Helping Children Traumatized by Mass Shootings

Helping Children Traumatized by Mass Shootings

I recently wrote an article about mass shootings and the impact they are having on children. In light of this week’s events it appears another article is needed. There was another mass shooting and at least 12 people lost their lives. This shooting also created more fear regarding mass shootings. The shooter used a silencer on his gun so you could not hear the shot. This is part of the training we give to students. We tell them to run away from the sound of the gun, but if there is no sound how do the run. First responders are now re-evaluating how they will handle mass shootings, if they cannot hear the gun. Children are already anxious about going to school and being killed. This new fact will only add to their fear.

I anticipate that I will be hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend, but given the number of mass shootings in makes sense.

However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11, or were not even born yet, when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about numerous terrorist alerts or attacks around the world and here in the United States. They also hear how the TSA at times are putting tighter security on travelers and places such as Disneyland are increasing security due to concerns about terrorism.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. With the recent shooting it is estimated that there have been over 150 mass shootings since the year 2000 (CNN). According to the statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. Also it is estimated that every 11.8 days there is a mass shooting in the United States (CDC). This does not include suicides. For the group we are discussing, suicide was the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old. It is now the third leading cause of death for teens and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.

Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news nightly and the video games they play daily. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States, or any where in the world, there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days too. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. Since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.

Additionally, children in the fourth and fifth grades are telling me they are worried about their safety due to the President. They have heard what the President has said and they are afraid other countries may attack us or that the President may start a war. Also Hispanic children who are legal citizens are still afraid that they will be deported. This is a great deal for a nine or ten year old child to worry about.

Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. They may not be experiencing the trauma personally but they are experiencing vicarious trauma. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up with in the world. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can demand that the Senate act. Telephone Senator’s McConnell office at 202-224-2541and demand that he stop refusing to put the bills passed by the Congress on the Senate floor for a vote. Parents can monitor how much exposure children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. Again, we must demand that the Congress and the Senate pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon or silencer to hunt a deer. All the weapons in this last shooting were purchased legally. The government must act.

Another thing parents can do is listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have a talk with your child or have them assessed by a psychotherapist. I have included a link to an article by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which describes what parents can do http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

For many years many people have avoided seeking mental health care due to the negative stigma associated with it. However, this stigma has cost many teenage lives and the lives of veterans. Suicide for teens has recently moved from the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death (CDC). Veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few of our recent wars, are more likely to develop PTSD and have significantly higher rates of suicide compared to the general population.

Now for many years many of us have accepted that there is no way to remove the stigma associated with mental health. However the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex started the non-profit HeadsTogether. One of their many goals is removing the negative stigma associated with mental health. Their efforts are paying off and they are changing how people view mental health in England.

Now Seth Moulton, a democratic candidate for President, has proposed a plan to expand mental health care for military and vets. His plan also includes providing mental health checkups for all teenagers and establishing a mental health emergency number similar to the 911 emergency system. You may not like what he stands for but take the time to read the mental health plan he proposed. It could save many teenagers from committing suicide. It could also identify possible teenagers who may be the perpetrators of a mass school shooting before it happens. It also would provide active military and veterans with the mental health support they need https://politi.co/2Kb3Chr via @politico.

It has the possibility of doing all of this and removing the stigma associated with mental health. This plan makes physical health and mental health equal. Research shows they are equal. Physical and mental health issues are tied together so why shouldn’t we treat them the same?

Dr. Michael Rubino is an adolescent psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teens and children. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Memorial Day A Day We Need to Look at Our Actions

Memorial Day A Day We Need to Look at Our Actions

It’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s also the beginning of graduations too. For many teenagers this means parties, hanging out with friends and staying out late. It’s a popular weekend to celebrate by drinking and some head for the beaches or swimming pools depending on the area you live in. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed by breaking their back. Concussions are very common and can have life long effects on someone.

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

With it being the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of graduations and graduation parties, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if your teenager or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

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

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

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

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

Also the ironic part to this weekend is it really a time to honor the men and women who have served in the military. To remember all those soldiers who have been killed, injured for life or coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Traumatic Brain Injury, so we can benefit from a democracy that allows us the freedom to live our lives how we want to live life. So we can go to church if we want and express our opinions without having to fear for our lives.

However, over time we have forgotten the meaning of today. Therefore, we do not value what we have and take chances with our lives we do not need to take. We also forget the veterans who are paralyzed or trying to cope with PTSD and reliving the war they were in daily. This also has a major impact on veteran’s families too. Another fact we forget.

May be if we take a few minutes to remember the true meaning of this weekend, we will value life more and be less likely to take senseless chances such as driving drunk. We may also remember the veterans who are still struggling with their injuries today and ensure they get the help they need and deserve. Many do not and as a result the suicide rate for veterans is very high compared to the general population. There are few treatment option for them too. A very sad fact when they provided us with the freedom we enjoy daily.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work, his private practice or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Save Our Children’s Lives

Save Our Children’s Lives

This week we have experienced two more school shootings. The students who attend these schools lives have been changed for ever so have their parents. However, these shootings have resulted in an increase in teenagers who are complaining of anxiety and depression. Many of these teenagers are also afraid to go to school too. I have also been seeing more teenagers being placed on home/hospital for school. This means a teacher comes to the house once a week instead of the teenager going to school. This is an alarming trend.

I have also been hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend.

However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11 when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about terrorist alerts or attacks around the world.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. According to the CDC statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. This does not include suicides. For teenagers, suicide has risen to the second from the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide.

Going back to the mass school shootings, ABC News statistics reported there were more school shootings in 2016 than all the school shootings combined from 2000 to 2015. This is a terrifying fact. CNN News has estimated that since the Parkland shooting in 2018, there has been a school shooting every 11.8 days. Also since January 1, 2019 there have been over 28 school shootings (CDC, NBC News, CNN).

In addition to these facts, children now have to undergo shooter drills at school. When we grew up we had fire drills to practice what to do if there was a fire at school. Now elementary children have active shooter drills. A code is sent to the teachers and students are told to shelter in place and be very quiet. They do not know if it is real or a drill. During one shooter drill a second grader was so afraid she wrote on her arms “I love you mommy and daddy,” in case it was real and she was killed.

No wonder we are seeing a significant increase in anxiety and depression in elementary school students. Imagine the stress kids live with going to school not knowing if they might be killed that day. How is a child supposed to learn under those conditions?

After the Parkland shootings, students and parents were saying never again. These very brave, mature high school students have been speaking out regarding the need for safe and sane gun laws. They were able to get laws changed in Florida, but they have not been able to get the United States Congress to act. I think these brave students may need some help. Parents you are in a position to help. You can also help save future lives maybe even the life of your own child.

Many school districts are provided State and Federal funds based on how many students attend school on a daily basis. This may sound extreme, but look at the statistics. Every year more children are dying due to school shootings and guns. Our government has done nothing to protect our children. Therefore, we may need to use extreme means to get the President’s attention.

I suggest on the Tuesday after Memorial Day that every parent keep their child and Teenager home in memory of all the students and school staff members that have been killed. Also call the office of your US Senator and demand they enact safe and sane gun reform. Also leave a message at the office of the Governor for your state. If they fail to pay attention over the summer, on the first day of school again keep your children home and make the same calls. If the school districts start to show a reduction in attendance they will be in danger of losing State and Federal funding. Therefore, they will place pressure on the U.S Congress too. Unfortunately, it seems like the U.S. Government only acts when money is involved. Therefore, if we want to protect our children we need to play by their rules.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and dealing with victims of trauma. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

Many times I hear parents ask for help because there teenagers are too self-absorbed. All they do is think about what they want and what they need. Well, teenagers are supposed to be self-absorbed. Okay yes some teenagers can go overboard, but in general being self-absorbed is part of being a teenager.

Developmentally, teenagers are in the process of defining their own identities and discovering their own value systems. They are trying to define themselves as young adults and how they are going to relate to people in their lives and what they do and don’t believe in. In order to accomplish this goal, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection and exploring the world. It also requires a great deal of focus on their feeling so they can form their identities and value systems. At times, it may seem like a teenager is self-absorbed and only thinking about themselves. Externally this is how it may look to parents, but internally it feels very different to the teenager.

Remember when you were a teenager or some of the things your teenager may have said to you. Teens often talk about feeling very confused about their emotions or overwhelmed by their emotions. They often state they are not sure what to feel or think about their emotions. Also many teens often express feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and are not sure what they should do as an adult or what people expect from them. It is a very confusing time and requires a fair amount of introspection from the teenager.

Very often in therapy, I serve as a sounding board for teens to sort out the feelings they are having about themselves and the expectations they feel from people in their lives. Also they often are trying to sort out how they want to act as an adult and they are trying to understand what is expected of them as an adult.

This is a very confusing time and requires a great deal of introspection because no one teaches teenagers about what it takes to be an adult and often no one discusses these issues with them. Some parents do try to discuss feeling and expectations with teenagers, but often these conversations result in an argument. Remember a teenager’s brain is still not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which handles most of what we are discussing is still developing in a teenager. Because of this many teens may feel like they are being talked down to and they get angry. Parents often forget how teenagers think and don’t know how to approach their teenager which can result in an argument. Even though the parent and teen may have the best intention of trying to discuss this turmoil it still can result in an argument.

As I said in the beginning some teenagers are too self-absorbed. They are not trying to resolve emotional turmoil they are just selfish or spoiled. If your teenager appears more self-absorbed than they average teenager or if people are commenting on how selfish your teenager is then you need help. At this point I recommend therapy. The teenager won’t listen to you because parents know nothing in their opinion. Often in therapy I say the same things as parents and the teen will listen because I am not Dad or Mom and they don’t feel like they are admitting they are inadequate accepting my suggestion. The main point is they understand they are too self-absorbed and how to change it.

So if your teen is somewhat self-absorbed, relax it is part of being a teenager. They will out grow it around 17 or 18 years old. In the meantime, work with your teen doing your best to help them sort out the emotional turmoil they are experiencing internally. If you feel lost as a parent or if you see your teenager struggling very hard then you may want to consider having your teenager attend therapy to cope with this emotional turmoil.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents and is recognized as an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Parents it’s sad to say but in today’s world toys can result in a child being killed. We would like to assume we still live in a world that is safe for our kids, where they can go outside to play and we know they will be safe. However, this is no longer the truth. The world has changed and kids are no longer just safe to go out and play.

One major change is the increase in violence in our society. Since the year 2000 there have been 160 mass shootings and they are increasing every year (ABC News). There were two school shootings this past week. As a result, law enforcement and people in general are more sensitive to guns and violence.

The problem for our children is a number of toy manufactures are making toy guns that look real. There is a man selling toy assault weapons on the Internet and he has a waiting list for people wanting to buy these “toys” for their kids. We need to think about the toys kids are playing with before they go out to play. If they are outside or at school playing with a “toy gun” that looks real they may end up getting killed. Kids video games have become violent and many involve shooting and killing. If a police officer tells a child to drop their gun, they may think it is a game or that the officer knows it is a toy and ignore the officer and the officer may shoot because of the risk to him and others that may be around. What happens, the child gets killed because they thought they were playing a game. In fact, one child is killed by a gun every 30 minutes in the US (CDC). This rate is higher than the Middle East.

Video games and movies have become also become very violent. In the 1990’s a movie received an R rating for swearing. Now those movies are PG. Movies that receive R ratings today are very graphic violently and sexually. Many kids believe these movies represent daily normal life. The children I work with are now only interested in watching movies and playing video games that are graphically violent with people getting killed. Remember children don’t reason like adults. They can hit the reset button on a game and start over and everyone is a live. Therefore, many children and teens do not think they will be killed because the typical belief most children have about life are that children are not killed, adults are killed.

In addition to movies and games becoming violent children today are being exposed to mass shootings all most daily. As a result, children are accepting violence as an everyday fact of life. I do an anger management group for teens and when the topic of caring knifes or guns came up, most of the teens thought it was a good idea. When I asked about being killed accidentally, they didn’t care. Many of them felt there already was a chance they could be shot or stabbed by someone, therefore, they should at least be able to defend themselves. This is a sad way for children to be growing up.

Teens are also seeing that guns can be an answer to some of their problems. We have seen news stories where teens have planned and murdered another kid because they did not like the other child. The recent shooting at the game arcade in Florida occurred because a teen was mad that someone beat him at a video game. For teens 10 to 24 suicide is the third leading cause of death and using a gun to commit suicide is one of the top three choices (CDC). Therefore, guns pose a major health hazard to children and teenagers.

What does this mean to parents? It means when you are buying games, Holiday gifts or birthday gifts that parents need to think. It is important to pay attention to the rating and the age of your child. If you buy the video games rated mature which can deal with killing or raping, do you want your child exposed to these issues? Do not allow them to play with realistic toy guns without appropriate education especially teaching them never to point it at someone. A police officer may not have the time to determine if your teen has a toy gun or real gun. Furthermore, monitor the movies they watch. Do not allow them to watch movies or television shows that glorify violence. Remember their brains are not totally mature yet, so they need their parents to think for them when it comes to violence.

When the US in ranked number one in kids being killed by guns and are children assume they have a good chance of being killed by a gun, and kids think a video game or movie is good only if there is killing, parents must act. Parents must try to re-educate our children. It’s not too late.

Dr Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and adolescents. He has 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.