A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

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. This week there were two mass shootings. One in Colorado and one in North Carolina. Additionally, the one in Colorado appears to be a hate crime too. The shooting occurred in the city’s only LGBTQ+ bar and hate crimes against transgender individuals have seen a significant increase this year. This increases the fear and trauma in the LGBTQ+ community in that city and all across the country too. As of today there have been 612 mass shooting in the United States just this year. There are only 356 days in a year so we are have more than one mass shooting a day in our Country (CDC). Additionally, there are 112 shootings every day in the United States (CDC). These include domestic violence incidents, crimes, suicides and accidents. We are experiencing a tremendous amount of gun violence in our Country. It is no surprise that there is an epidemic of anxiety, depression and cutting in children and teenagers in our Country (CDC). It also no surprise that many people such as teachers, store clerks and first responders are dealing with PTSD in significant numbers (CDC).

However, stop and think for a moment. Every time there is a mass shooting the people who were killed and injured, they and their families are traumatized, but so is every person who was at that school or store that day and so are the first responders who must treat the wounded, deal with the families and the paramedics and police officers who must see the bodies torn apart and the blood all over the crime scene.

However, the trauma doesn’t stop at the site of the shooting. Everyone living in the town is traumatized because the illusion that they are safe has been destroyed. Additionally, anyone any where in our Country who has experienced gun violence relives the trauma all over again. This experience of reliving the trauma doesn’t stop in six months or a year. Most people will carry this trauma with them for life. Some people find it so overwhelming that they eventually commit suicide to stop the trauma. Many people refer to it as survivor guilt. We are seeing parents and teenagers who have experienced past mass shootings committing suicide recently. Many first responders also are at risk for suicide because they blame themselves for not being able to save the victims.

Also, 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. However, since 9/11 they have 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 have heard 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. This is a great deal of stress and trauma for a child to endure daily. 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 second 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 former President Trump. They have heard what the former President has said and they are afraid other countries may attack us. 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 not to pass laws which would protect children. 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, no background check or waiting period. In Canada before someone buys a gun their family is interviewed and there is an in-depth investigation of the person. If other countries can do this without terminating someone’s right to own a gun, so can our Country. 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 25 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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with the Epidemic of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teenagers

Coping with the Epidemic of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teenagers

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:

Being available

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

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

Listening actively

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

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

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

Responding thoughtfully

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

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

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

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

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

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

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

Consider

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

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

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

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

Call 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.

Examine the Issue of Teenage Suicide

Examine the Issue of Teenage Suicide

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

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

https://nypost.com/2018/06/06/after-kate-spades-death-think-of-the-survivors/. We need to

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.

Without Gun Control We will have a Generation of Anxious and Depressed Children

Without Gun Control We will have a Generation of Anxious and Depressed Children

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.

Without Gun Control We Will Continue to have Anxious and Depressed Children

Without Gun Control We Will Continue to have Anxious and Depressed Children

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.

What Every Parent Needs to Know about an IEP vs. A 504 plan

What Every Parent Needs to Know about an IEP vs. A 504 plan

WHAT EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT AN IEP and A 504 PLAN

By

Dr Michael Rubino

It appears to be getting close to the beginning of the school year. I am also already getting emails regarding IEPs that school districts failed to complete over the summer and from parents who want to have their child assessed for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). Parents are having difficulties arranging meetings and getting specific answers what will be included in their child’s IEP or is the school going to offer them a 504 plan instead. The IEP process is difficult under normal conditions. When we are in the middle of a pandemic it can become very overwhelming and confusing. Additionally, many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents. Hopefully this will explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan and help parents understand what their child is legally entitled to regardless of what the teacher is trying to make you believe.

Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.

When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolar Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.

if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.

There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.

Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.

If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.

I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at via my website http://www.rcs-ca.com. I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.

I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education Centerwww.ed-center.com/504This pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience working with children, teens, trauma victims including first responders. He also has over 25 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or his website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Truth about Middle School in 2022

The Truth about Middle School in 2022

The school year is beginning and many parents are focused on their children’s transition into High School, College or Kindergarten. However, there is another important transition for children, Middle School. This is a major transition for pre-adolescents. As a psychotherapist who works with adolescents, I am very familiar with what is happening on High School and Middle School campuses and how big the transition is into Middle School these days. When kids transition to middle school they have to adjust to changing classes, having more than one teacher, increased homework and they are starting puberty and unsure of themselves. They are also not sure about all the academic changes. In addition to academic changes, physical changes with their own bodies, there are all the new social issues. Friends become more important and some students are talking about girlfriends, boyfriends and sex. This is a lot to adjust to at age 11. In addition to all of these changes, there are all the stories they have heard about middle school.

Many parents assume middle school in 2022 is similar to when they attended middle school, however the middle school in 2022 is very different than the middle school most parents attended. One example, when I mention to parents who have a child going into middle school or a child in middle school, if they have spoken to their child about drugs and alcohol, I am told no. I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students in 2022 are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most middle school campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends. They also feel overwhelmed by the school shootings and the pandemic and they are looking for an escape. They see other kids at school using and they want to be part of the popular group so they think about and often try drinking or vaping.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are not sexual active. Most 6th graders tell me oral sex doesn’t count as being sexually active. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves from contracting STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are disrupting condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. As many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing occurring at school. I wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other.

Another issue with teasing and dating is that students are not aware of the laws. As a result, many middle school students find themselves in trouble with the school district and often the police too. Harassment in middle school and dating often involves students texting or emailing pictures. Students are not aware that if they text a nude photo of another student or themselves that they have violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that a child can be charged with violating child pornography laws. When a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested. The law is violated because the child in the photo is under 18 years old.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp.” Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and for safety reasons many middle schools have metal detectors. The number of mass shootings at schools and the mass shooting drills they do at school exacerbate this fear. It’s sad that a place they should feel safe in that students now are afraid for their lives. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus, they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to mass shootings, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older and as a result the issues in their lives are becoming more difficult. Therefore, when you talk to your pre-teen mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it and they can talk about it anytime they need to. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Life Talk | PSA: This could be your child (Teen drinking, alcohol,partying,peer pressure)

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 25 years experience treating children, adolescents, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Anxiety Regarding Beginning High School in 2022

Anxiety Regarding Beginning High School in 2022

All over the Country teenagers will be starting their first year in high school or returning to high school. Typically I would recommend that parents think back to their first day of high school and how they felt and what they were expecting high school to be like and how they were expecting there other kids to act. I did this to help parents relate to some of the feelings their teenager maybe having as a way for parents to help their teenagers starting high school. This may help parents with some of the issues facing their teenagers, but teenagers starting high school or resuming high school in 2022 do so with mass school shootings occurring on a regular basis and we are still dealing with a deadly pandemic. Therefore, high school students are facing additional issues besides the typical first day of school issues. They are facing life and death issues, we never had to face in high school. Additionally, they see that the government is doing very little to protect from gun violence. Therefore, today’s teenagers are facing overwhelming issues we never had to face when we went to high school. This can make it difficult for parents to be able to completely understand the feelings teenagers and having starting high school.

High school students, in fact all students, are starting school when there is a significant increase in the Coronavirus due another new variant. As a result, many people including teenagers are contracting the virus and having to be hospitalized (CDC). The number of people contracting the virus is similar to the numbers we were seeing a year ago (CDC).

Therefore, high school students are starting high school not knowing if they will or will not contact the virus. Yes there are vaccinations they can get and they can wear masks, all of which decreases their chances of getting the virus, but some governors, school boards and parents are refusing these options. People are objecting because they say the precautions are not necessary and do not work. However, teens are hearing that the virus is spreading rapidly in most counties in the country. In fact, some counties such as Los Angeles County and considering returning to indoor mask mandates (LA County Public Health). Having to keep up with homework and after school activities, such as sports, is a lot for most teenagers without having to worry about the pandemic. Teenagers are worried about it because I hear them tell me about their concerns and some students would prefer to go back to remote learning due to the threat posed by the virus.

In addition to worrying about contracting the virus, students return to school having to deal with mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archives, there has been more than one mass shooting a day so far this year. The Gun Violence Archives also report there has been a 50% increase in mass shootings since 2020. Unfortunately, the recent shooting at the school in Texas showed we have not improved how we handle these shootings. The police waited outside for 77 minutes while children and teachers bled to death. Since most teenagers have smartphones, they have access to all of this information. They know the number of shootings are increasing, police are not handling the situations and the government refuses to pass laws that can have a real impact on gun violence. They also see the news that the mass shootings are a problem for the United States and they seldom occur in other countries. Given this environment, it is no surprise that we are seeing a significant increase in depression and anxiety disorders in teenagers (CDC). Teenagers today are not crazy and do not live in a fantasy world. They have access to the news very easily and they are very aware about what is occurring in our Country. Based on what the see and the lack of help by the government feeling anxious and depressed is a normal response.

One other issue, besides worrying about contracting the virus and mass shootings, students have missed an entire year of high school. Therefore, students who are sophomores never had a freshman year and have no idea what to expect. Teenagers who were enjoying their high school experience have missed out on an entire year. Therefore, students starting high school and returning to high school in 2022 are doing so facing many issues that students usually never face. For example, the main issue is adjusting from remote learning to being back in the class. Their school days are longer, they have more homework and they are around more people. This is not a simple adjustment. As a result of all the issues we have seen a significant increase in depression and anxiety in high school students (CDC).

Parents hopefully you can remember everything teenagers and you are facing as your teenagers start high school. You may need to contact your teenager’s school and ask for assistance from the school. You may need to seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and have your teenager participate in psychotherapy. There is no shame in doing this because teenagers are facing tremendous mental health issues and many need help. Since the pandemic and school resuming, there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy (CDC). In fact we are running out of psychotherapist who are able to treat these teenagers. No one planned on how to adequately handle the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy due to the pandemic.

Parents all you can do is to be patient and listen to your teenagers and seek the help you feel is appropriate. Also do not forget yourselves. Parents are under a great deal of stress too and you may need psychotherapy too. If you try to work together and are patient with each other, you should be able to handle the stress teenagers are facing due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic, students starting high school still deal with common anxieties most teenagers have faced over the years. One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors picking on and teasing the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where they want to make a good impression on the other students. At their age image is very important. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.

As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other, you increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.

Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school may be everyone knew them and they were in the “popular group.” Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. Be sure to encourage them to have faith in themselves because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it. All the Freshmen are starting all over just like them, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.

Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. At this time is a good time to establish what your expectations are homework, after school jobs and weekend curfews. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules, they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions were respected, they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.

Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. It is even more important today because technology has changed a number of rules. For example, if a girl texts a nude photo to a boy, he is guilty of having child pornography. Yes it was mutually agreed to but they are still under 18 years old so it is a crime. Texting is another area where they can get into trouble. If someone takes a text as a threat they can get into trouble for bullying or assault. As I said, technology has changed the rules and many of us have not been able to keep it. Therefore, remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.

One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.

H – hunger

A – anger

L – lonely

T – tired

If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.

Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.

Besides having to face the pandemic, high school students today also have to face the issue of school shootings, as I mentioned above. Sadly, this is another stressful subject you may want to discuss with your teenager. Develop a plan with your teenager about what they would do if there was a shooting at their school. Also discuss with them what to do if they hear rumors or have concerns about how another student is acting. Finally, discuss how you can help if they are feeling worried or not safe at school. It is sad, but this is the world we live in today. Talking to you teen can help decrease anxiety and help you to maintain open communication with your teenager.

A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.

One final issue to remember, since there has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression in high school students, many students are having difficulties in class and completing their homework. If they are having difficulties, they may be entitled to a 504 plan or an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Most school districts will offer you a 504 plan because it is easy for the school and costs the school no money. However, if your teen is having significant problems with school demand in writing that they be evaluated for an IEP. There is nothing to be ashamed about and an IEP will not prevent your child from going to college or getting a job. If you need further information regarding IEPs refer to my articles regarding IEPs or contact my office regarding an IEP consultation.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his private practice in Pleasant or the work he has done over 25 years visit his web site at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

Do we have our priorities straight? On May 24, 2022, 19 children were brutally murdered at their elementary school by a mass shooter. The children’s bodies were so torn up by the assault weapon that parents had to provide DNA samples so the corner could identify the bodies. All the funerals had to have closed caskets because the children’s bodies were too mutilated to have an open casket. Today is only June 5th and there have already been over 300 mass shootings since the shooting in Texas on May 24th (Gun Violence Archive). Even with these numbers of shootings and people being injured and killed, the Republicans in the Senate cannot vote for safer, sane gun laws.

These shootings are not new to our Country. In 1999, there was the Columbine High School shooting, then the Sandy Hook Elementary School, then the Parkland High School shooting and now the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas. This is not a complete list of school shootings. Besides schools there have been mass shootings in churches and shopping malls. Every time we see this is enough and we need to reform gun laws. However, the Republicans in the Senate have continued to debate gun reform laws or to vote on any gun reform laws to protect children. All they do are to offer thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers are not going to solve the problem. It reminds me of the man who drowns and he asked God, why didn’t you answer my prayers and safe me. God said I sent a two boats and a plane but you refused them. We cannot expect God to take care of everything. We have to take action to solve the mass shooting issue too.

While we are not discussing how to protect children, there is a bill in the Senate to provide more protection for judges from mass shooters. Last year a judge’s, 20 year old son was shot at their house. Last week another judge was shot and killed at his home. The judges do not deserve to be shot, but they are public servants. People getting angry at them is part of their job. Yes they need added protection so they are not being killed, but the school children should be protected first.

The bill is being delayed in the Senate because Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham, who states the school shootings do not require gun reform, wants members of the Senate including in the bill in addition to the judges. They won’t discuss gun reform when childrens lives are at stake, but when it involves their lives we need gun reform and can discuss it.

In my opinion this is disgusting. The parents in Texas had to give DNA samples because their child’s body was so torn up that the corner could not identify them. This is happening at all the mass shootings. These AR15 guns are weapons of war and the bullet explodes inside the body tearing the body to pieces. No child deserves to die this way and no parent should have to hear we need DNA to identify their child. The Senators and judges are public servants and people do make threats against them. It is part of their jobs. Given this fact, we should be protecting our children first.

However, we are not protecting our children. The Republicans in the Senate are using their positions to protect themselves first and the children may be one day. Remember Columbine occurred in 1999. We have been waiting since 1999 for gun reform to protect children. A judge’s son was killed 23 months ago and there is already a bill on the Senate floor. Children and families have been waiting for 23 years for the Senate to protect children. The judges and Senators only had to wait less than 2 years. What is wrong with our priorities when we will allow children to die for 23 years and not doing anything seriously to protect children, but when the Senators and judges are at risk, they move with lightning speed. No one is just offering judge’s thoughts and prayers. The Republican Senators are acting to protect the judges, but do nothing for the children.

Parents need to act. Parents need to call Senators and demand that they put the children first. The must demand that the Senate pass safe, sane gun reform that will protect children. They need to focus on the children before they focus saving their own lives. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring. Do you want a corner to ask you for a DNA sample so they can identify your child’s body. It can happen easier than you think. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring and they are happening every where. We need safe, sane gun reform today! Please do not let the Republican Senators drag their feet. The next shooting may involve someone you love and then it will be too late.

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 please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Hate is The Real Cause of Mass Shootings

Hate is The Real Cause of Mass Shootings

The United States has an epidemic of mass shootings. No other country has the same issues with children being killed by guns as the United States. The Gun Violence Archive has estimated there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, roughly one per day. Since 2019 the number of shootings have increased every year (CDC). Today is only the 145th day of 2022 and already 17,169 people have been killed by guns and 111 people have been killed daily by a gun this year (Gun Violence Archive). There is no doubt that the United States has a public health problem with guns and it is getting worse.

Today in Texas, the Governor tried to blame the shooting on people mental health issues and said the answer is we need to build more mental health facilities. According to him, we need to address a crisis in the mental health system if we want to address the issue of children being killed by guns. His idea and approach to these mass shootings has only served to increase the negative stigma about mental health issues and those people who are dealing with mental health issues are less likely to seek treatment based on his ideas. Besides the solution he proposed, the language he uses reinforces the negative stigma. He was referring to people who are dealing with mental health issues in a negative manner. These shooters who have committed these terrible crimes have done horrific things to families and communities, but they are still human beings.

His idea that all mass shooters have a mental illness is ignorant and wrong. Most mass shooters have been single, white males. Additionally, the Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement documenting that most people with mental illness are dangers to themselves more than others. I have been treating people for various mental health issues for over 25 years. During that time I have dealt with many patients who were suicidal, cutting or burning themselves and trying to starve themselves to death. They were all hurting themselves and did not want anyone else to get hurt. I have never had a patient threaten to hurt others physically. Therefore, my work and the work of my other colleagues support the statement by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients with mental illnesses are rarely violent to others they tend to be dangerous to themselves. In fact, the Texas Governor has to admit that this shooter did not have a history of mental illness and was never treated for mental health issues. Therefore, his argument that mass shooters are mentally I’ll was proven wrong by shooter who attacked the school. They do need a better mental health system in Texas especially now. They need to improve their mental health system to accommodate all the mental health needs of all the children, parents are first responders who will be dealing with the trauma of yesterday’s events for life.

Many people are afraid to seek help for themselves or their teenagers for fear of what will happen if they are diagnosed with a mental health issue such as depression. They are afraid of losing health insurance, not being able to get a job or their teen may not be able to get into a college. Overall they are afraid of becoming society outcasts and losing their rights. The way the former President has referred to shooters as “sick puppies” has only served to reinforce the negative stigma about mental health issues. If he is saying people with mental health issues need to be locked up in asylums, people are going to be less likely to seek help. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers. If we take the former President’s and Governor’s approach, it will become the number one cause of teenage deaths. Demonizing mental health only stops people from seeking help.

The Governor of Texas missed a very important issue associated with mass shootings. He ignored the subject of hate. Hate is involved in many mass shootings. The shooter in Buffalo hated black people and went to where he could kill the most black people. When these shooters are investigated they all have hate towards certain groups. These mass shootings are hate crimes. Hate crimes were created for people who are victims of a crime due to their ethnic background, religion or sexuality. To be charged with a hate crime you need to hate someone not be mentally ill. The Klu Klux Klan has been terrorizing and killing people for years due to someone’s ethnicity or religion. No one has ever called a member of the KKK mentally ill. People refer to the KKK and other groups like them as hate groups not mentally ill groups. So instead of blaming mass shootings on people who have mental illnesses, why don’t we address the source of the problem? Everyone of these shooters have left writings and social media posts showing their hate for a particular group and their plans to kill as many people as they can that belong to this group. Hate is the problem.

We do not need asylums to help people with mental health issues. We need more community based programs and we need insurance companies to cover the necessary treatment a person needs if they have a mental health issues. Most people are born with mental health issues such as depression or develop an issue such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury from a car accident or being exposed to a traumatic event. Therefore, mental health issues are really not that different than physical health issues except there is funding to treat physical health issues and not enough to treat mental health issues.

If you are dealing with a mental health issue, please ignore the Republicans and seek treatment. You will not be put into an asylum. If you are having issues, the sooner you seek treatment the better. The only time a person is hospitalized is if you are actively suicidal. This means you have decided to kill yourself and have everything ready to do it. Otherwise, you do not need to worry about being hospitalized.

Please write your Senator and demand that they pass sane gun laws so children are safe to go to school. Also ask for stricter laws for perpetuators of hate crimes. Finally ask for funds for community mental health centers and mental health education. We need to educate the public about mental health issues so we can remove the stigma the President is promoting.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, a community based program for teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3