functioning like a fifth grader’s brain. This has a major impact on how teenagers act and what they understand.

One concept they do not fully understand is the concept of consent. It is very important that teenagers understand the meaning of and how consent works in the world. For example, a physician typically needs parental consent before examining a teenager. Furthermore, a medical doctor cannot treat anyone without their consent or parental consent. Teenagers may not be aware of how important consent is in life because they rely on their parents to provide consent for them. Since they are under 18 in most situations they need parental consent. Therefore, it is not an issue they deal with and it is not something that they think about on a daily basis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Should I Give My Teen, A Smartphone as a Holiday Gift?

Should I Give My Teen, A Smartphone as a Holiday Gift?

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 13. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their cellphone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 13. However, since we are dealing with what I call the IPhone generation, most teenagers will not be satisfied and will feel cheated unless they have the latest version of the Smartphone on the market.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school students will be asking to upgrade their phones too. As I stated above, they feel they need the latest version otherwise they cannot function successfully in their lives. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone 13 for example. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges not necessities especially for teens and children in fifth grade or in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones they want. They tell their parents if they cared, they would buy them the smartphone they need and want. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for your child or teenager has no correlation with your love for your children or teenagers. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhone 13? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they need to remember their own doctor appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Also if you do get them one, they do not need it with them all the time. It is important to set limits where and when they use their phones. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of children in fifth grade and teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child or teen understands the responsibility they are assuming, if you allow them to use a smartphone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need:

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with middle school and high school students for over 24 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents Respect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons Why Teenage Boys Dislike Psychotherapy

Reasons Why Teenage Boys Dislike Psychotherapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

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

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

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

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

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

Negative Emotions

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

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

What to say:

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

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

Irregular Sleeping And Eating Habits

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

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

What to say:

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

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

Disinterest In Extracurricular Activities

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

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

What to say:

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

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

Unexplainable Guilt

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

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

What to say:

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

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

Persistent Pain

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

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

What to say:

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

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

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

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

Look at the World Today and Teenagers are Acting Normal

Look at the World Today and Teenagers are Acting Normal

Many teenagers and children are reporting increased symptoms of depression and anxiety and being afraid to go outside (CDC). They are also reporting feeling nervous about the future of the world and they feel they are living in chaos right now. They are not sure who to believe at times and they are confused about what is happening in our Country. They are not the only ones feeling this way. Many adults are having the same feelings. If we stop and look around, anyone would be worried and concerned about the future and their safety.

As of today, June 20, 2021, there have been 272 mass shootings and as I am writing this that number is wrong because there was another mass shooting in Oakland, California a couple hours ago. According to the statistics by Gun Violence Archives, 8100 people have been shot so far in 2021 and 54 people a day are killed by guns. According to the Gun Violence Archives in 2019 there were only 164 mass shootings by this time in 2019. This means we have seen a 65% increase in mass shootings in 2021.

In addition, we are seeing other gun violence too. A woman was shot at her job because she asked a customer to wear his mask. Children as young as 6 years old and 4 months have been victims of road rage or drive by shootings. Every day children and teenagers are hearing about more and more people who were shot and died. Why shouldn’t children and teenagers be experiencing more anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are living in a war zone. They children in Israel and the Middle East are safer from gun violence (Gun Violence Archives). This is the United States! This is insane that we are dealing with so much gun violence. It has become a Public Health issue. However, as we see gun violence increasing, the governor of Texas is allowing people to carry guns without having to get a permit. This makes no sense!

In addition to the gun violence, our government is in chaos. We still have people stating Trump won the Presidential Election even though all 50 states have certified that he lost and furthermore the US Supreme Court has certified the election was valid and Trump lost. However, we have Senators blaming the FBI for stealing the election from Trump and they are blaming the FBI for the attack on the US Capital Building. This is confusing and makes people worry about the future of our Nation.

On January 6th, Trump supporters tried to over through our Government. Some Senators claim it was a peaceful protest. However, videos released this week show Trump supporters attacking the US Capital Police and screaming that they were going to hang the Vice President. Two officers were killed and several others have since died from their wounds or have committed suicide due to PTSD. These officers saved our Country, yet some Senators state it was a peaceful protest and they refused to grant the officers the Congressional Gold Medal and they have refused to authorize a committee to investigate this attack on our Nation. This is an insult to the US Capital Police and it leaves our Country at risk for another mass of protestors to attack our Country. Numerous Congressmen and Senators who have told the truth about that day and the election have received numerous death threats and need additional security to ensure their safety and lives.

In addition to all this chaos, we have been dealing with a extremely deadly virus for the last year. Children and teenagers have not been able to go to school, see friends and many have had numerous deaths in their families. Over 540,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus Pandemic. We now have vaccinations which will help stop the spread of this virus, however some people are refusing to get vaccinated due to bizarre theories by Qanon and there is no scientific evidence to back up any of their reasons. Also some people are claiming we have beat the Coronavirus. We have not beat the virus! The strain coming from India is much more dangerous and lethal. The vaccines can help stop the spread of this strain and stop further mutations. Remember children under 12 have not been vaccinated yet. Therefore, children are at risk of being attacked by this new strain. Despite what people say, children do get the Coronavirus and they are at risk of developing a rare condition where their immune systems attack their bodies. Children have died from the Coronavirus and more will die this winter if we refuse to get vaccinated and allow the virus to spread.

People may think children and teenagers are not aware of these issues but they are very aware of these issues. They can see the pop ups on their cellphones, iPads and laptops. They are searching the internet about all the chaos that is occurring in our Country. During their sessions I have had children and teenagers discussing all of these issues because they are worried about their safety and the safety of their families. Many children and teenagers have lost loved ones due to the Coronavirus or gun violence and they do not want to lose more family members. Furthermore, they are looking at the fact that we cannot keep order in our Country and questioning how are we going to keep them safe. As a result, many children and teenagers are suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma and some do not want to leave their homes. How can we blame them?

There is nothing wrong with children and teenagers today who are reacting to the chaos they are being forced to live in. They are perfectly sane and having sane reactions. The inappropriate reactions are coming from adults who refuse to stand up and demand that our Government acts and acts quickly. When we allow these shootings or people to disrespect someone because they are telling someone they need to wear a mask or we do nothing to stop the hate crimes against Asians, Jewish people and Transgender people, we are part of the problem. Anytime we see someone being disrespectful or spreading these insane theories we must speak up. We must speak up so our children and teenagers have a chance of feeling safe and not being killed by a gun. Children and teenagers are not over reacting. Adults are under reacting and not holding our elected officials responsible for not acting. Adults are responsible for not setting an example in public and treating everyone with the dignity they deserve. We are all people and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect not hate or punished because they will not lie for people who choose to believe in and follow a narcissistic man who only caress about himself. The choice is yours do you want your children and teenagers to feel safe or to live in fear and believe there is no hope for the future.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify and Apple.

Yes, You can Take Your IEP to College

Yes, You can Take Your IEP to College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Working over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Now that schools and colleges are reopening many college students are planning on returning to campus and high school seniors who are graduating are preparing to leave for college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptops etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What We All Need to do to Fix a Divided Nation

What We All Need to do to Fix a Divided Nation

Unfortunately we are living in a divided nation and people are getting hurt or killed due to their beliefs or the color of their skin. For example, people are getting attacked because they are asking customers to wear masks in their stores. In addition, Asian Americans are getting attacked and killed just walking down the streets because they are Asian. There are people who are blaming Asian Americans for the Coronavirus. We also continue to have African Americans being shot by police officers. All of these incidents are creating a divided nation. It has become so bad that people stormed the United States Capital building and were trying to over turn the results of the 2020 election.

We are living in a country where many people are afraid to go outside because they might be attacked. Additionally, in public people are being rude to each other and no one feels safe. This feeling is severally impacting children and teenagers.

Prior to all of this hate, children and teenagers were reporting increased depression and anxiety. Since the beginning of 2021, more children and teenagers are reporting depression and anxiety. The number of teenagers dying from drug overdoses and suicide continues to rise (CDC). Some teenagers are taking things into their own hands and are carrying guns and knifes so they can protect themselves or others. Remember the teenager who went from Iowa to Minnesota with a gun and killed two people during the riots. He felt he had a responsibility to stop the chaos. Teenagers should not have to stop the chaos occurring in the United States. This is placing too much pressure on them resulting in teenagers feeling depressed and anxious and seeing no future for themselves.

The United States is supposed to be the “great melting pot.” The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” We are all supposed to be equal and live together in a Country where we can be ourselves and have a chance at making a decent life for our families. However, we are losing that dream quickly especially if we allow those who are spreading hate and lies to continue to spread hate and lies.

The Harlem Globetrotters developed an anti-bullying program for school children in order to stop bullying. The United States belongs to everyone who is a citizen. Yes there are people who are not citizens, but according to the saying on the Statue of Liberty, we still need to treat them with respect and dignity because they are fellow human beings. Therefore, we are all in this together and we all have to fix the problems together. Or, would we prefer that the children continue to live in an environment which is creating depression and anxiety for them and causing thousands of children to commit suicide every year. We are talking about children as young as 8 years old who are committing suicide and the number of children committing suicide is increasing every year (CDC).

The Harlem Globetrotters program is not that hard. All you have to do is remember is A, B, C. A is for action, B is for bravery and C is for compassion. To make it easier let’s use an example, if you see an Asian American being attacked on the street, (B) be brave and don’t ignore it, (A) act by calling the police with your cellphone and screaming for help, (C) stay around and show the person some compassion asking if they need anything or reporting what you witnessed to the police. We can do this, we have done it before. This is exactly what happened in the George Floyd case and by everyone working together a bad police officer is now off the streets. If we had not acted together, that officer would still be on the streets chocking people.

If adults are willing to take action, we can teach children and teenagers the same A,B,Cs and if they see their parents and grandparents getting involved they will follow your example. Additionally, if they see adults working together for the common good, maybe we may see a reduction in the number of teenagers feeling depressed and anxious. If that occurs we would most likely see a decrease in the number of teenagers cutting and overdosing on drugs. We would also see a reduction in the number of teenagers and children committing suicide because they would feel a sense of hope for their futures.

Finally, if we all work together we would be worthy of what is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty. We also would stop being a joke to the world. We are the United States, the most powerful nation in the world! However, how can we say that if we allow stereotypes and racism to decide how we treat each other?

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. If you would like to learn more about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Pandemic has Exacerbated Teenage Camouflaging Behavior

The Pandemic has Exacerbated Teenage Camouflaging Behavior

There is a behavior that is becoming common in teenage and tween girls that has been identified by an adolescent psychologist who specializes in treating teenage girls. The behavior that has been identified is called “Camouflaging.” This behavior left unidentified can lead to low self-esteem, depression, cutting, abusive relationships etc. It is becoming very common in teenagers right now. When I was a guest co-host on the Street Solider Radio Show on KMEL, and the teens were talking about how they change the beliefs and how they change how they dress because they are afraid of being rejected by their friends is Camouflaging. Covering up their outside person so no one can identify the true person inside. Friends are a very important issue for teenagers right now. Remember due to the Coronavirus most teenagers have not had contact with their friends in over a year. Many teens are worried about how their friends have changed over the year and are afraid of losing their friends.

Therefore, Camouflaging is when an adolescent girl changes how she looks in terms of make up and how she dresses, her opinions and things about herself she is willing to deny or things she will start doing in order to be accepted by her friends. The real problem occurs when the girl is changing so much about herself or does it for so long that she forgets or losses track of her real self. Besides changing how she feels, she may forget her core beliefs and do things she doesn’t believe in.

While this behavior has been identified in girls and the research appears correct, I believe this behavior applies to boys too.

Many adolescent boys change the way they dress, their beliefs and the way they act to be accepted by their friends. I hear many of these boys telling me in therapy that they feel lost. They tell me they no longer have an idea of who they really are or believe in or feel. These boys often turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and cutting. They usually turn to these behaviors to numb out their lost feeling or to try to remember their real selves. Often they turn to these in order to forget the shame and guilt they have due to something they did in order to fit in with their friends.

As a result, many teens start acting like someone they are not just to be accepted. This fear of not being accepted and forgetting their real self because they has been covering their true self up for so long or denying their true feelings for so long can result in boys and girls having low self-esteem and/or feeling depressed. It can also result in girls or boys getting involved in emotionally or physically abusive relationships because they don’t feel they are entitled to anything more. They no longer love themselves so how could anyone else love them.

As I stated this behavior can result in low self-esteem and depression in addition to behaviors as cutting, eating disorders, drug use, becoming sexually active etc. Often boys and girls cut just so they can feel as I stated above. The constant denying of their emotions or values can cause boys and girls to lose a sense of their true feelings. Therefore, cutting can occur so boys and girls feel or can cope with denying themselves. Denying their feeling or who they are can result in boys and girls feeling very confused or lost. Therefore, they look for behaviors that help them remember who they are or will numb out the list and confused feelings. They also seek behaviors that help them deal with changing their beliefs. Again this can trigger eating disorders, drug abuse or other self-destructive behaviors. This helps numb out the confusion and disappear of denying their feeling and trying to forget their true self. This can cause feelings of depression and anxiety too.

What should parents look for in their teens? If your son or daughter tries to stop wearing his or her glasses or if he or she all of a sudden changes how he or she dresses or acts these are possible warning signs. Another change could be not doing as well in their classes because they are afraid of looking too smart. Basically, if you see signs indicating that your teenager is trying to deny who they are so they will be accepted by others. It’s more than the common issue of trying to be accepted by friends, they are forgetting themselves and beliefs to fit in.

While it is normal for teenagers to make changes in their attitudes or how they dress, we are talking about something that goes far beyond normal self-expression. We are referring to changes where a teenager is trying to deny who they are because they feel they are unacceptable.

This is what we are talking about. If teenagers are changing their hair or how they dress as a way to express themselves that is normal teenage behavior. However, if teenagers are doing it just to fit in and they end up losing a sense of their true self this is camouflaging.

As I stated, Camouflaging results in depression or low self-esteem because the teenager is forgetting their true self. If they are doing it as a way of trying to experiment with their self expression, the teenager is happy and confident as stated above. This is the main point to understand. Experimenting with their dress and beliefs etc. is normal for teens and helps teenagers identify themselves, however denying or camouflaging their feelings results in teens losing themselves and many behavior problems. This is the main thing for parents to watch for in their adolescents behavior.

If you go onto Yahoo and look up Camouflaging you will find a segment on Good Morning America about Camouflaging. In fact, here is the link to the GMA segment https://gma.yahoo.com/video/parents-worry-tween-teen-camouflaging-122935763.html?soc_src=copy. Also if parents look at the February issue of Teen Vogue, you will find an article about Camouflaging.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. Dr Rubino is considered an expert psychotherapist in the treatment of teens. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.