Cyber bullying during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Cyber bullying during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Bullying is a big problem in our society. In fact, many consider it an epidemic. Also bullying often results in the victim committing suicide. Due to the Pandemic and many children attending school remotely, many people assume bullying is not a big issue at this time. However, bullying no longer just occurs at school. Today most bullying occurs online or via texting. Children who are being bullied are receiving emails, texts and having insults posted on Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat. Most kids and teens don’t have the cognitive ability to cope with non-stop cyber bullying. Cyber bullying also can occur seven days a week 24 hours a day. As a result, the victims often feel suicide is the only way to stop the bullying.

Statistics by the CDC indicate that between 1 out of every 3 or 4 kids are bullied during their lives. The majority of bullying occurs during middle school. The kids most likely to be bullied are those that are considered different in some way. A boy may be emotional or a girl may not wear the right brand of clothes. These are common reasons many kids are bullied. If you think about it, these are no reasons to bully someone. In fact, there is no reason that justifies bullying.

Bullying has life long effects on those who are bullied, those who bully and those who stand by and watch the bullying happen. Let’s examine the impact of bullying on these different groups:

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

• Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.

• Health complaints

• Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

• Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults

• Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school

• Engage in early sexual activity

• Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults 

• Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

• Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety

• Miss or skip school

Because Donald Trump bullied many adults on Twitter, many adults failed to realize how cyber bullying impacts teenagers and children. However, as I just outlined above, it does have a serious impact.

The Harlem Globtrotters realized that bullying has a serious impact on children and have developed a program to help address and stop bullying. They call it the ABC program. It is not very difficult and makes a lot of sense. Here is the program:

Action – when you see bullying or are being bullied tell your parents or a teacher.

Bravery – don’t be afraid to walk away from someone who is bullying you. If you see someone bullying someone tell them to stop.

Compassion – if you know someone is being bullied or looks down go over and be nice to the person. Compliment them or encourage them to ignore the bully.

Here is a link to the ABC program so you can watch it and discuss it with your children https://youtu.be/O-TF7x3Q_sk.

If we don’t become active when bullying is occurring, it will never stop. This means teaching our children to speak out against it too. Look at the list above, bullying impacts everyone. It has life long effects on the bullied, the bullies and those who see it. Therefore, we must all act. Additionally, if we assume bullying is not occurring because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are wrong!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 20 yrs experience treating children and teenagers. He is a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, an anti bullying program. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Three Years After the Park Side Shootings and What has Changed?

Three Years After the Park Side Shootings and What has Changed?

Today, February 14, 2021, will mark the three year anniversary of the at the high school in Parkside, Florida. On that day 17 people were killed and 17 people were injured. The lives of these students, teachers and staff and families were changed forever. Additionally, the lives of the first responders, paramedics and police, were also changed forever. A family never fully recovers from the death of a child. Furthermore, these statistics do not account for how many students at the school, teachers and family members are suffering from grief and Post Traumatic Disorder. Remember, this is Valentines Day and students and families were expecting a day of fun not a day of horror that has changed them for life.

Additionally, this year will be the nine year anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school where many children and adults where senselessly killed. Again the students and families’ lives were changed forever on that day. Since the Sandy Hook shooting more than 500,000 people in the United States have been killed by senseless gun violence. This means over 500,000 families have been changed forever and we have no idea how many children and adults continue to suffer with PTSD. The research shows people associated with these shootings do suffer from PTSD afterwards and many survivors have committed suicide (CDC).

In reviewing the subject of school shootings, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since it is the three year anniversary of the Park Side shooting and the nine year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, Fenwick’s article about children and guns is very important. His article also outlines a strong connection to guns and the senseless shootings and to the alarming numbers of teenagers who commit suicide with a gun. The article by, Fenwick, confirmed what I am hearing from teenagers and children in psychotherapy. Additionally, other school shootings, such as the one in Nashville, or the shootings in the Synagogue in Pennsylvania or in the Texas Church, confirm the need for gun control. A point the statistics in Fenwick’s article support.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year by guns. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these gun injuries too.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before in other articles that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. However, since the article was published, the CDC states that suicide is the second leading case of death for children 10 to 18 years old. This study confirms that the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of those killed due to a gun were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking by caring knives or guns, the boys tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing. Violence in our society has become so severe that many teenagers do not expect to live to the age of 30. Think about that fact.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

The students at the high school in Park Side and the parents from Sunny Hook have marched and petitioned for sane gun control laws. Senators and former President Trump both promised to improve laws so children would be safe going to school. They are becoming angry and discouraged and how can you blame them? It is now 3 years after Park Side and 9 years after Sandy Hook, but there have been no changes. These students and families have been marching, holding rallies and speaking to Congressmen and Senators who have promised changes. However, nothing has happened so far. How long do these students and families need to wait for sane gun laws. Also, why should children and families believe us when we say we will keep them safe?

Dr. Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Toll the Pandemic is Taking on Teenagers’ Mental Health

The Toll the Pandemic 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.

The Pressure Teenagers Face to be Sexually Active

The Pressure Teenagers Face to be Sexually Active

It’s Valentine’s Weekend and a major issue for many teenagers is if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too in order to be normal. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to 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.

Coping with Your Teenager during the Pandemic

Coping with Your Teenager during the Pandemic

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. This is normal developmentally, but parents do want to be aware of who their teenager has as friends and what they do. However, with the Pandemic and the quarantine many teenagers have not been able to hang out with friends as usual. They have however maintained contact with friends by texting, FaceTime, Zoom and on line gaming where they can play and talk to each other. Some parents have seen the Pandemic as an opportunity to increase the amount of time they spend with their teenagers and as an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teenagers. This is an excellent idea. As a result some parents are trying to get their teen to spend more time with them than their friends. A parent may feel they are doing something positive during the Pandemic and their teenager may resent the parent for intruding into their private lives with their friends. Unfortunately, the idea the parent had of improving their relationship with their teenager during the Pandemic is ruined and instead of improving the relationship, they are ruining their relationship with their teenager.

Most parents want to improve their relationship with their teenager so if their teenager is having a problem, such as drugs or alcohol, they are hoping their teenager will feel safe enough to talk to them and ask for help. Unfortunately many parents tell me they have decided they way they can resolve this issue is“I am going to be my teenager’s best friend.” Unfortunately, many of these parents do not understand that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.

The solution that you are going to be your teen’s best friend is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also listen to his podcasts on Spotify and Apple.

Teenage Boys Need and Want Help Despite What They Say

Teenage Boys Need and Want Help Despite What They Say

Anyone who has a teenager knows that the teenager thinks that they know everything and they need no one’s help. Many parents have had major arguments with their teenagers because they tried to offer the teenager advice about how to handle a situation. I have had many teenagers sit in my office too, saying they need no help and they have all the answers and that they can handle any situation that occurs in their life. While they may be saying they do not need help or guidance, is this truth?

After seeing numerous teenagers for psychotherapy for over 20 years, I do not believe this is the truth. Furthermore, I believe many teenagers are feeling overwhelmed by life and do not know what to do, but they are afraid to admit it. I find this is especially true with male teenagers. In my opinion, these teenagers are trying to live up to the stereotype about “being a man.” The old outdated stereotype tells men and boys that they are weak if they need help and they are weak if the have feelings. As a result, we end up with tough guy teenagers who say they don’t need help from anyone. However, deep inside they know they need help and they are hoping someone will figure it out without the teen having to admit it.

As a result of feeling overwhelmed and alone, many teenage boys turn to drinking, drugs, violence and sexual activity. Anything that will numb the pain and make them look tough. Therefore, they may be flunking out of school, but because of their drinking and cutting classes, it looks like they don’t care and in their opinion they are handling the situation. However, they are not handling the situation and they are getting themselves further and further into a hole that they cannot find their own way out. They are drowning and their acting out behaviors are they way of calling for help. However, to most people their behavior doesn’t look like a cry for help. Instead it feels like the teenager is pushing people a way. After a while, people do stop trying to help.

As the adults, we need to remember that these teenagers’ brains are not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for reasoning and decision making is not fully developed. Their bodies make them look like adults, but in terms of emotional development, we are dealing with a fifth grader. We need to remember this fact so we can stay in there and find a way to help them even though they say they don’t need it.

Justin Bieber recently wrote and released a song called Lonely which does an excellent job of explaining the teenager’s need for help and how teenagers don’t know how to ask for help. Justin Bieber achieved money and fame as a teenager. In the song he talks about how he did stupid and irresponsible things as a teenager. He also discusses feeling very lonely because he felt there was no one to help him. Many of the adults around him said nothing because of all the money he was making. However, he states he had no idea what to do and he needed someone to step in. Because no one did, he felt very lonely and continued to act out. He did not want a yes man, he wanted someone to set boundaries for him and tell him to stop the irresponsible behavior. Additionally, he wanted someone to hold him accountable for his actions.

Granted, not every teenager is a superstar like Justin Bieber. However, the feelings and emotional needs that he expresses in his song Lonely do apply to many teenage boys. I would encourage every parent to listen to this song. I would also encourage every parent to set boundaries and provide guidance to their teenage boys. Yes they will argue and say they don’t need it. However, you are helping their pride because they can tell their friends they have no choice. They don’t have to be afraid of looking weak. Additionally, I would encourage parents to discuss with their sons how they do not have to live up to some old stereotype to be “a man.” Use this as an opportunity to discuss with them how you believe men should act. You may want to watch the documentary, The Mask You Live In, on YouTube. It discusses how the old outdated stereotype regarding men creates problems for teenage boys and how we can change this stereotype.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also one of the founding members for the national advisory board for Street Soldiers. For more information regarding 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 or Apple.

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.

Autism and The Holidays

Autism and The Holidays

Typically during the Holidays many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this year the Holidays are going to be significantly different due to the Coronavirus. In addition to the Coronavirus, the Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. However, due to the Coronavirus most families will not be having big gatherings, but they still will be having smaller gatherings. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them. Additionally, changes that need to be made due to the Coronavirus can upset children and teenagers on the Spectrum.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. Also as I stated above, we will have significant changes to our Holidays in terms of how many people will be there and having to change some long standing Holiday traditions, such as Midnight Mass. While researching this issue, I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

The pandemic has reached a very frightening point. Over 250,000 people have died from the coronavirus and daily we are setting new highs for how many new cases are diagnosed. We are also running out of hospital beds and the CDC is preparing us for a massive number of deaths over the next few weeks and the Holidays. As a result of the current situation, California is implementing shelter in place orders again.

Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their lives have been turned upside down due to the shelter in place orders. Teenagers are losing hope and wondering if their lives will ever return to normal. Teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are having to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled. 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 and shelter in place orders depression and anxiety has reached epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) has 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.

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.

As a result, many teenagers are severely struggling with mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, 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 http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.