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.

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.

A Mom is Not Always the Person who gave Birth to You

A Mom is Not Always the Person who gave Birth to You

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and many people will be celebrating it with the person who gave birth to them and raised them as a child. However, this is not the case for everyone. For some people their mother died during childbirth or due to cancer or a car accident. The point is the mother who gave birth to them may not have raised them. This is the same for situation for anyone who was adopted. This also may apply to people who grew up in foster care or for people who’s mother had a drug or alcohol addiction. This situation may apply to many children and teenagers right now.

The point I am trying to make is just because someone gave birth to a child it does not make them a mom. It does make them a mother, but a mom is the person who is their when you are sick, struggling with your homework or you are being teased at school. They teach you about the world and they let you know that they will always love you. They will love you their entire life no matter what happens in your life. This provides a child with a sense of safety and self-esteem.

However, Mother’s Day focuses on the person who gave birth to a child not the person who necessarily raised the child. For many children and teenagers this leaves them feel confused and like they are different from others. They feel this way because they don’t have a relationship with their birth mother. They have a relationship with the person who raised them and that is mom to them. Many feel strange wishing the person who raised them Happy Mother’s Day because that is not how we tend to think about Mother’s Day.

I have had many teenagers ask me what they should do about Mother’s Day because they were not raised by their biological mother. Maybe they were raised by their grandmother or a foster mother. What I explain to them is being a mom takes more than just giving birth to a child. I also explain that someone may give birth to a child but because of life circumstances they are not prepared or able to be a mom. This doesn’t mean they were not loved by their birth mother. It simply means their birth mother for what ever reason was not capable of being a mom. Therefore, instead of being selfish, they allowed someone who was ready to be a mom to raise them. It is very important to let the teenager know that just because their birth mother was not capable of being a mom does not mean they were not loved or wanted.

Regarding Mother’s Day, I let them know there is no problem celebrating it and acknowledging the person who raised them. Again it might be an adoptive parent, a grandmother, a foster mother or a combination of people. The point is they have the right to celebrate and acknowledge whoever feels like mom to them. They do not need to worry about what other people may think. I also point out that whoever they choose to acknowledge and celebrate the day with will feel honored. Many children don’t get to choose who was a mom to them, but they do. Being a Mom is one of the most important jobs a woman can have in life. If you are deciding to honor someone as your Mom they will feel very lucky. They will feel happy that you think so much of them that you want to honor them on Mother’s Day. Therefore. don’t worry about what others may think, celebrate the day with the person you identify as Mom.

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

Dealing with Mother’s Day When Many People are Grieving

Dealing with Mother’s Day When Many People are Grieving

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, this year for many people Mother’s Day maybe a very difficult day. We have many adults and children who maybe grieving the death of their mother or grandmother due to the Coronavirus. Additionally, due to the Coronavirus restrictions some people still may not be able to celebrate with their mother’s or grandmothers. Therefore, making it a sad day for them. Remember over 560,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. Many people who died were mothers and grandmothers so there will be a lot of grieving families this Mother’s Day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or their mother may have left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

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

Heroin and the Coronavirus

Heroin and the Coronavirus

Many teens die from suicide and drug abuse. Since the Pandemic started last year we have seen an increase in the number of teenage suicides and teens dying due to a drug overdose. In fact, suicide is now the second leading cause of deaths for children 10 to 24 years old (CDC). One thing that contributes to teenage suicide is drug use. Specifically, the use of pain killers and heroin. In this article I attempt to describe both issues for parents. It is important for parents to be aware of these issues if we are going to stop them.

ABC 20/20 did a very good show last year about the epidemic of heroin use in the United States. If you did not see it, you can probably find it on YouTube. Parents this is a show you need to see because many teenagers I work with are not afraid or concerned about how dangerous heroin can be. In fact in 2017, the CDC estimated 494,000 people 12 and older used heroin. The minimum age the CDC is citing is 12 years old. Think about that fact there are 12 year old kids using a highly addictive drug such as heroin.

According to ABC 20/20, 129 people die every year from a heroin overdose. A majority of these deaths are teens and people in their twenties. Heroin is used by people in the lower income level and by people who are the wealthiest in the country. It is used by whites, blacks, Hispanics basically every ethnic group. It is also used by males and females. Therefore, for the families in Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Danville who say we don’t have that problem here, yes you do. Also for parents and educators who think that if their child is in a private school, they are less likely to use, you are wrong too. Heroin crosses all ethnic and economic boundaries. The epidemic is so severe some schools have started teaching children in the 6th grade how to use Narcan at school. However, since most children are attending school remotely, the Narcan is not really effective at this time. This drug can reverse an overdose of heroin if administered in time.

Therefore, parents in the Bay Area, you need to pay attention to this issue and these facts. You might be saving the life of your child or someone else you love.

As stated Heroin use to to be a drug of the past but it is now very popular with teens. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to many other drugs. For $10 a teenager can buy a capsule of heroin. This is much cheaper than other drugs.

Heroin is still mainly snorted or injected. Because it is injected teens are exposing themselves to HIV and Hepatitis C. Both are life threatening conditions with no cure. Also many girls who use heroin get pregnant but don’t realize they are pregnant until the 4th or 5th month. The girls stop using but stoping when you are five months pregnant it is too late for the baby. The babies will be born drug addicted and if they live through withdrawals, these children will have on going health issues and learning disabilities. In addition to exposing themselves to diseases most teens use Heroin with other drugs such as alcohol. This makes the probability of overdosing on Heroin even higher. Heroin lowers a persons breathing rate and the drugs they are combining it with lower the breathing rate even more making an accidental over dose more likely. The person’s rate of breathing becomes so low and they die. If your body doesn’t have enough oxygen to keep your brain a live, your brain stops working and so does your heart and all your other organs. The rate of deaths due to a heroin overdose has increased by a factor of 5 from 2010 to 2017 (CDC). This is a shocking and alarming statistic. Remember 12 year old kids are using heroin so many of those deaths are 12 year old kids.

Why is Heroin coming back and very popular with teens? Heroin is very similar to the Opioid based pain killers that teens have been using for years. However, with the cost of pain killers rising on the streets and becoming harder to get due to new prescription laws, heroin is easier to get and cheaper. Also teens tend to like the high better. It is not uncommon for someone to get addicted after using heroin one time. Also with the Opioid epidemic in our country, teens are now more likely to try heroin because it is easier to get and cheaper.

In the last few years the number of teenagers using heroin has doubled. The boredom of the Pandemic has not helped the problem. It has exacerbated the problem. What teens are at the highest risk? Those who have been using Opioid pain killers, those abusing marijuana and males. Remember it is very common for teens to combine heroin with other drugs and they are unaware of the impact it has on their breathing. They may collapse and not know why and by the time their friends get them to an emergency room it’s too late. Also teens may go to sleep after using and their breathing rate is so shallow they never wake up.

This is a very dangerous drug. If it doesn’t kill when the teen uses it the drug, it can kill when the teen is an adult if the teen contracts HIV or Hepatitis C. The rate of teens using this drug has doubled and the amount of people dying from an overdose has increased by a factor of 5 since 2010. Again, parents you cannot ignore this issue. Heroin is being used by upper class children and poor children, athletes, and all races. So it is impacting all teens. Also teenagers are looking for ways to escape the Pandemic and heroin offers them an escape. If suicide and drug abuse have increased by a factor of five since 2010, imagine how it has increased since the Pandemic started.

The other major issue with this drug is stopping. Someone cannot just go off heroin. People can die from withdraw. However, finding a treatment center that is affordable or with an open space is very difficult. They may have to wait four months to get into a rehab center. This is very dangerous. When someone decides to stop heroin, they need to enter rehab immediately. If they have to wait even 2 days, they may not make it because they cannot stand the withdrawal symptoms.

If we get involved we can hopefully stop teens from using this highly addictive killer. I have attached a link to a handout by the CDC with facts, warning signs and suggestions to help your teen if you think they are using heroin. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/

http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/

In addition to these issues, Heroin and drug abuse is linked to teenage suicide. These drugs besides creating a high, create depression. At times a depression so severe that a teenager decides they would be better off dead and they commit suicide. For the age group 10 to 24 years old, suicide has gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death now (CDC). Therefore, we need to pay attention to the pain killers and other drugs kids are using. And yes 10 year old kids are using these drugs too.

Many times the teen has decided they want to get clean and stop using the drug. However, as I mentioned above, finding an affordable treatment program with an open bed can be very difficult. Some teenagers may need to wait 2 months. This can be two months two long. The teenager may be so depressed and tired of living the drug life that they decide to kill themselves rather than endure the emotional and physical pain of waiting two months.

Another point is for some teenagers they have to try four or five times in rehab before they are successful. Again most teenagers are usually dealing with severe depression at this point. For them the thought of trying again and not succeeding is to much to tolerate. Therefore, they chose the option of suicide to eliminate their pain.

Finally, I mentioned a number of teenagers can overdose by accident, however it may not be an accident. Many teens know these drugs very well so they know how to stage what will look like an accidental overdose. Therefore, we really don’t know how many teenagers are committing suicide due to being sick and tired of using drugs and living a drug life. Many of the accidental overdosages could really be suicides. There is no way to tell.

What we know is drug use and suicide are at an epidemic rate for teenagers and the Coronavirus is making the epidemic worse. It is at a point where we need to get aggressive and provide better access to rehabilitation programs and better access to psychotherapy so the depression can be treated. We need a multi-disciplinary approach to this issue and we need to make it easy for teenagers and parents to use it. We also need to remove the negative stigma and judgement, if someone admits they are addicted and need help. Admitting you need help is an essential first step and it is extremely difficult to do to. Therefore, we don’t need people shaming them for taking that step.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with teens for over 20 years and he is considered an expert in this field. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/DrRubino3.

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

I have many teenagers who see me for therapy believing that no one loves them and that they are worthless. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves. As a result they don’t care what happens to them either.

There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. As a result, they see no hope and no future for themselves. The most important point is not why teenagers have developed this attitude about themselves, it’s that they have this attitude. We need to look at what this belief will do to these teenagers and their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors, such as cutting, again as a way to numb these feelings or as a way of punishing themselves. Often teenagers become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. The play West Side Story is an excellent example of how a gang acts like a family for teenagers. Also the play and movie Grease shows how gangs are like families. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. Also they can it is a way they feel they can hide from other that they feel worthless.

The above stated behaviors are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). All because many of them don’t feel loved. These numbers from the CDC were before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus, these numbers have significantly increased because many teenagers do not see a future for themselves. A family’s love can help them not get so depressed and to keep their hope a live.

We are receiving this message in many ways that teenagers need to feel loved. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. Teenagers are trying very hard to let us know they need to be loved when they act out. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it, but I will not throw them out because I know they are worthy of being loved. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. Waiting until they are teenagers may be too late and the teen may not believe you. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Since the beginning of the pandemic children have experienced an increase in depression and anxiety. It’s understandable because they have been isolated from friends and family. In addition no one can tell them what to expect and many have lost family members to COVID.

Furthermore, just as somethings were opening up and returning somewhat to normal, we have another significant increase in the number of COVID cases. As a result, many things have to be closed down again, there are definite rules regarding wearing masks and they may not be able to see their families for Thanksgiving. Again we are not able to give children any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal.

As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents.

Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:

• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys

• Trouble falling or staying asleep

• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches

• Extreme mood swings

• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting

Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:

Being available

• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.

• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.

Listening actively

• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.

Responding thoughtfully

• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.

• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.

• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

o   Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’

o   Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’

Consider

• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.

• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.

• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.

• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.

Call your child’s or adolescent’s health care provider or a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with his or her daily activities for several days in a row.

You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.

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

Loneliness is A Major Problem During COVID Holidays not Suicide

Loneliness is A Major Problem During COVID Holidays not Suicide

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. This year the Holidays are different due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 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.

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. Usually many people are taking have about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. However, this Holiday Season people will be talking about the parties that are not occurring due to the pandemic. Some people will still have parties but overall this year the Holidays will be different.

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, especially this year, some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. There have been over 225,000 deaths due to the Coronavirus this year. Therefore, there will be around one million people grieving this year. It is during this time when most people are talking about family and friends that you remember the people you have lost over the year. 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. The point is with over a million people grieving this year, the Holidays will be very difficult for many people and will be very different for our society.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. However, since many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and the White House is not helping the country, many people don’t have enough money for rent or food. 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. You may want to consider helping others all year long and not just during the Holidays.

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 the feelings of shame and embarrassment become associated with mental illness. This makes it less likely for people dealing with it or families who have a family member dealing with it to talk about it or seek help. 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, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness? Also the pandemic has increased the number of people dealing with anxiety and depression significantly. Therefore, we may want to reconsider how we view mental health and the help we offer to people who have mental health issues.

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 specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers who are suicidal. 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 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

I am hearing more and more children are teenagers complain about they are tired of the pandemic and they want their lives to return to normal. They don’t want to wear a mask anymore and they want to play with their friends. I am also hearing parents also comment about being tired of the Coronavirus pandemic and wondering when our lives will return to normal. We have been dealing with quarantine issues since March so it is understandable that people are getting tired of the pandemic. However, when you look at our current numbers and we are entering the flu season in addition, this is not a time to get tired and give up.

Currently over 215,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus. Additionally a majority of the states are reporting an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases. The United States is currently reporting 50,000 new cases daily (CDC). This is an increase since August when the number was 40,000 new cases daily still to high. Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington both predict if we continue on our current course another 20,000 Americans will die over the next two weeks and by the end of the year over 400,000 Americans will have died from the Coronavirus pandemic. If you look at these numbers that is a lot of people who are expected to die by December 31, 2020. The Coronavirus will become the second leading cause of death in the United States for the year 2020 (CDC)

If we take a moment and think about that 400,000 number, we can think about who it really represents. If we look at it just as a number it does not mean a lot to most people. However, when we examine the number and who it represents, people start to change their attitudes. This 400,000 represents your parents, your grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, best friends, spouses, coworkers and maybe even your grandchildren, your children and maybe even you. Looking at the number this way, are you prepared to lose multiple members of your family over the next 3 months? You would be losing them during the Holiday Season and since the virus is highly contagious you would not be with them as they die in the hospital. In other words, your loved one will die alone in ICU and you will not be able to have traditional funeral services due to the limitations on how many people can be together at one time. You may even lose multiple family members in one day or the same week. Many people have lost both parents and a spouse within one week (CDC). This is not uncommon and how does a person cope with all that grief at one time?

Part of what is contributing to the Coronavirus fatigue are the conflicting messages we are getting from the White House. The President’s statement that we are rounding the corner is false. When we are reporting 50,000 new cases daily we are in the middle of a pandemic. The vaccine will not be ready until at least April, 2021 and then we don’t know how effective the vaccine will be (CDC, John Hopkins University). The other confusing statement the President continues to promote is that masks and social distancing are not necessary. However at his campaign event is Tulsa without masks and distancing a number of the President’s staff developed the virus and his friend, who started Godfather pizza, developed the virus and died. When the President announced his nomination to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden, 10 people contracted the virus in addition to the President and the First Lady. Dr. Fauci and other public health experts called the Rose Garden ceremony a super spreader event. The former governor of New Jersey issued a statement saying he was wrong not wearing a mask at the Rose Garden ceremony and he was wrong not to wear a mask while he prepared the President for the debate. The former governor finally stated masks are necessary.

As a way to avoid the Pandemic fatigue we need to ignore what the White House and the President are stating about the Coronavirus. His statements have no basis in fact or reality. As a result, they are confusing and add to our fatigue. We need to listen to Dr. Fauci and the other public health experts. They are not running for political office and have no reason to lie to the public. After all, they are public health experts and have studied their entire lives to help people in situations like a pandemic. Their recommendations are if we continue to wear masks and continue to social distance, we can reduce the amount of people who will die and we can get the virus under control. The more we get the virus under control the sooner we can start to resume some normal activities. However, it is going to take time and we must keep this in mind as we go through each day.

Parents I understand it’s hard when your teenagers are demanding more freedom and you must keep saying no. The best and only option is to be honest with your children and teenagers. Acknowledge their frustration and desire to return to normal. However, you must explain like it or not that masks and social distancing will help all of you get closer to normal again. Since we are still having people come down with the Coronavirus at a significant rate, it’s essential that we abide by the guidelines specified by the public health experts. If we give up now, we will make the quarantine situations last longer. We need to try and look at the situation that the more we comply with the guidelines the closer we get back to normal. In the meantime, every once in a while plan something special for your child keeping in mind the guidelines so you can keep them safe. For example, allow teenagers to hang out with a friend as long as they wear their masks and keep appropriate social distance. This can help your children and teenagers deal with the fatigue. Since we do not know how long this will last, we need to be honest about that fact. This again will help you and your family survive the Coronavirus fatigue. We must remember to take it a day at a time and find ways to destress when possible. If we all work together and respect each other, we can survive the Coronavirus pandemic.

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