“I want food for Christmas “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

The Holiday Season is here and many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal. We finally have a national suicide crisis line, 988, that people can call if they feel suicidal. In addition, now social media sites are offering assistance to teenagers and people who are feeling suicidal. Therefore, there definitely is more focus on people feeling suicidal than other times of the year. For example, we tend to forget about suicide during the summer and focus on the sun and swimming.

What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. You also have people talking about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. Furthermore, you hear people talking about how well their lives are going. However, this is not the case for everyone. Especially with inflation, many people are struggling to afford food and a home for their families. Buying Holiday gifts is the least of their worries.

If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we still have many people dying daily due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started in 2019, over 1,000,000 Americans have died. Therefore, there are a lot of people in our Country grieving and feeling lonely due to a loved one dying from the Coronavirus. Additionally during the Holidays is a time when many people are talking about family and friends that have died and they remember the people they have lost over the years. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Especially this year with inflation and the costs for most things increasing significantly. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. They may just be able to pay their monthly bills and cannot afford Holiday gifts. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people because they often feeling ashamed and embarrassment about family members who are mentally ill. As a result, they tend to ignore their family members and friends who struggle with mental illness because it makes them feel awkward. This makes it less likely for people dealing with family members or friends who have a mental illness to talk about it with others or seek help professional about how to cope with the holidays. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.

We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, diabetes and chronic health conditions, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness?

Additionally with so many teenagers experiencing depression and anxiety disorders due to the pandemic, many individuals are having a very difficult time finding therapist who are accepting new patients. Besides finding a therapist who is accepting new patients, people are having difficulties finding therapists who are accepting their insurance. Many insurance companies are denying claims for psychotherapy. Therefore, even if someone wants to go to therapy they may not be able to find a therapist or be able to afford it.

I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?

Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience. He specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

The Holidays are typically a happy time for many people. However, for others it can be a very difficult time. If you lost someone close during the year, the first Holiday season can be very difficult. Also maybe the death occurred last year, you can still be grieving the loss of your loved one. Our society doesn’t really acknowledge grief and that makes it very difficult on the person who is grieving.

Part of the grieving process is learning how to continue your life without your loved one. This can be a difficult process especially depending on how the death occurred and if you had a chance to say good bye. Regardless of if it was sudden or expected there is a grieving process people undergo. There are stage theories about grief, but I encourage people not to worry about those theories, grief is an individual process and you need to allow yourself to experience it the way you need to.

In terms of the feeling of grief, the best way I have heard it explained is think about it as an ocean wave. You never know when the wave will come in or when it will go out so you just have to experience as it happens. However, you know the wave will eventually go out so you do your best to deal with it until it goes back out. However, it’s important to remember it will be back again until you are finished grieving.

During the Holidays you need to take care of yourself and ask others to understand and be supportive. Maybe you cannot do what you have always done during the Holidays. Maybe this year you need to do something totally different such as go on a trip. Maybe you need to allow yourself some quiet time so you can remember your loved one in the way which feels appropriate to you. The important thing is to do what you feel is appropriate for you. There is no right or wrong way to express grief at anytime especially during the Holiday Se

It’s also important to remember that you need to be flexible. You may have a plan for the Holidays which sounds like it will work and at the last minute you discover it won’t work and you need to change it. If that is the situation, then change your plans at the last minute. You need to do what you need to in order to get through the Holiday.

When developing a plan include the immediate family because everyone is grieving and you can support each other. If there are children involved, pay close attention to the children. They may have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings and may be very confused.

Also remember there is no timeline on grief. So it may take you a year to process your grief, while it may take someone else two or three years. The main point is do not impose a time frame on yourself or anyone else. If you notice grief is paralyzing you or a family member, you may want to suggest therapy so they can get the additional support they need. Again grief is a very individual process so some people may need psychotherapy and others may not.

The main point is to remember this Holiday will be very different and not to put a lot of expectations on yourself. Do what you can and if you cannot do something do not force yourself. Do not be embarrassed to ask others for emotional support or to cry. Cry as much as you need to. The bottom line is this Holiday is going to be different and you may not be happy and filled with joy. If that is the case, you are not doing anything wrong. You are simply experiencing your grief and it is important to allow yourself to grieve.

On last point, some people find volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank to be helpful. Helping others and helping others to live without having to struggle can help with some of the helplessness you may be experiencing. Again, do what you and your family need to in order to make it through the Holiday. Do not worry how others may possibly be judging if they are judging you. They are not dealing with the grief, you and your family are dealing with the grief.

I have also included a link to a website that provides additional information about grieving during the Holidays. Having a list to refer back to can be helpful. Please take care of yourself and family during this emotional time. Coping with grief and loss during the holidays – https://go.shr.lc/2AoQ1yR via @Shareaholic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He has also been working with people who are grieving too. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

When Teenagers Break Your Trust

When Teenagers Break Your Trust

Teenagers will break your trust with their actions. This is a good teaching moment. Impose consequences where they need to earn your trust back. They would need to earn trust back with other people. If they broke the trust of a friend, their school or their employer, they would need to earn their trust back.

Teenagers want to be treated as young adults so treat them as young adults. Part of the consequences for breaking the rules is earning your trust back along with any other consequences you impose. It’s a good opportunity to teach them about life and relationships. Furthermore it’s a good lesson to teach them now as teenagers. I have included a link to an article which will explain how and why to use the opportunity to teach your teenagers about trust in relationships https://yourteenmag.com/family-life/discipline/regaining-trust

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

Reasons Why Boys Cut and Warning Signs of Cutting

Reasons Why Boys Cut and Warning Signs of Cutting

When I was guest co-hosting the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL, the topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys too. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls. I mentioned when I was co-hosting and it was before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus pandemic and quarantine and the significant increase in mass shootings the number of teenagers cutting has significantly increased (CDC).

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet. Most teenagers are very reluctant to talk about cutting and usually have a great deal of shame about their cutting.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I am seeing cutting become more popular with teenagers especially with boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Therefore, cutting not only occurs in girls but it is occurring in boys too. We need to be aware of the fact that cutting is becoming more popular with teenagers. It is important because cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Also it is away for them to feel alive. Many teenagers with severe depression often don’t feel connected to their bodies and the cutting helps them feel reconnected to life. Many teens who are severally depressed will tell me that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way for teenagers to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing. It is also a way that they can feel in control of life when their life feels or the world feels out of control or overwhelming. This is an important point to remember. Our world feels very overwhelming and confusing right now and teenagers are having a very difficult time dealing with all the chaos.

Many teenagers were feeling overwhelmed and afraid for their safety due to all the mass shootings and increase in hate crimes. Since the Coronavirus pandemic many teenagers are feeling even more overwhelmed and powerless. They also see very little hope for things to improve. As a result, many more teenagers have started cutting since the beginning of the pandemic. It is a way teenagers can try to cope with feeling overwhelmed and powerless due to the pandemic. I have had more teenagers reporting incidents of cutting and more friends who are cutting since the beginning of the pandemic and as the pandemic continues.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do. The number of boys cutting has increased due to the pandemic because they feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is nothing they can do about mass shootings or the Coronavirus and how their lives have changed due to mass shootings and the Coronavirus.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. In the year 2000, when I asked about cutting some teenagers knew what I was talking about, but others had no idea. Today when I mention cutting to a teenager, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. It is something they will do together and talk to each other about. It becomes part of their relationship and they support each other regarding the feelings they have about cutting. As I stated above, the number of teenagers cutting has increased significantly since mass shootings and the Coronavirus pandemic because many teenagers are feeling helpless and overwhelmed by life. No other teenagers have had to deal with mass shootings and a pandemic so teenagers feel helpless and hopeless about life. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. If you have to go to someone who is doing teletherapy due to the pandemic that is fine. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com , www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify or Apple.

How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

We have all heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered to be important in children’s lives. We tend to focus on mothers and what they provide children. Also because men tend to work a lot and have a tendency not to express emotions, many people assume Dads are usually not emotionally available to children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in relationships and react to people in general.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. Their daughters see how their Dads treat their Moms. This is the first example girls have of how they should be treated in an intimate relationship. If their Dad is verbally and physically abusive, they will most likely expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. Additionally, if girls are exposed to a Dad who is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, they are more likely to have low self-esteem as adults and be bullied as a child. Boys also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be bullies, if their Dad is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Additionally, boys tend to look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Since men and boys tend to have difficulties expressing their emotions, because men don’t express sadness or similar emotions, they tend to express these emotions as anger. In other words, boys and men tend to project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to stop living up to the stereotype society has about how men are supposed to act. Since men tend to focus on the stereotype about male behavior, they tend to pass this stereotype on to their sons.

I have a friend who was able to ignore the male stereotype and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,

So here in this poem, for all to hear

There are no words to express how much you mean to me,

with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!

A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.

Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,

from your first breath I knew,

God sent me a blessing- and that was you.

For this I thank him every day,

You are the true definition of a son, in every way.

Your kindness and caring with love for all,

you give my life meaning, for us to share.

Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.

I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,

Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.

Always remember that I know how much you care,

I can tell by the bond that we share.

For a son like you there could be no other,

And whether we are together or apart,

Please do not ever forget-

You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 25 years experience working with children & teens and trauma victims including first responders. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Why Men and Boys Avoid Seeking Help for Their Stress

Why Men and Boys Avoid Seeking Help for Their Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then came the panic attack.

It happened during a game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was I so concerned with people finding out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A message from Kevin Love’s Grandma

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Toll COVID-19 is Taking on Teenagers’ Mental Health

The Toll COVID-19 is Taking on Teenagers’ Mental Health

The pandemic has reached a frightening point and a point where many teenagers feel the Coronavirus will never end. Over 475,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus and daily there are approximately 3,000 Americans dying from the Coronavirus. In addition we are discovering new stains of the Coronavirus and we race to get everyone vaccinated. We are starting to see a drop in the number of people being hospitalized, but all of this may be temporary according to the CDC. The CDC is warning if we do not wear masks on a regular basis and continue to social distance, the numbers will start to increase again.

Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their see that nothing in their lives is stable yet. It will be a while before we return to anything looking like normal life.

As a result, teenagers are losing hope and wondering what type of life they will be living. Teenagers have had their lives turned upside down and they are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are continuing to have to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled for this school year. The high school experience they have heard about and have been waiting for no longer exists. Many teenagers are feeling depressed and angry about how their lives have changed. Furthermore, they have no control over the situation and have no idea what to expect from life.

Prior to the pandemic depression and anxiety rates were increasing for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers had gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Since the Pandemic has started teenagers have had to shelter in place for months, attend school remotely and have not been able to hang out with their friends. This has caused depression and anxiety to reach epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) have increased significantly because they feel out of control and are having significant difficulties processing all the feelings they are experiencing. Also suicide rates and drug overdoses have increased in teenagers. Again because they feel helpless and are having significant difficulties processing their emotions. Suicide and drug overdoses have increased so much that there are now numbers in communities that teenagers can text for help if they are feeling suicidal or severely depressed.

Furthermore, besides their school experience changing significantly and not being able to hang out with friends, many are living in families who are worrying about paying the rent or having enough money for food. Unemployment is at a record high so many teenagers are living in a family where both parents have lost their jobs. This is a huge amount of stress for a child or teen to experience and have to cope with daily.

Additionally, many of these teenagers are coming from families who never had to worry about money before. Having to stand in a line for food daily is something they thought only occurred in third world countries, they never thought it occurred in the United States or could ever happen to their family.

As a result, many teenagers are struggling with severe mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. As a result, the Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found and their recommendations:

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:

• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.

• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.

• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.

• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.

In addition to the facts above, people who have had the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. This is being referred to as “the long haul syndrome.”The bottom line is the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, as we struggle to get control of the virus, we also need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which are occurring and will after the quarantine.

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

Texting is a Serious Issues Teens Seldom Consider

Texting is a Serious Issues Teens Seldom Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.