Sexual abuse was discovered in women’s gymnastics and now women’s soccer. There are allegations that sexual abuse is occurring in girl athletes in high school and younger. Parents need to be aware of the signs of sexual abuse https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/03/us/us-soccer-women-misconduct/index.html
Many parents of high school athletes are aware of the dangers of concussions. Research now shows that even one concussion can cause permanent damage according to recent research studies. However, there is another condition that parents need to be aware of when their child plays sports. This disorder is CTE. CTE is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) it is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.
Our brain sits in our skull surrounded by fluid. Therefore, any time anyone hits their head or their head is jarred around, the brain moves in this fluid hitting the front and back of your skull or the sides of the skull depending on what direction the force came from. When the brain hits the skull it can cause bruising and microscopic tears of very fine nerve fibers. Nerve fibers that are too small to be seen on an MRI or a CT scan.
Physicians have known that CTE effects boxers for many years, however, it was just a few years ago that evidence showed that football players are at risk too. This was the main focus of the movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith. The NFL did everything they could to stop the filming of this movie. The movie shows how CTE results in the patient becoming severely depressed and psychotic. Many of the patients with CTE commit suicide. Also many CTE patients were professional football players who started playing in High School.
Why is this important for parents to know? It is important because CTE is caused by chronic head injuries. Head injuries that date back to when a teenager was playing high school sports. Therefore, it is important for parents to ensure that their teenager’s school is using the latest safety gear, especially for the head, and to take any head injuries seriously. There is no way to tell what will happen when these teenagers become adults.
For many years, football and schools have reported that they are developing helmets that protect the head better. However, these safer helmets are not being used in high schools or professional football. Schools and professional football are monitoring players closer after a head injury, but still little to nothing is being done to protect the brain prior to an injury. Furthermore, this week evidence was uncovered showing that professional football players may not receive an adequate evaluation for a concussion if they are hit during a game. In fact, it is believed that even with all the information we have regarding concussions that many professional football players continue in games even though they have a concussion.
This issue game up during the week when a player for the Miami Dolphins suffered a hit and was assessed not to have a concussion. He resumed play and four days later sustained another hit and was diagnosed with a concussion. He was believed to be suffering from second impact syndrome. “What we currently believe second impact syndrome to be is a second blow to the head or second concussion prior to the resolution of a first one. And that can result in uncontrolled swelling of the brain,” explained Steven Broglio, director of the University of Michigan’s Concussion Center. Broglio is a certified athletic trainer and is a lead author on the National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement on management of sport concussion (CNN). It is estimated that it takes approximately 14 days for the brain and the brain chemistry to return to normal after the brain sustains a hit causing a jarring motion of the brain. Often these injuries have no symptoms (CDC).
If professional football players are being allowed to play with concussions and are developing second impact syndrome, what are happening to high school athletes? Researchers such as, Neuroscientist Julie Stamm, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are questioning the protocol being used to assess athletes for concussions (CDC). If professional athletes are not being adequately assessed and now developing a new condition, second impact syndrome, what is occurring with high school athletes?
As an adolescent psychotherapist who has been practicing for 25 years, I am seeing more evidence of student athletes sustaining head injuries every year. Every year I am seeing more teens with Post Concussion Syndrome. This may occur after a concussion and can be associated with headaches, mood swings and memory difficulties. The teenagers who experiences this Syndrome become very frustrated because they are aware of the changes and because no one can say how long the symptoms will continue. In fact, no one can guarantee that the symptoms will disappear.
This becomes very frustrating to the teenager and their parents. Some teenagers are so overwhelmed that they start self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Anything that they think might help. Others become so depressed because they fear that the symptoms are permanent that they become suicidal and may attempt suicide.
For many years these head injuries in teenagers were down played because there was not enough evidence to indicate that teenagers could be impacted by head injuries. Well the research clearly indicates that teenagers can suffer long term results from a single concussion. Additionally, this can create symptoms that are overwhelming for the teenager and their family. Imagine being a parent and you see your child suffering with Post Concussion Syndrome and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Parents also become depressed and nervous that their child may never recover.
Another issue to consider, athletes can develop second impact syndrome which can lead to CTE, causing patients to have mood swings and feel like they are going crazy. They do not understand what is happening inside their head. Many teenagers who act out often report the same feelings and the fear that they are going crazy. Many of these teenagers have had head injuries. It is possible that teenagers may also suffer from second impact syndrome, post concussion syndrome or developing CTE?
Everyone’s brain is different and so is the recovery process. This means we have no way of knowing how many Concussions or head traumas it takes before CTE is started in someone. It also means we have no way to determine how long it will take for someone to recover from a concussion or if they will have permanent impairments. If we are unable to adequately assess concussions, how many players are developing second impact syndrome? We only can tell after it occurs not before.
We do know that patients recovering from Post Concussion Syndrome or dealing with CTE can benefit from psychotherapy. Often this option is not given to teenagers because again many people believe teenagers are very unlikely to suffer with these issues. However, if you look at the research it indicates that teenagers can and do suffer from Post Concussion Syndrome and teenage head injuries can cause CTE.
As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers with head injuries, I strongly encourage every parent to watch the movie, Concussion. Also before your child starts playing any competitive sports, such as football or soccer, go online and research head injuries and signs and symptoms of concussions. Also if you teenager does sustain a head injury while playing sports or just playing have them evaluated. You never know how severe a head injury is by just looking at someone. A few years ago an actress fell in the snow and her friends said to go to the doctor she said she was fine. Two hours later she was dead. When she fell she caused her brain to bleed and she died.
Above all, use your best judgement as a parent. Do not be afraid to ask for a CT scan or an MRI if your child suffers any type of head injury. If your teenager does sustain a concussion and you notice a personality change or memory issues do not hesitate to seek psychotherapy for your child and for yourselves. Also don’t hesitate to talk to your teenagers high school. If the teenager is having problems concentrating after a head injury, the school may need to provide them with accommodations until the child recovers.
This can be an overwhelming and frightening topic to consider but the more you educate yourself, the easier it will be to manage. If you have additional questions regarding the personality changes or neuropsychological changes with head injuries, please feel free to contact me.
Dr. Michael Rubino has been treating children and teenagers for over 25 years. Dr. Rubino specializes in treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He also has training in neuropsychology. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his website that deals with accommodations at school www.LucasCenter.org.
Over the years children and teenagers have been exposed to stressful life events especially the last two years. The teens today have grown up with daily school shootings and mass shooting drills. Imagine being a second grader having to rehearse a man with a gun is on campus and you don’t know if you are going to live or die. Teenagers today have also grown up with terrorist alerts and having to be searched anytime they went to a concert or places such as Disneyland. Finally they have had to cope with COVID. Over 1,000,000, and counting, Americans have died from this virus (CDC). Many children and teenagers have lost grandparents, siblings and parents to this virus. Therefore, we also have many children and teenagers who are dealing with grief due to the loss of a loved one. We thought we had turned a corner regarding the Coronavirus, but we found out we have not turned a corner and we are still having spikes in the number of cases. There are still people being diagnosed daily with the Coronavirus and people dying daily from Covid. Many of these people have been vaccinated, however, most people being diagnosed and dying have not been vaccinated. Additionally, this time the virus is effecting teenagers and children. Since schools have resumed on site classes at least 1,000 children have died due to the Coronavirus virus (CDC).
This is a lot for a child or teenager to have to adjust to. Remember, their brains are not fully developed yet. Therefore they cannot understand things like adults do. Furthermore, they have very active imaginations which are fueled by misinformation on social media or from people such as Tucker Carlson on Fox. Having to cope with all of this together has resulted in a significant increase in depression, suicide, drug overdose and anxiety disorders. At my office we get at least 20 requests daily for teenagers seeking psychotherapy due to anxiety disorders.
The fact that we thought we were on the right track with the Coronavirus and we continue to have spikes is confusing and irritating to teenagers. Just as we think we are returning to our normal lives, we see that we need to still take precautions and maybe we will never return to our pre-Covid lives. Again we are not able to give children and teenagers any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal. Now we have changed the rules again and they are expected to adjust.
With everything teenagers have had to cope with growing up, terrorist attacks, war, the economy collapsing, mass shooting and now the Coronavirus, we failed to make plans for their mental health care. Yes hospitals were running out of beds and physicians have become exhausted, but we are also running out of psychotherapists. Also psychotherapists are exhausted because they are dealing with adults and teenagers daily who dealing with depression, suicide and anxiety. However, psychotherapist do need some breaks so they can keep going. Finally, more and more insurance companies are declining claims or raising copayments so high that families cannot afford their copayments.
This is occurring when children and teenagers desperately need psychotherapy. Prior to the pandemic, anxiety disorders in children and teenagers were at epidemic rates (CDC). Since the pandemic there has been a 25% increase in children and teenagers being diagnosed with anxiety disorders. At this point anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric diagnosis for children and teenagers (CDC). Yes depression, suicide, grief and trauma diagnoses have increased since the pandemic, but we have seen the largest increase in anxiety disorders (CDC). As a result, many children and teenagers have severe anxiety regarding school and many are stating they cannot go to school due to anxiety disorders.
This lack of mental health care is unacceptable in the United States. Parents call the Human Resource Department at your work. They negotiate your benefits with the insurance companies. Therefore, they can renegotiate your coverage so you receive the benefits your family needs. Also call your Senators and demand that insurance companies need to provide mental health care.
As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents. Additionally, parents are trying to find psychotherapist who can treat children and teenagers are parents are trying to figure out how they can afford therapy with the cost of living increasing and insurance companies restricting coverage.
Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:
• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys
• Trouble falling or staying asleep
• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches
• Extreme mood swings
• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting
Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:
• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.
• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.
• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.
• Let kids complete their point before you respond.
• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.
• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”
• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.
• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.
• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.
• Word swap.
o Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’
o Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’
o Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’
o Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’
• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.
• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.
• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.
• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.
Call a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with your child’s daily activities for several days in a row. It is very important that you contact a mental health clinician so you get an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan for your child.
You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or on Audible.
Many teenagers report being frustrated with their parents because they feel that their parents do not listen to them. As a result, many teenagers decide not to listen to their parents. They feel their parents are disrespecting them by not listening, so why should they be respectful to their parents and listen to them. This does create a number of arguments at home because many parents get very upset when they feel their teenagers are not listening to them.
Honestly, the teenagers are probably right at times. Many parents may not really be listening to their teenagers, even though they feel that they are listening. Most people have poor listening skills. These are not skills we are taught in school or at home. Most people tend to be focusing on how they are going to respond to the person talking rather than completely listening to the other person.
Since this is a common issue, what happens when children and teenagers feel that their parents are not really listening to them? What teenagers have told me is that they feel angry and that their parent does not care about their feelings. When teenagers have these feelings they tend to stop talking to their parents and to act out. When they feel that their parents don’t care, they feel like they have permission to do whatever they want and at times they act out using drugs or not going to school as a way to get their parents attention.
Teenagers may act like they know everything and that they are not afraid of anything or confused about what to do, but this is only an act. They do not know how to handle everything and often feel overwhelmed by life choices. As a result they turn to their parents. However, if their parents are not fully listening they feel hurt and rejected. As teenagers their communication skills and reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they don’t know how to let their parents know they feel hurt and rejected. They also do not know how to let you know that they feel you are not listening and they need your help. Most teenagers feel saying they need their parents as a sign of weakness. This is because they are not fully mature and they are still children and they need their parents.
For many parents this may come as a shock. It comes as a shock because of how teenagers tend to react to their parents. Again, because teenagers are not fully mature they tend to act like they know everything and don’t need their parents. However, as I stated above teenagers do need and want their parents support. However, due to their immaturity, teenagers act like they don’t need their parents. However, parents need to understand that teenagers are not fully mature yet and their actions do not always match how they are feeling.
With this being said, it is very important that parents listen to their teenagers. However, since communication skills are a problem for most people especially listening skills, I have provided a list of listening skills that parents may want to try. Remember these skills don’t come naturally to most people so it will take a while for you to improve your skills. Also since teenagers can be confusing at times it makes listening even harder at times. In addition to these skills, if you are listening to your teenager, but you are still confused try asking a clarification question. Repeat back what you thought you heard and ask your teenager if you heard them correctly. This shows you are listening, you care and you want to focus on their concerns. This is exactly what teenagers are wanting from you. Here are the skills you may want to try:
1) Purposefully strive to focus on listening with an open mind, refrain from jumping to conclusions or forming an opinion while your child is talking.
2) Do not hurry them, listening requires patience. Wait for your child’s thoughts to take shape and give time for the words to form and find expression.
3) Always show respect and courtesy in listening to what your child has to say, no matter how much you may disagree with them.
4) Your own body language is important, make eye contact and always provide your attentive and undivided attention.
5) Don’t be thinking about how you will respond as this will take your concentration away from what they are really saying.
6) Exercise awareness of your child’s nonverbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, body stance, general mood and attitude.
7) Don’t interrupt, hear them out and wait for the appropriate opportunity to ask questions.
8) Always remain calm when listening and never show your personal feelings of anger or disappointment.
9) Think of listening as personal growth as your children will always have something to say which will help you to grow.
10) Practice active listening with your heart to genuinely empathize with your child. Put yourself in their shoes to genuinely understand their feelings and emotions.
Remember this will take time and effort. However, by trying you are improving your relationship with your teenager and this is a tremendous benefit to you and your teenager if you can improve your relationship. Teenagers are facing a great deal of confusing and dangerous situations in today’s world and they need their parents now more than ever.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s 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.
Schools are starting to resume, however, many children are still experiencing issues due to the pandemic and remote learning. Children and teenagers reporting anxiety and depression have increased significantly since remote learning. Additionally, many students are still experiencing difficulties adjusting to their school schedules now that they are going to the school site versus logging on from home. These are issues parents need to keep in mind if their child or teenager is having difficulties with school.
Now that schools have resumed so has the fighting parents and teenagers have over getting homework completed and turned in on time. This means parents are once again getting notices from their children’s schools that their child is not doing homework and not paying attention in class. When kids were attending school remotely, many teachers and parents were not as concerned because they knew doing school remotely was very difficult. However, now that students are back in the classroom, teachers and parents are no longer ignoring attention issues or difficulties with homework.
As a result, some schools and family members may be suggesting to parents that their child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication. Additionally given everything children have been through with the pandemic and remote learning, we need to be very careful about labeling a child with ADHD. There are a number of other options such as depression, anxiety and boredom.
According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males, however it does also occur in families. According to the CDC 15.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.
If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. It’s important to get them the accommodations they need. Children who have ADHD, but do not receive accommodations tend to show signs of low self-esteem around the fifth grade. Accommodations for ADHD can be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.
If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.
As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.
The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.
Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.
Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.
Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. Also remember many children are experiencing anxiety due to the pandemic. Anxiety can easily look like ADHD. Therefore, instead of medication, maybe your child needs therapy for anxiety.
The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.
Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 25 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
September is dedicated to suicide prevention. Therefore, I decided to write this article. As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I work with many parents who are worried that their teenager is depressed and may be suicidal. Many parents worry because suicide is a mental health issue for children and teenagers that often is ignored. In fact, suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old, it is now the second leading cause of death for this age group (CDC). Also suicide is becoming more common in our society. If we look at the past few years Kate Spade, a designer, and Anthony Bourdain, the chef from CNN, both a profile people have committed suicide. Suicide is also common in soldiers who have been deployed over seas. Additionally, suicide is occurring more often in teenagers who have survived school mass shootings and for first responders for mass shootings and those dealing with Covid patients (CDC). Therefore, it is becoming common in our society, however, there are few resources available to people. Also the negative stigma associated with suicide prevents people and families from taking about the issue. I hope the information in this article helps you understand the issue of suicide. To start off with, I have included an article where six people describe their suicidal feelings and the help they need http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2
In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. Depression and anxiety disorders are now at epidemic rates for children and teenagers (CDC). Additionally, as I stated above, suicide is now the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide daily. The increase is significant enough that Netflix was running a series about teenagers feeling suicidal. The show was called 13 Reasons Why. The suicide rate for teenagers has been increasing yearly for several years. It is increasing faster in teenage girls and is considered an epidemic. It is estimated 800,000 people a year commit suicide and approximately 25 times that attempt suicide (CDC). Again, suicide remains the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old and it rises every year and we are not providing resources (CDC).
In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. They are worried not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As, they are worried that they will not get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house. They only feel like a success if they can make a lot of money. They don’t even consider how compassionate and caring many of them are and the good they offer our world. In their eyes, compassion is nothing if you are not driving a Mercedes.
This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age. It is also a terrible way for them to value theirselves. This is how we create Bullies because compassion is looked at as a weakness. Also because money and possessions are becoming more important than people.
I also see middle school students and high school students involved in several sports and other activities such as Boy Scouts. The kids are feeling pressured to do extracurricular activities not for fun but for their resume. They are again concerned about getting into a good college and being a success. This pressure is not coming from parents either. It is pressure kids are now placing on themselves. Again they believe they need to grow up and make a lot of money to be happy and successful.
Recent studies are showing a correlation between lack of fun and time to relax with the increase in depression in children and teenagers. A study in Psychology Today discusses this issue. I have included the link so parents can read this study and think about it. Also so you can look at your children and talk with them. See if they are enjoying life or feeling overwhelmed because they need to succeed. Money pays the bills but doesn’t guarantee happiness https://www.psychologytoday.co.
Many parents are not sure what to look for and do not want to over react. If you notice these signs they are indicators that your teen may be feeling suicidal and needs to be assessed by a mental health clinician. The major warning signs are:
• Aggressive behavior
• Verbal outbursts
• Withdrawal from friends
• Writing or talking about suicide
• Dramatic mood swings
• Reckless behavior
• Refusal to engage in daily responsibilities
• Giving way personal items of worth such as jewelry or furniture
If you notice any of these signs don’t be afraid to ask your
teenager if they are feeling suicidal or thinking about suicide.
Many people have the misconception that if you ask someone
about suicide that you will cause them to think about suicide.
This is not true. By asking someone if they are feeling suicidal,
you are letting them know that it is safe for them to talk about their feelings,
including suicidal feeling. If someone is feeling suicidal it
is essential that they feel safe to talk about their feelings and
thoughts. Therefore, asking your teen if they are feeling
suicidal will not hurt them, it can help them to talk and possibly
save their life.
I understand that the topic of suicide is scary and something our
society denies and views it as there is something wrong with
anyone feeling suicidal. But the truth is, it is a mental health
issue and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is also an epidemic for
teenagers. If we want to prevent the number of suicides from
rising and help teenagers who are currently feeling suicidal,
we must talk openly about suicide and seek mental health care for
teenagers who are feeling suicidal.
Another factor related to this issue is family and friends. If someone commits suicide, family
and friends tend to feel guilty and ashamed. They blame themselves for the suicide and feel they
should have prevented it. However, if the person doesn’t express their feeling and there are few
resources, how do you prevent it? Also because of the huge negative stigma associated with
suicide, family and friends are embarrassed to talk about death. As a result, many families
and friends fail to get help after a suicide and their lives may be ruined for the rest of their lives.
We seldom consider the impact that suicide has on the family and friends. I have included a link
to an article which discusses the impact suicide has on family and friends
consider these issues and start to provide more resources for people feeling suicidal and family
and friends who survive a suicide.
Dr. Michael Rubino is psychotherapist who specializes working with children, teenagers, trauma survivors and first responders for over 25 years. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.
Since September is dedicated to preventing suicide, I decided to write this article for parents. Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine for the Coronavirus there has been a significant increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings due to survivors dealing with survivor guilt. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.
A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.
I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.
Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.
I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.
Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.
Today is the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Our Country said it is a day we will never forget, however people in the early 20s were too young to remember and teenagers were not even born. They most likely have heard numerous stories about that day, but they did not experience the fear we all felt and the uncertainty we all were struggling with that day. 9/11 was the first time in history that the mainland of the United States had ever been attacked. It happened often in Europe but never here in the United States. On that day the safety we all were use to was destroyed. There will be a number of television documentaries this weekend about 9/11. Parents you may want to watch one of these documentaries with your children and discuss with them how they feel and answer any questions it may bring up.
There was something else that changed that day too. We witnessed how our first responders all pulled together in order to help victims and secure the Country. They did not come together for a day, they came together for months and exposed themselves to deadly dust and the possibility that building may further crash in on them killing them. They thought nothing about themselves. They were only thinking about helping survivors and families who lost loved ones. It was also amazing to see how first responders from all over the Country came to New York City and Washington D.C. to help. They also planned on being there for as long as needed which was several months. Regardless of the length of time our first responders were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week and no one complained.
We also witnessed citizens volunteer to help the first responders. We even witnessed a plane of citizens sacrifice their lives in order to protect a plane that was planning on hitting the White House. We all came together regardless of race, sexual preference, socioeconomic status and worked together. We were all Americans and we were going to work together to prove to the terrorist and the world that no one could stop the United States of America. Besides the citizens who volunteered at the sites that were attacked, people from all over the Country donated money, clothes and supplies for homes. Many people had lost their homes, survivors had medical bills and the first responders needed food, clothes and places to sleep. The main point is we all came together as Americans so we could help protect and save Americans impacted by this attack.
We owe a great debt to our first responders and we still do. Our first responders are responding the same way to the ongoing pandemic and the floods and wild fires all over the United States. They are working 24/7 to help victims of the pandemic and to help families who have lost loved ones. Many physicians and nurses have not had a day off since the pandemic started. The first responders continue helping victims of the pandemic while having to also help victims of hurricanes, floods and fires all over the Country. They do not think about themselves, they only think about the jobs and the people they need to save.
While our first responders continue to selflessly respond to the needs of our country, the citizens of our Country do not. Instead we are fighting with each other about who is right. The part that is really disgraceful is we are fighting with first responders and essential workers. When they have asked people to follow guidelines which have been established many of them have been beaten and some even have been shot and killed. We have a pandemic that has killed over 650,000 Americans. The tragedy on 9/11 killed over 3000 Americans. What would have happened after the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11 if we argued with first responders and if we shot at the first responders? I am afraid to think what would have happened.
Parents if you compare what is happening in our Country currently with how people responded on 9/11, it is very disappointing. It seems like we have forgotten. We are not acting together as one Country, we are fighting with each other and we are emphasizing our differences. Parents try thinking back 21 years ago and explain to your children what it was like when we all acted together as one and we were all proud of our Country and that we were all working together. Maybe if we can explain this to our children and teenagers maybe they can start to work together and once again be proud about all of us being Americans.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
Teenagers have been experimenting and using drugs for decades. Prior to the pandemic opioids were a major issue and so was heroine. In 2017, Opioids were becoming more expensive and teenagers started turning to heroine. Teens were turning to heroine because it was available and cheap. However, it was responsible for a large number of teenage overdosing and dying from heroine. The CDC documented a significant increase in teenage deaths due to heroine between 2010 and 2017. However, during this time fentanyl was being introduced to teenagers and it became very popular.
As it became more popular, people became aware of how strong fentanyl can be and how deadly it is in reality. It was cheaper than heroine but also more deadly. It is also very easy to overdose on. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly.
During the pandemic, teenagers were bored having to stay inside and not being able to see their friends as much as they would like to. As a result they started experimenting with Fentanyl because it was new, cheap and promised a great high. However, it also became obvious that the drug was very deadly. Deaths such as the singer Prince, who overdosed accidentally on Fentanyl, made it very clear that it was a very deadly drug. As a result of public health campaigns, parents and teenagers started to become aware of how deadly the drug was and people became cautious about it.
Obviously this did not sit to well with drug dealers. Fentanyl was still popular but it could be even more popular. The solution is that colored fentanyl pills and powders have been developed. These colored fentanyl pills and powders are becoming popular with teenagers. The colored pills and powders look safer and teenagers are therefore more willing to try and use it. This is putting a significant number of teenagers at risk of dying due to overdosing (CDC).
According to the government the “brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.” Furthermore, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” according to the DEA. Additionally, these brightly colored fentanyl forms appear safer to teenagers and as a result there is an increase in the number of teenagers using them. In addition to more teenagers using the colored fentanyl, more teenagers are dying due to the colored fentanyl (CDC, DEA).
More than 109,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending March 2022, according to provisional data published this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in that time — up from just over half at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, annual drug overdose deaths have jumped 44%. There were 75,702 deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2020, compared with 109,247 deaths in the latest 12-month period ending March 2022.
Drug deaths among children are relatively rare. But unintentional overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, and experts suspect that the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.
Parents, please take this time to discuss and educate your teenagers about the colored fentanyl. Everyone does not know about it and many teenagers are believing the lies that the colored fentanyl is not really dangerous. Many teenagers can be misled because it does not look as dangerous as other drugs do. Therefore, take the opportunity to educate yourself and your teenagers and if you feel your teenager is already involved with it, seek professional help. If they are using fentanyl typically you will notice personality changes that are more extreme than just teenage personality issues. You may save the life of your teenager by talking to them. Anyone can get mixed up with fentanyl.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.
During the past several months there has been a significant increase in mass shootings and people being killed by guns. In fact there has been such a significant increase that mass shootings barely make the news anymore. This weekend there were at least 11 mass shootings across the country. There were shootings at Coney Island back east and another in Bend, Oregon and another in Stockton, California just to name a few (NBC, ABC, CNN). A 10 year old boy in Chicago was shot and a 4 year old in Philadelphia, who was waiting for a haircut was shot too. Both boys were innocent bystanders just trying to live their lives as children.
How are children or anyone suppose to live their lives normally when so far in 2022 we have had an increase of 50% in the number of mass shootings compared to 2020 (Gun Violence Archive). Currently 2022 has the most mass shootings on record for a year and the year is not over yet (CDC, Brady Gunn Violence Campaign). Many children are afraid of attending school due to the mass shooting in Uvlade, Texas where 18 elementary school children and 2 teachers were killed. Can we blame children when every weekend there are numerous mass shootings across the country with numerous people being killed. Also the shootings are usually done with an automatic gun. The most common is the AR15.
As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I hear many children and teens talking about their safety at school and around town while they are playing or hanging out. I have had many children state they are afraid to go to school because they are afraid of being killed. Yes anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly since the pandemic, however, anxiety and depression in children and teenagers were increasing prior to the pandemic. Anxiety and depression disorders started increasing as school mass shootings increased (CDC). I have seen this in public too. I was attending the play Oklahoma and when they shot the stage gun, the 12 year old behind me started having a panic attack and had to leave because they were afraid of being killed. It did not matter what the parents said or did. They automatically had a link between the sound of a gun and people dying. No child should have to be that afraid.
Teenagers are taking somewhat of a different response to the mass shootings. Many teenagers are also suffering from anxiety and depression disorders such as elementary children (CDC). However, many teenagers also seem to believe if they have a gun that will keep them safe. While researching this issue of gun violence, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since there has been a significant increase in mass shootings, more teenagers have been trying to find ways to have access to guns. As I stated for some teenagers they say they feel safer if they can access a gun. However, the major issue is that suicide has been significantly increasing for teenagers over the years (CDC). Suicide is now an epidemic in teenagers and guns are one of the most popular methods of suicide for teenagers. Many children who are bullied are choosing guns for suicide too. Therefore, as we examine how mass shootings are impacting our society, it’s important to look at how easy access to guns is resulting in an increasing number of teenagers committing suicide.
Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette or Orinda that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a 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 injuries. For teenagers who commit suicide, guns are the second-leading cause of death. The CDC has recently moved suicide from the third-leading cause of death for teenagers to the second-leading cause of death. This is a scary fact that the rate of teenage suicides are increasing not decreasing.
The study in the Journal of Pediatrics 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 regardless of where they live. 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 that suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. It is now the second leading cause of death for boys 10 to 18 years old. This study confirms that statistic and indicates 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? At the age of 10, he has given up hope for a decent life. This is a sad fact. Can you imagine being the parent or sibling of a 10 year old suicide victim and finding your child’s brains all over the room? How did a 10 year old get a gun for suicide? How does a teenager get a gun to shot and kill people at their high school?
The study also 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 deaths by guns 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. How did they get access to the guns?
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 or there will be a mass shooting 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 which went bad. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking carrying a gun, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old anyway. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.
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? How are adolescent boys getting access to guns? 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, Lafayette, Orinda and Danville.
Finally, we are only in the month of August and the number of Americans killed to date is more than in 2019 (CDC). We are seeing mass shootings increase, violence against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, Transgender teenagers and police killings. What is happening in the United States? We are the only Country in the world dealing with mass shootings? However, we claim to be the most advanced nation in the world. Maybe Congress needs to look at these numbers and think about their actions. For example, Republicans stating the attack on the US Capital was not violent is crazy. It was violent. Several police officers were killed and they wanted to hang the Vice President. I think that qualifies as violent. We have videos of people assaulting the Capital Police and demanding to hang the Vice President. The Republicans in the House of Representatives remove Represetative Cheney from her leadership post because she won’t lie and say that Biden did not win the Presidential Election. Finally, you have a Republican representative comparing the requirement to wear masks in the House Chambers because everyone in the House of Representatives are not vaccinated. Someone who speaks the truth is removed and someone who makes racist, homophobic and anti Semitic statements is praised. This may be one part of the issue. We need to support people who are treating other people appropriately and we need to speak out and refuse to allow people who are treating people like garbage to continue to be allowed to treat people like garbage. Bottom line, we can no longer ignore the public health emergency created by guns and we must act an enact sane gun laws. People have to wear seatbelts in cars but you can still drive. You need to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol, but this law has not prevented adults from using alcohol. Therefore, sane gun laws will not take away guns from everyone! We are a nation of intelligent people please start using your common sense regarding guns.
If we don’t start to address this public health issue, we are going to continue to have children and teenagers who have severe anxiety and depression disorders and suicide rates for children and teenagers will continue to increase. By not controlling guns, mass shootings and the other violence, such as hate crimes, we are expecting children to grow up in a very scary, unpredictable world. Anxiety and depression are the sane responses. Are we going to allow mass shootings to continue or are we going to enact sane gun laws and provide children with a safe place where they can grow up? We owe it to the children.
Dr. Rubino has 25 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.