Lessons Simone Biles Taught Us About Mental Health

Lessons Simone Biles Taught Us About Mental Health

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. It’s the “dirty little secret” people whisper about and will talk about behind someone’s back. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Especially if a teenager is going to psychotherapy. They assume many people will think of them like the person living in the streets and talking to themselves. 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 and teenagers 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. Furthermore, since the pandemic has started we have seen a significant increase in the number of teenagers seeking therapy for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, since the pandemic we have seen a significant increase in teenagers overdosing on drugs. Before the pandemic anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations and overdosing on drugs were at alarming rates in teenagers too (CDC). Teenagers have been dealing with mental health issues for years and the number of teenagers needing therapy has been increasing every year (CDC).

This year at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles, took a huge step forward in removing the stigma from mental health issues. Simone came into the Tokyo Olympics with everyone expecting her to win gold in every event. In addition to this pressure, during the pandemic she came forward to say she too had been sexually abused by the team doctor for years. This was a huge thing to do especially since the entire world would learn about it. She stated she did not retire and continued with the Tokyo Olympics to ensure that the Olympic committee takes steps to protect the younger girls in the program.

Simone was dealing with a lot and we do not know what else is occurring in her private life. She had posted some posts on social media stating she was feeling slightly overwhelmed but that was the extent of what she said publicly. To everyone’s surprise on the first night of the Women’s team competition, Simone suddenly drop out of the competition. She confirmed she was dealing with some emotional issues but that she was okay and would decide about the rest of the competition later. She finally decided to remove herself from competition completely.

After she removed herself from competition, she commented about the overwhelming support she received. It sounded like she was expecting criticism not support. Additionally, she commented it was the first time in her life that she realized there was more to her as a person than just gymnastics. Making this realization made her feel very good about herself in the statement she released.

Many parents are wondering what is the lesson to learn from what Simone did this week. As a psychotherapist, who works with teenagers and young adults, there are several lessons we can learn from Simone.

The first and in my opinion the most important lesson is that everyone deals with mental health issues daily and at times we may need to take a break or seek treatment. Simone handled her situation no differently than if she was having a medical issue such as tearing a ligament. She did not act ashamed not did people treat her like she was crazy. In fact, other competitors complimented her. They all have had struggles with mental health issues and they were happy and proud that Simone was taking care of herself and not acting embarrassed or ashamed that she had a mental health issue she needed help with. Therefore, the lesson is mental health is part of life and when you need help it’s okay to ask for help.

The next lesson is how people responded to her request. No one acted like she was crazy and the team coaches and her team mates were giving her the time and support she needed. Therefore, the second lesson is when a teenager asks for mental health help, we need to support them in getting the help they need without judging the person.

Another important lesson is that asking for help did not destroy how people reacted to her or her accomplishments. She is still a world class gymnastics star and she won a silver team medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Therefore, asking for help did not ruin her life. If you have a teenager who needs mental health help, reassure them that it will not ruin their life. Asking for mental health care is no different than asking for physical health care. Our mental health and physical health go hand in hand. This is another lesson Simone taught us. Mentally she needed help and therefore she was not physically capable of competing.

Providing support to someone is another lesson Simone taught us this week. Her teammates, coaches, family and friends offered support abs would check-in with her. No one walked away which many teenagers fear if they say they need mental health care. Her support system was there for her. They did not smother her, but if she needed their help they were there.

Also commentators had been wondering if something was wrong because she was not acting like herself. Therefore, if your teenager or friend is acting somewhat differently and you are concerned, don’t be afraid to ask if they are having a problem. Sometimes asking for help can be difficult especially when you are a teenager. Therefore, if your teenager or friend is acting differently, do not be afraid to ask if they need help.

Finally we often assume people who look like they have everything they want, cannot have problems in their lives. Simone Biles is one of the most decorated Olympians in gymnastics history and she is having problems. Kevin Love, a pro basketball player, suffered from panic attacks. Here are two athletes at the top of their games, but they still have mental health issues. Therefore, we all have mental health issues and need therapy at times and there is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. It is simply part of life.

I was researching this subject and the lessons Simone opened up this week 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.

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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

It’s getting close to the end of summer and for many teenagers will be returning to school soon. For most students they will be returning to their school sites. This means no more remote learning and students will need to be getting school on time in the mornings. In order to do so they need to get a good nights sleep. However, many parents have been reporting that with the remote schooling students were able to sleep in because school was starting later. As a result, many teenagers have developed poor sleep habits such as staying up later at night and taking naps during the day. Many parents are concerned how they are going to get their children and teenagers back to a health sleep pattern so they can function at school and get up on time for school.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and 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 or Apple.

Teenagers No Longer Feel they have A Future

Teenagers No Longer Feel they have A Future

Many people may think I am crazy making this statement, but do people realize we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Furthermore, the Coronavirus, which is creating the pandemic, has muted and created a new strain. The Delta form of the Coronavirus is even more contagious and far more deadly than the original strain of the Coronavirus. If we have a doubt, look at how the Delta strain in ravaging India. In India they have run out of space for the dead and people are dying in the streets because the hospitals are full. However, for some reason people in the United States are ignoring what is happening in other countries and ignoring the warnings our public health doctors are giving us.

The Fourth of July was supposed to be the reopening of the United States. However, our Country was not sufficiently vaccinated. The public health physicians warned us if more people were not vaccinated, the Delta strain would take over and we would be facing a desperate situation again. The public health physicians and Biden’s administration were not wrong when they were urging everyone to get vaccinated.

Prior to the Fourth the number of infections were decreasing significantly. Now after the Fourth, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with the Coronavirus and needing to be hospitalized. We are now in a situation again where it is recommended to wear a mask again in public. This is very discouraging especially when we have vaccinations which have proven they can help control the Coronavirus.

Over the last month, 98% of people who have been hospitalized or died from the Coronavirus were not vaccinated. Additionally, the people being infected the most are between 20 to 50 (CDC). People in their 60’s and 70’s are vaccinated and are basically immune to the Coronavirus. However, the former President who has been pushing lies that the vaccines are not safe and healthy people in their 20s and 40s do not need to worry about getting the virus is wrong. The vaccines are safe and anyone can become infected with the Coronavirus virus and die at any age.

This brings me to a very scary situation which has now been created. Children under 12 years old cannot be vaccinated yet. We are having significant outbreaks again in every state and we want children to return to school onsite. Many states such as Texas, Florida and Tennessee are saying children do not need to wear masks and schools do not have to practice social distancing. Viruses mute all the time to find new hosts. This leaves children under 12 years old as prime targets for the Coronavirus.

Do not believe the lies from Trump and Fox News that children rarely get the Coronavirus. The truth is children do get infected with the Coronavirus. Children are also at risk for a very rare side effect from the Coronavirus. Children can develop a condition where their immune system attacks their own body and their internal organs and blood vessels swell. This is a deadly side effect. Since this new spike with the Delta strain has started, children make up 21% of people being diagnosed with the Coronavirus. In one week, 88,500 children and teenagers were diagnosed with the Coronavirus. Additionally, since the pandemic started in the United States, children and teenagers make up 13.6% of those diagnosed with the Coronavirus (AAP, Childrens Hospital Association). Therefore, do not believe the lie that children cannot contract and die from the Coronavirus.

Many people say they are exercising their First amendment right by not getting vaccinated. However, you cannot affect me in the course of exercising your rights. This is why you cannot scream “fire” in a movie theater. We are in the middle of a health crisis. A crisis which has taken over 600,000 American lives. If you want to refuse the vaccines which have proven to work and to be safe, then you need to accept the consequences. If employers require proof of vaccination or your health insurance increases your premium, do not complain. Why should employers suffer if you spread the Coronavirus and why should the rest of us who were responsible and were vaccinated pay for your health bills when you get sick. It’s not fair.

Also what are we doing to teenagers and children. UCLA released a study earlier this year showing people between 40 and 18 had a unhappy outlook on life due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started we have seen a significant increase in depression, anxiety, drug abuse and suicide in teenagers and children as young as 10 years old. They don’t think their lives will ever return to normal again.

When the Country started to open up on the Fourth of July, they had some hope. Now that they are hearing the news regarding the new spike, States such as California requiring masks again and hearing that states such as Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana not following through with the vaccines, they are losing hope.

The teenagers in this generation are intelligent and can access all kind of information via their cellphones. They know if people are going to continue to lie about the vaccines and refuse the vaccines that our Country will never recover. They are also very angry. If teenagers were causing these problems, adults would say they have no rights and tell them what they were going to do. However, when adults, such as Trump and Ted Cruz, want to play political games with the lives of teenagers, people act like their is nothing they can do.

There is something parents can do. Contact your children’s school and demand that they take all necessary precautions needed so your child is not exposed to the Coronavirus. You can contact your employer and demand safety precautions. Listen to the public health physicians and follow their recommendations. Finally, call your State and Federal representatives and Senators and demand they enact laws to keep you and your family safe. Remember children under 12 cannot be vaccinated so they are at the highest risk. Do you want to have to plan their funeral? Are we going to prove them right that there is no hope left. Think about being 11 years old and feeling like your life is over. I am hearing this from many intelligent children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information regarding 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

Today’s Kids are Missing Out on Being Kids and Paying a Big Price

Today’s Kids are Missing Out on Being Kids and Paying a Big Price

What are we doing to our kids?” is a quote from Cameron Crowe, who wrote the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High a movie from 1982. Cameron Crowe was discussing the movie with CNN for their special report on movies. He explained he went undercover in a high school as a high school senior to write the movie. He stated he was shocked at how sexually active these kids were in high school. He stated between the focus on sex and working, the kids were being denied their adolescence. They were going from kids to adults very quickly. Sadly what Cameron Crowne noticed in 1982 has continued and has only become worse.

Cameron Crowe was commenting on high school students in 1982. However, what he noticed occurring in high school in 1982 is now occurring in middle school today. In middle school today it is not uncommon for kids to be sexually active. In fact, many middle schools now provide condoms to sixth graders. In addition to sex, kids in middle school are using drugs. They are not just using marijuana. Many middle school students are using concerta, ecstasy and other designer drugs.

In addition to being sexually active and using drugs many middle school students are worrying about how much money they will make at their jobs. Kids are looking at different careers and thinking about how much they will get paid and what they will be able to afford. They wonder about, how big of a house or what type of car will they be able to afford as adults? Mr. Crowe’s observation was correct in 1982. However in 2021, kids are losing their childhood too early and they are losing their childhood earlier and earlier. In 1982 it was high school in 2019 it is occurring in middle school. When will it start occurring in fifth grade?

In addition to these factors, teens in middle school and high school have had to live through the pandemic and over a year of remote learning. Therefore, teenagers were forced to spend over a year at home by themselves and their main interaction with friends was by texting or gaming. As a result, many teenagers feel like they have lost a year of their lives that they will never get back and a year of exploring life with their friends. Many teenagers are reporting depression and anxiety due to the Coronavirus. Who can blame them because they have lost a year of their childhood that they cannot get back. How are kids going to react when they return to school full time?

Since I specialize in treating children and teenagers, I have had more children and teenagers reporting depression, anxiety and a sense of loneliness over this past year. Additionally, they are wondering how they should act when they return to school. Many of them are feeling disconnected and out of touch with their friends and other teenagers their age. In 2000, I was noticing this in a few teenagers now in 2021 a majority or teens and middle school students report feeling lonely and isolated and anxious. I am also beginning to hear this from fifth grade boys too. Besides loneliness increasing in middle school and high school, the number of kids feeling depressed is increasing significantly. It makes sense. Teenagers have lost a year of “normal” teenage life and no one knows what to expect when they return to school.

You may ask with their focus on friends and sex, how are they feeling lonely or isolated? With this focus on friends, sex, drugs and the future comes a great deal of competition. Everyone wants to look like they know exactly what they are doing. Therefore, they may be talking and texting each other, but they focus more on shallow issues. No one really opens up about their true fears and worries. As a result, they feel lonely and isolated. They also have missed a year of “normal, typical” experiences which help them mature.

A very good example of this are teenage boys. Most teenage boys are trying to live up to the outdated stereotype about what it takes to be a man. According to the stereotypes men don’t cry, don’t focus on emotions because they are weak and must be sexually active to be a man. There is a documentary, The Mask You Live In, which focuses on boys conforming to this outdated stereotype. Overwhelming the boys in the documentary reported feeling lonely and isolated. They shared they had no one who they could talk to when they felt overwhelmed or confused by life. They always had to have the right answer and they did not always what was the right answer. As a result, they made mistakes and they felt lonely not being able to ask for help. They felt like they had to hide their true feelings which makes them feel lonely.

Having a year with little to no personal contact with their friends only increases this feeling of isolation and loneliness. Since teenagers try not to act like they need help, they are experiencing more feelings of anxiety and depression. The CDC has documented a significant increase in the number of teenagers coping with depression and anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic.

Texting and online gaming have increased as a way for teenagers to feel a connection with their friends. Many parents worry about their teenagers texting or gaming, but if it provides a sense of connection with their friends and the world, I have recommended to parents to adjust their rules regarding these behaviors during the pandemic. Teenagers need a way to feel connected to others. Without this sense of connection during the pandemic, we see an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide or overdosing on drugs.

Another aspect to teenage boys and girls feeling lonely, isolated, depressed and anxious is that they tend to close themselves off emotionally. As a result, they do not know if anyone cares about them. They never know if someone loves them. This can create major issues for teens. In the Disney movie Frozen, they point out how people will act out in pain and make mistakes when they don’t feel loved or cared for by people. The movie also points out how opening yourself up so you can feel love will help people change and make better choices. The lead character, Elsa, when she felt lonely and afraid could not control her power and it only caused destruction. When she finally opened herself up and saw she could be loved she discovered the good her powers could do. When she was afraid she isolated and when she felt loved she opened up and interacted with others. I see this happen daily with teens. When they feel no one cares, they isolate themselves and say hurtful things to keep themselves isolated. When they discover people care, they allow themselves to open up and start to share their true feelings and interact with others. They are very happy and surprised when they make this discovery.

In 1982 the world was much easier. In today’s world things are moving fast and make it easy for people to isolate by texting or using social media to communicate. In addition, teenagers are living through a pandemic and political climate that has changed how we communicate and view the world and each other. As a result, teenage boys and girls feel pressure to outdated stereotypes about men and women. There are few people telling teens they don’t need to follow these stereotypes. We also need to set examples about communication. Adults need to not text so much and rely on social media enough. Parents need to take time talking with their children as soon as they are born. Technology can be a great thing but it is making many people feel lonely and isolated. Teens as well as adults. We need to study technology and look at how it is impacting our lives and the lives of our children. One thing for sure, I have seen technology increasing the amount of teens feeling lonely and depressed. We don’t want our kids to lose out on their childhood. Therefore, we need to study the impact technology has on us and teach our children how to use it responsibly. Also we need to teach teenage boys and girls that they don’t need to live up to the outdated stereotypes about men and women. We need to encourage our kids to be themselves and to accept themselves.

Additionally, teenagers today are the only teenagers in recent history who have had to cope with daily mass shootings and a pandemic which has killed over 600,000 Americans. We need to look at all these issues and help our children and teenagers cope with the world they have to live in. Hopefully this will help our children reclaim their childhood and be kids.

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

The 4th of July after the Coronavirus

The 4th of July after the Coronavirus

The 4th of July weekend is around the corner and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends. This weekend many teenagers will be wanting to be with friends especially after being locked in due to the Coronavirus. Additionally, many things are opening up so people will be able to go places and do things that they have not been able to due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, there will be a lot of celebrating this year.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool.

With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you. Therefore, talk to your teens about their plans and about safety.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers. After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Issues and Symptoms Associated with Teenage Depression

Issues and Symptoms Associated with Teenage Depression

Because we do not deal well with mental health issues in our society, there are a lot of myths about mental health. There are a lot of misconceptions about depression in particular. Over the last two years depression and anxiety have reached epidemic rates in teenagers (CDC). In fact, suicide in now the second leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC). The increase has been attributed to the numerous mass shootings and the mass shooter drills give have had to do in school. Additionally, we are now seeing children as young as eight years old committing suicide (CDC). Teenagers today have also been dealing with the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place and school remotely for the past 18 months. Research has shown that having to quarantine and attend school remotely has exacerbated depression for some teenagers and has caused some teenagers to become depressed and anxious (CDC). Since many parents have been consulting me about how to tell if their teenager is depressed, I was reading an article by Dr. Jerome Yelder, Sr., which outlines many symptoms of depression. He explained them so they are easy to understand and covered all symptoms parents need to be aware of regarding depression. This is important because typically children and teenagers do not act like adults do when they feel depressed. Additionally a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that 75% of teenagers who experience depression without psychotherapy will experience issues with depression and mood disorders as adults. Therefore, it is very important that teenagers who are dealing with depression do receive psychotherapy. I have outlined the list of depression symptoms below for you to review and decide if you feel your teenager needs to see a mental health clinician for depression.

Sleep Problems

Depression can affect your body as well as your mind. Trouble falling or staying asleep is common in people who are depressed. But some may find that they get too much shut-eye.

Chest Pain

It can be a sign of heart, lung, or stomach problems, so see your doctor to rule out those causes. Sometimes, though, it’s a symptom of depression.

Depression can also raise your risk of heart disease. Plus, people who’ve had heart attacks are more likely to be depressed.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

If you feel so tired that you don’t have energy for everyday tasks — even when you sleep or rest a lot — it may be a sign that you’re depressed. Depression and fatigue together tend to make both conditions seem worse.

Aching Muscles and Joints

When you live with ongoing pain it can raise your risk of depression.

Depression may also lead to pain because the two conditions share chemical messengers in the brain. People who are depressed are three times as likely to get regular pain.

Digestive Problems

Our brains and digestive systems are strongly connected, which is why many of us get stomachaches or nausea when we’re stressed or worried. Depression can get you in your gut too — causing nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches

One study shows that people with major depression are three times more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines are five times more likely to get depressed.

Changes in Appetite or Weight

Some people feel less hungry when they get depressed. Others can’t stop eating. The result can be weight gain or loss, along with lack of energy. Depression has been linked to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating.

Back Pain

When it hurts you there on a regular basis, it may contribute to depression. And people who are depressed may be four times more likely to get intense, disabling neck or back pain.

Agitated and Restless

Sleep problems or other depression symptoms can make you feel this way. Men are more likely than women to be irritable when they’re depressed.

Sexual Problems

Hopefully your teenager is not sexually active. While they may not have the sexual problems adults do, when they are depressed, they may show a lack of interest in dating or relationships and tend to isolate. They also may feel they are sexually unattractive.

If you’re depressed, you might lose your interest in sex. Some prescription drugs that treat depression can also take away your drive and affect performance. Talk to your doctor about your medicine options.

Exercise

Research suggests that if you do it regularly, it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although physical activity alone won’t cure depression, it can help ease it over the long term. If you’re depressed, it can sometimes be hard to get the energy to exercise. But try to remember that it can ease fatigue and help you sleep better.

If you feel you child or teenager are experiencing the above symptoms and may be depressed, have them evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Remember, children and teenagers often display different symptoms when they are depressed so it is often misdiagnosed. Also do not be embarrassed or ashamed. The pressure children and teenagers are facing in the world today can be very overwhelming and can easily cause a depressive episode. The Coronavirus was the straw that broke the camels back for many teenagers. The most important thing is if your child or teenager is experiencing depression, get then the treatment they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page 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.

Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

We are expecting children and teenagers to cope with and adjust to a a number of teenagers. One main issue is the pandemic and Coronavirus. They have had to deal with remote learning and then all of a sudden they are expected to go back to school. In addition to the changes in school many teenagers are dealing with the deaths of parents, grandparents and other people close to them. In addition they were locked in their houses for a year without being able to see friends. This is a lot for children and teenagers to adjust to.

Now we are starting to reopen the Country and children and teenagers again have to cope with mass shootings again. Therefore, they are dealing with more people dying and afraid that they may be killed too. As of today, June 13th, there have been 270 Nass shootings. This is a significant increase from 2019. We have experienced a 65% increase in Nass shootings since 2019 and the year is only half over (Gun Violence Archive).

Teenagers and children are also seeing a tremendous increase in violence in our Country. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased significantly and so have hate crimes against people who are Jewish (CDC). In addition there is violence occurring around people having to wear face masks in certain situation. A flight attendant on Southwest Airlines had her front teeth punched out of her mouth by a passenger because she asked him to wear a masks. Besides people arguing about face masks, they are arguing about the Coronavirus vaccinations which ever Public Health Professional states we need to overcome this pandemic. However, we are hearing people purpose crazy ideas such as the vaccinations will make you magnetic and Bill Gates has placed mico chips in the vaccines. The pandemic is scary enough without people making up insane conspiracies that may scare children.

Add to these issues such things as the violent attack on the US Capital Building and we have children and teenagers living in a chaotic environment. To add to the pressure we are expecting children and teenagers to simply adjust to all the chaos. We expect them to ignore it and go on like nothing has changed. Children and teenagers are expected to be able to achieve at school and not act out due to the chaos in their lives.

It’s not realistic and it’s not happening. There is a significant increase in the number of teenagers and children reporting anxiety disorders and depression. Additionally, we have seen an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide and dying from drug overdoses. Teenagers and children are desperately looking for a peaceful environment. In my office we have seen an increase by a factor of 20 of teenagers and children seeking therapy due to the chaos. We must provide teenagers and children with mental health care and sane gun laws to help them cope with this chaos they are experiencing.

I have included a link to an article which provides suggestions parents can try to help their children and teenagers cope with the chaos we are living in currently. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/57946/striving-or-thriving-steps-to-help-kids-find-balance-and-purpose.

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

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Dealing with teenagers, at times, can be very difficult for parents, especially when teenagers think they have all the answers. In my experience as a psychotherapist who has been working with teenagers as for over 20 years, I am a strong believer in allowing teenagers to learn from their mistakes. When they make mistakes there are consequences that follow these mistakes. From my experience, teenagers need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. I know some parents try to warn their teenagers about potential mistakes. However, many teenagers feel they know more than you. Therefore, allowing them to make mistakes is the only way some teenagers learn that their actions have considered .

As I just stated, teenagers being allowed to make mistakes helps to teach teenagers that their actions have consequences. They also put responsibility for the mistake on to the teenager. Therefore, they cannot blame parents or teachers for their mistakes. They have to deal with the consequences of the choices they made. They cannot blame you because they made the choice not you.

As a way to help teenagers learn from their mistakes is to set up a behavior contract. A written contract which specifies the consequences for your teenager when they make a mistake saves a lot of arguments. A written construct signed by you and your teenagers which spells out their consequences, if they make a mistake or poor decision can save you and your teenager a lot of arguments. Also it helps your teenager to take responsibility for their actions because the contact focuses on their choices only.

While I believe contracts and consequences work well with teenagers, some parents have difficulties. I often hear from parents that their teenager doesn’t care about the consequences or the contract. The parents find this very frustrating. Therefore, I have listed below suggestions that can help you improve the odds of a contract and consequences working with your teenager.

1. Use Consequences That Have Meaning

It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. I advise parents to sit down and write a Consequences List and then discuss it with your teenager. If they are included in the process, the likelihood of success is higher. When compiling a list of consequences, remember that you want the consequence to be things that will get your teenagers attention, because you want your child to learn from the consequences. If, like most teens, your teenager acts like they cannot live without their cellphone, don’t hesitate to use losing use of their cellphone as a consequence. It’s also important to think about what you want him to learn—and this lesson should be attached to the consequence. So let’s say your teenager swears at his younger siblings all the time. Obviously you want him to stop swearing and use more appropriate language. Therefore, an effective consequence would be that he would lose his cellphone for 2 days. This gives him time to think about other ways he can handle his behavior. You may even try talking with him about other ways to handle himself instead of swearing.

2. Don’t Try to Appeal to Charge A Teenager’s Behavior with Speeches

Yes as a parent you are trying to teach and educate your teenager about how to act and treat others as adults so they can function in the world. However, remember your teenager thinks they know everything about today’s world and you are out of touch with today’s world. Therefore, if you try lecturing or speeches, they automatically tune you out and don’t listen to what you are saying. When everything is calm, you might try mentioning to them that you would like to talk with them. An informal conversation, especially with boys, tends to be more effective than a lecture.

3. Make Consequences Black and White

When you give a consequence, the simpler you keep things, the better. Again, you don’t want to get into legalese or long speeches. What you want to do is lay out your consequences for your teenager’s inappropriate behavior very clearly. It’s often helpful if he knows ahead of time what will happen when he acts out. Just like there are speeding signs on the highway, the consequences for your teenager’s behavior should be clear to him. Therefore, using a contract allows you to make it clear to your teenager if they make this choice then here is the consequence. Also by having them sign the contract, they cannot say they were not aware of the rules. Also it removes you as the bad guy. You are not imposing a punishment, you are simply complying with the contact that you made with your teenager. I often point out to teenagers that the contract is an insurance policy for them. If they make a mistake, their parents have to stick with the contract. Therefore, if their parents were really upset at the moment and wanted to remove their cellphone for ever, but the contract only states a week, their parents have to go with the week. This often helps with getting teenagers to accept the contract.

4. Have Problem-Solving Conversations

I think it’s vitally important to have problem-solving conversations with your teenager after an incident has occurred. Obviously, you want to wait until everyone is calm. When everyone has settled down then try a conversation about what they can do differently or help they can ask for if a similar situation occurs and this may help them avoid making a mistake and getting into trouble again in the future.

Conversations like these are how you get your teenager to think about alternative solutions to problems which can help them make better choices. Also reminding them that they can ask for help can be a tremendous help. Often teenagers think that they must solve all their problems on their own. Teenagers, especially boys, look at asking for help as a sign of weakness. It is helpful to remind them that no one has all the answers and at times the mature thing to do is to ask for help. Therefore, asking for help is not always a sign of weakness.

5. Don’t Get Sucked into an Argument over Consequences

Don’t take the bait every time your teenager is trying to argue with you. Most teenagers verbal skills are not fully developed. However, most teenagers know if they can get you into an argument that the original topic will get lost and you end up arguing about something else. It’s not that teenagers have this planned out in their heads, but as I said their verbal skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they feel more comfortable in an argument because those skills are developed and they have some idea how to handle the situation. Therefore, if you are getting pulled into an argument call a time out and say you prefer to discuss the issue when you are both calm. This will surprise them and hopefully cause them to think about the situation.

6. Don’t Teach Your Child How to “Do Time”

Many parents get frustrated and ground their kids for long periods of time in order to make the punishment stick. Personally, I think that’s a mistake. If you simply ground your child, you’re teaching him nothing. But if you ground him until he accomplishes certain things, you can increase the effectiveness of the consequence. So if your teenager loses his video game privileges for 24 hours, he should be doing something within that time frame that helps him improve his behavior. Simply grounding him from his video games for a week will just teach him how to wait until he can get them back. He is not learning anything about the mistake he made and he is also learning nothing about how he could have handled the situation differently. Again, we want consequences to be learning experiences. A consequence that doesn’t fit the crime will just seem meaningless to your child, and won’t get you the desired result. Remember, you don’t want to be so punitive that your child simply gives up. That will never translate to better behavior.

7. Engage Your Child’s Self-interest

Learn to ask questions in ways that appeal to your child’s self-interest. So for example, you might say, “What are you going to do the next time you think Dad is being unfair so you won’t get into trouble?” In other words, you’re trying to engage his self-interest. If your child is a teenager, he won’t care about how Dad feels. Adolescents are frequently very detached from that set of feelings. They might feel guilty and say they’re sorry later, but you’ll see the behavior happen again. So learn to appeal to their self- interest, and ask the question, “What can you do so you don’t get in trouble next time?”

8. How Will I Know If a Consequence Is Working?

Parents often say to me, “My child acts like he doesn’t care. So how do I know if the consequence I’m giving him is actually working?” I always tell them, “It’s simple—you’ll know it’s working because he’s being held accountable.” Accountability gives you the best chance for change.

9. Some Things Should Never Be Used as Consequences

In my opinion, there are certain things that should never be taken away from kids. For instance, you should never prohibit your child from going to the prom. Not ever. That’s a milestone in your child’s life; personally, I think that milestones should not be taken away. Your child is not going to learn anything from that experience. Unless the mistake was so big such as robbing someone then you may need to go that far. I recommend using your own judgment regarding how your teenager acts before making this a consequence.

The same approach should be taken for sport. Teenagers can learn a great deal from sports. However, if they make a severe mistake missing a practice or a game maybe an appropriate consequence. However, removing them from the team all together maybe a mistake. However, remember the coach has the ultimate power over his players. Many teams have a code of conduct that players must follow. Therefore, if they violate the coaches rules, they maybe removed from the team. This will impact them more than if you did it.

10. Don’t Show Disgust or Disdain

When giving consequences to your teenager, you need to be consistent and firm, but don’t show disgust or disdain. If you are attacking them as a person, their sense of self is not fully developed yet. As a result, you may inflict a wound to their self-esteem that may cause more problems than you intended. You are trying to raise someone who can function as a healthy adult, not somebody who feels they’re a constant disappointment to you. It’s very important to shape your behavior so that your child knows you’re not taking his mistakes personally. Remember, the look on your face and the tone of your voice communicates a lot more to your child than your words do. Positive regard is critical for getting your message across.

It’s important to remember that life is very tough for many teenagers, especially with Nass shootings and the Coronavirus. Going to school is difficult, both academically and socially, and there is tremendous pressure on children and teens to perform today. Personally, We need to remember that and teenagers should be recognized and respected for what they have to deal with in today’s world. Think of it this way: what you’re really trying to do is work on your child’s behavior to get him to try to do different things. So if your child misbehaves and you ground him from everything indefinitely, you’re losing sight of all the other things he did right—and he will, too.

Consequences have shown to be an effective way to help teenagers learn what is appropriate and not appropriate. It is an approach I strongly believe in. Hopefully these tips will help you use consequences effectively with your teenager.

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

High School Graduation is an Emotional Time Especially this Year

High School Graduation is an Emotional Time Especially this Year

This year many schools are having graduation ceremonies. Due to the success of the vaccines, the CDC has acknowledged that it would be safe to hold graduation ceremonies. This is very different from last year when graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the Coronavirus. While schools are having graduation ceremonies, they will most likely be different for the graduates. It will be different because for many of the graduates the last year and half they were attending school remotely. For many students they returned to school for the last two months of the school year. While the class of 2021 did not have the typical path through school, they still completed school and deserve to celebrate with family and friends at their graduations. The Coronavirus will most likely make this year’s graduations different than past years, it is still a time to honor the graduates of 2021. For many graduates their graduation may not be what they expected due to the death of a parent, grandparent or someone else in their lives due to the Coronavirus.

As I stated for many high school graduates, this year graduation ceremonies will be somewhat differently emotionally. However, High School graduation still marks a big accomplishment for teenagers. They have finished their basic education and they are ready to move on to their life plans as a young adult. For many students this means going to a four year college and earning a Bachelors degree. In addition, many graduates will be celebrating scholarships they received and awards they received for their academic or other accomplishments in high school. They also have friends and family there to join them in celebrating their accomplishments. Of course this is a happy day and it deserves to be celebrated.

While this is the stereotype we think about regarding graduation, it’s not the reality for every student. Some students have worked very hard and maintained very good grades, but they did not get accepted into a college they can afford and they did not receive any awards or scholarships. Instead of going to a four year university, they will need to attend the local two year junior college and try to transfer into a four year university. Other students who have learning disabilities are just barely graduating and had to wait to the last minute to see if the past all of their classes. Some did not pass and they have to go to summer school so they may be allowed to participate in the ceremony but they are not finished yet. These students do not get to live the stereotype and often feel embarrassed and ashamed when they compare themselves to the other students in their graduating class.

I had also mentioned celebrating with family and friends. For some students this can be very difficult. If their parents had a hostile divorce, the divorce may be being dragged into the graduation. Instead of a celebration, the parents may be making the graduation a civil war. The graduate may be forced to take sides in regards to who they can invite to the ceremony. Do they invite mom’s side or dad’s side. This can change a happy event into a very stressful event the graduate does not want to be involved in. For some graduates a mother or father has passed away and graduation day is another reminder that this very special person is no longer physically present. Therefore, graduation may be a stressful or sad day.

Another aspect that is overlooked is graduation is an ending. It marks the end of a teenager’s high school experience. Many teens have been very involved with their school and have developed close relationships with teachers and school staff and they have developed very close friendships with their classmates. Graduation marks an end to their high school life. They need to say goodbye to these people and move on to a school they do not know and may not know anyone else who is attending their college. I remember one high school secretary’s comment when she looked at the senior class, “I have never seen so many kids look so happy and sad at the same time”.

In addition to saying goodbye to their high school family, graduates need to say goodbye to their families. If they are going away to school, they will no longer living with their parents or siblings. While they may complain about their families, they will miss them too. Mom and Dad will miss their graduated too. So while traditional we tend to only focus on the positive, which is not uncommon for our society, we also need to acknowledge that graduation marks an ending too. An ending to their high school family, friends they have created and to their high school activities along with a change in the graduates life. They no longer are a high school kid. They are a college student and a young adult and need to start their lives all over. This will have happy moments and sad one too. It’s important to acknowledge both.

While high school students will be starting their lives over, I have included a small segment of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. It empathizes that you need to define yourself, don’t let others try to decide who are going to be in life https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1294330473977473?s=1391497228&v=e&sfns=mo.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and adolescents. He has appeared on television and radio shows and is considered an expert in adolescent psychology. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.