Do Children Need to Learn that Violence and Death are Now Normal in the United States?

Do Children Need to Learn that Violence and Death are Now Normal in the United States?

When will we learn that we need sane and safe gun laws? People must take a test in order to get a driver’s license and you must wear a seatbelt in a car. The government has not stopped people from driving or eliminated cars due to these laws that make driving safer. Therefore, if we have laws regarding driving and alcohol, how would safe and sane gun laws pose a threat to guns? We have safety laws regarding numerous activities and people still enjoy them and own things. Again, if we can do this with other aspects of our society, why can’t we implement safe and sane gun laws? Or are we ready to accept mass shootings as a normal every day event?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the country being on lock down, the mass shooting significantly dropped. In fact there were no mass shooting in the United States after April 2020. However, mass shootings have been occurring in the United States since 1999. According to the CDC mass shooting have been increasing every year from 2010 to 2019. In fact, in 2019 there was a mass shooting every 1.2 days. There were so many we started to become numb to the news when a shooting occurred.

Since the last shootings occurred in 2019, many people thought maybe mass shooting were no longer an issue. However, now that we have started to reopen the country, mass shootings have returned as an issue. On March 26, 2021, we had the first mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Two weeks later, there was another mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Again with both shootings, there were more senseless killings. Considering over 525,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus, we do not need anymore unnecessary deaths in our Country.

We are a Country of grief! People who lost loved ones in mass shootings before 2019 are still grieving the loss of loved ones. There families will never be the same. The grieving process does not stop after a funeral. The grieving process can last for years especially when it is for a child or parent who were senseless killed in a mass shooting. We also have people still grieving the loss of a loved one by a pandemic that former President Trump ignored allowing 525,000 Americans and counting to die from a virus. Also families who have a love one who died due to the Coronavirus never had the chance to personally say goodbye or have a complete funeral due to the restrictions associated with the Coronavirus.

As I said mass shootings are an issue again. Since the mass shooting in Atlanta, there have been a minimum of 22 mass shootings (CDC, NBC, CNN). There have been other shootings which are still being investigated to determine if they meet the CDC definition of a mass shooting. Regardless of how those shootings are defined, they still occurred and people were killed and wounded. Therefore, since the Atlanta mass shooting, we have added to the number of Americans who are grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. Many of these people added are children and teenagers. How do we justify getting upset with teenagers when they act out by refusing to do school work or damaging property, when they are having to continue to deal with grief and trauma on a daily basis and they see no relief in sight.

Given how many families are being devastated by these mass shootings, what is the problem with enacting sane and safe gun laws? Republicans are spending numerous hours and money trying to change our voting laws, but are not willing to implement safe and sane gun laws to stop the senseless killings. How is making it a crime to give a person water who is waiting in line to vote protecting our voting system or our Country? The election of 2020 was the biggest Presidential election in our Country and numerous states and the Superior Courts in Sates and the Supreme Court all agreed in that the election of 2020 was one of the fairest elections with the least amount of problems in our Country’s history. Therefore, why waste time on voting laws? Why not focus on the violence and unnecessary killings that are occurring in the United States.

We need to address the massive amount of violence occurring in our Country. Besides mass shootings, the United States Capital Building has been attacked twice in 2021 with 4 Capital Police Officers being killed or dying from suicide (CDC, NBC, CNN). In addition to the attacks on the Capital, Asian Americans have been the victims of numerous physical attacks. Again, many have been killed by these attacks adding to the number of Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. These are occurring because the former President blamed China for the Coronavirus. However, he takes no responsibility for ignoring the medical experts who were telling the former President what he needed to do. His solution was to tell people to drink bleach. Something many people actually tried (CDC).

The former President ignored that we have a nation grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. Now, as mass shootings resume and attacks on Asian Americans continue and people continue to die from the Coronavirus, the number of Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions continue to grow. Remember a large number of these Americans are children and teenagers. People say they need psychotherapy. However, as a psychotherapist I can tell you many insurance companies are raising copays so high that families cannot afford therapy for their children and teenagers and also afford to buy food for their family. Many families are going without therapy or going to food banks.

We cannot allow the United States to be a country of grief and trauma. We must enact safe and sane gun laws. We have them for driving, the use of alcohol and for traveling. Therefore, safe and sane gun laws will not destroy the second amendment. Also voting laws are fine how they are right now. We need to focus on the real problems facing our children and teenagers. We need to stop the violence and ensure that anyone who needs psychotherapy can get it.

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

Helping Kids Who are Afraid as We Reopen Schools

Helping Kids Who are Afraid as We Reopen Schools

Over the past two years children and teenagers have had to cope with a lot of emotions. The main emotions they have been facing are anxiety, fear and grief. If we look at their lives over the past few years, it is not surprising they have been dealing with these emotions.

In 2019, there was a mass shooting every day and a majority of these shootings occurred at schools (CDC). Students have been dealing with these shootings for 20 years and since 2010, the number of shootings increased every year (CDC). As a result, students were grieving for friends and teachers and were afraid to go to school. In addition, they were having mass shooter drills on a regular basis. These drills increased children’s anxiety about going to school. They were have more shooter drills than fire drills.

Besides dealing with mass shootings, they have had to cope with the Coronavirus Pandemic and having to go to school remotely. Furthermore, they were not able to see their friends as usual. Finally with over 525,000 Americans dying from the Coronavirus, many children and teenagers have been grieving for the death of grandparents, parents and friends. This has also created a lot of anxiety for kids. Many do not want their parents to leave the house because they are afraid that their parents might catch the virus and die.

Now we are changing children’s world again. We are telling them it is safe to go back to school. However, the Coronavirus is not under control and the mass shootings have started again. This will exacerbate the fear, anxiety and grief that children and teenagers are still dealing with due to the last two years. Honestly, can you blame them?

I have had many parents ask me how they can help their children and teenagers through these difficult times. However, many parents are finding it difficult because they are experiencing some of the same feelings and they know they cannot completely protect their children from mass shootings or the Coronavirus. This is correct, but as a parent all you can do is your best. Hopefully if you and your family work together, you can make it through these difficult times.

Dealing with children and teenagers as a psychotherapist for the past 20 years, I have seen many children with these issues. Additionally, I have researched these issues in addition to becoming certified to treat children and first responders for the traumatic events we are facing as a society. Below is the best advice I have found for parents who are dealing with children who are anxious, afraid or grieving.

As a parent, you can’t protect you children from grief, but you can help them express their feelings, comfort them, help them feel safer, and teach them how to deal with fear. By allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future, and confidence that they can overcome adversity.

• Break the news. When something happens that will get wide coverage, my first and most important suggestion is that you don’t delay telling your children about what’s happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells her. You don’t want her to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone.

• Take your cues from your child. Invite her to tell you anything she may have heard about the tragedy, and how she feels. Give her ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about upsetting details. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

• Model calm. It’s okay to let your child know if you’re sad, but if you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else. If, on the other hand, you remain calm, he is likely to grasp what’s important: that tragic events can upset our lives, even deeply, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.

• Be reassuring. Talking about death is always difficult, but a tragic accident or act of violence is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them. You can also assure him that this kind of tragedy is investigated carefully, to identify causes and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.

• Help children express their feelings. In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember those she’s lost: draw pictures or tell stories about things you did together. If you’re religious, going to church or synagogue could be valuable.

• Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this experience.

• Hopefully these suggestions will help parents who have children or teenagers who are dealing with fear, anxiety or grieving for a loved one. Remember there are no perfect parents, so just do your best. If your child knows you are coming from a place of love, they will know you are trying to help and you will help them. If however, you feel your child needs more help than you can provide, arrange for them to see a psychotherapist who specializes in children and teenagers and specializes in treating trauma.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Additionally, he is certified to treat children, teenagers and first responders for traumatic events. 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.

Teenagers Continue to Experience Vicariously Trauma Daily

Teenagers Continue to Experience Vicariously Trauma Daily

Many people tend to assume only people who were directly exposed to a trauma will experience issues related to the trauma and may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, this is not the truth. Many people may not have lived through the trauma, but they may know someone who did or they were exposed to very explicit images of the trauma or have been hearing about the trauma a lot on the news. It may also trigger memories of a trauma they experienced in their lives or in their family. This can cause what is referred to as vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is when someone is traumatized by an event but they did not experience the event themselves. Simply knowing about or hearing about the event is traumatizing to them. This is happening to many children and families in the United States. However, when are we going to pay attention to the way children in the United States are being traumatized over and over?

If this sounds confusing, let’s look at what children and teenagers have been dealing with and living through the last few years. This last year teenagers and children have been living with the trauma of the Coronavirus. Their schools were closed without warning and so were the sports and other after school activities stopped suddenly. In addition they were not able to hang out with friends and had to go to school remotely.

In addition to these changes, many children and teenagers had family members they could no longer see, such as grandparents and many had family members who died due to the Coronavirus. However, they were not able to attend funeral services and say goodbye. Over 525,000 Americans died to the Coronavirus. All of those people had family members and friends who are grieving for them still. A fact we tend to overlook. However, children and teenagers are dealing with it daily especially if they lost a parent, grandparents or a sibling.

While children and teenagers are still dealing with how poorly the Pandemic was handled by the government, now many are being told we are reopening states including schools. Therefore, they no longer have to deal with remote school now they will be back in their classrooms. This brings up anxiety about how school will be because they still need to be cautious so they don’t contract the Coronavirus. Many children and teenagers have told me they are very worried about being exposed to the Coronavirus or their parents being exposed to the Coronavirus.

In addition to the Coronavirus, children and teenagers now have to worry again about mass shootings. We just started opening the Country and already there have been two mass shootings. This brings up the anxiety and vicarious trauma children have been exposed to regarding school shootings for years. They have been increasing every year since 2010 (CDC) and in 2019 by November there had been 336 mass shootings averaging out to a mass shooting every 1.2 days (Gun Violence Archive). These are overwhelming statistics for adults and we are expecting children and teenagers to cope with them. The students know there have been no changes to the gun laws. Therefore, they are having to return to school and worry about mass school shootings.

Look at what they are returning to when they return to school. Today in most United States schools, the classroom doors are kept lock while class is in session and no one can enter a school campus without checking in with the main office and they must wear an identification badge while on campus. In fact, all school employees must wear official school identification badges while at work. Many elementary students noticed these changes and have asked why the door must be locked? Students are told it is for their safety. The school is preventing any people who do not belong at the school from getting near the students. No one mentions someone with a gun, but children have heard about and remember all the mass shootings and they know why the door needs to be locked. I have many elementary students mention this to me during their therapy sessions.

Now when we were in school we had fire alarm drills in case there ever was a fire in the school. No one thought much about them. Some students felt the fire alarm was too loud but no one really worried about a fire happening at school. We never worried about it because we never heard about any school fires and people dying.

Today students face more than fire alarm drills. Schools routinely have active shooter drills. During these drills students are taught to shelter in place and to remain very quiet so the shooter will not enter their room. Therefore, besides having heard about and remembering mass school shootings, school students know they are returning to a place where they could be killed. They know they are practicing what to do in case there is a shooter at their school trying to kill them. Therefore, they worry about could a shooting happen at their school and could they die. As a result of these fears, the CDC has documented that anxiety disorders and depression had significantly increasing in children since school shootings increased and they have documented a further increase in anxiety and depression due to the Coronavirus.

To add to the trauma students now face, if there is an incident, such as a bank robbery, involving someone with a gun near a school, the police put the school on lock down. The students must shelter in place and they don’t know if the person with the gun will come to their school or not. This creates a significant amount of anxiety for children and many are traumatized by the incident. Here is another incident causing trauma for children and teenagers. How many do we expect them to cope with at their ages? When will we provide mental health care for the children, teenagers, their parents, the school staff and the first responders? All of these people are being exposed to trauma regarding the Coronavirus and mass shootings on a regular basis. This creates traumatic reactions and exacerbates old traumatic reactions.

Another issue which adds to this trauma is gun control. Since the shooting in Florida many students have been actively campaigning for sane gun control. However, nothing has been done to enact sane gun control laws. High school students know nothing is being done and elementary children are hearing nothing is being done about guns. This makes them worry because they know guns are still out there that can be used to kill them. The shooting which occurred in New Zealand cause high school and elementary students to wonder why our Country does nothing about gun control. Our government has done nothing even though students and parents are demanding safe gun laws. While our government debates the issue, more students were killed and may be killed. Just look at the two mass shooting this past week. However, New Zealand in a matter of 3 weeks after a shooting banned all assault weapons. This makes students wonder why we have not done anything when we have a bigger problem with mass shootings. Also it doesn’t make them feel safe at school because they do not feel like a priority. Some people will say children and teenagers are not aware of such issues. However, remember with their Smartphones they have instant access to the news and this generation of teenagers are politically active.

Working with teenagers and children I have seen that anxiety and trauma reactions have

increased significantly for children. Also children are afraid of returning to school because they might be killed. These are responses to the mass shootings. Every time there is a mass shooting children become more anxious and afraid. We had two mass shootings this last week and as I am writing this article another mass shooting is occurring in the Florida Keys. We have just started to open the Country and we already have had 3 mass shootings. This will exacerbate previous traumatic reactions and create new ones. We are expecting children and teenagers to cope with the Coronavirus and mass shootings at the same time. For those children and teenagers not directly effected by the virus or shootings, they still have to cope with the issues which results in vicarious trauma.

Furthermore, if we want to reduce the vicarious trauma children and teenagers experience, we must be honest and not lie to children and teenagers. Remember, they have their smartphones phones and easy access to news and videos clips of the news. The best example is when the US Capital building was attacked by people trying to prevent President Biden from winning the Presidential Election. There have been Republican Congressmen and Senators saying they were safe and down playing the event. However, police were killed and injured and people were chanting “hang Pence”. To me that doesn’t sound safe. Additionally, despite the video showing these protesters breaking windows, spraying police with pepper spay and beating officers with flag poles, the former President Trump went on television saying the protesters were hugging the police, waving hello and walking calmly into the Capital. This type of blatant lie causes teenagers not to trust authority figures because they may be lying and it can cause them to second guess what they saw in the video. This creates a situation where teenagers do not know who to trust and this exacerbates their fear and traumatic reactions because they feel they have no one to trust. Children and teenagers need the truth in age appropriate terms. The truth is easier to handle than their emotions.

Summing up, children and teenagers in the United States have been traumatized and vicariously traumatized by mass shootings and the Coronavirus. As we start to open up the Country, they continue to have to deal with the Coronavirus and mass shootings. Therefore, they continue to be traumatized and vicariously traumatized. Many will need psychotherapy to help them with these issues. The American Association of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry has put out the following guidelines. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your child or teenager it explains how to start to talk to your child or teenager and how to find the appropriate psychotherapist for your child. It is important to get a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders and trauma issues http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx.

One final aspect about vicarious trauma that has emerged regarding mass shootings and the Coronavirus is suicide. Family members and survivors of mass shootings are feeling survivors guilt and as a result committing suicide. There was a report of 3 people who committed suicide who either survived a mass shooting or their child died in one. This has been occurring for a long time. It has been occurring since Columbine. Family members feel they can no longer cope with the pain. Survivors can’t cope with the guilt of surviving. Family and friends of some one who was killed or injured in a mass school shooting have had their lives changed forever! People, family members and first responders, especially hospital workers dealing with the Coronavirus are also committing suicide. They are dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma reactions on a daily basis. However, we do not have adequate mental health resources to help these people. Also people assume after a few months, most people may be grieving but can handle their situation. This is not true. They are experience anxiety and trauma that for many of them is very confusing. This only increases the anxiety and trauma. The children experiencing the shooter drills are also confused by their anxiety and traumatic reactions. They do not know what to do and this causes isolation and the feelings increase.

We must eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues. We also need to make sure that anyone who is even remotely exposed to a mass shooting (including first responders and emergency room physicians) or anyone who has had to deal with the Coronavirus have access to mental health care. Not just for a month or two but for as long as they need psychotherapy and they should be able to receive the therapy without worrying about the cost.

We have a generation of children growing up with anxiety and traumatic reactions. If we don’t help them now, they will only get worse as time goes on. May be we need to take a lesson from New Zealand and how they responded to a mass shooting. They banned assault weapons after one shooting. We have been having shootings for 20 years and have done nothing, why? We have a great deal of information about the Coronavirus and we are arguing about wearing masks. Why?

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

Is it stress or a mental health issue?

Is it stress or a mental health issue?

With all the stress teens have in their lives now, how do parents determine the difference between stress and a mental health issue and the need for therapy? Stress Response or Mental Health Disorder? How to Tell the Difference https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/mental-health-and-behavior/stress-response-or-mental-health-disorder-how-to-tell-the-difference

When Do We Address the Issues Impacting Teens and our Nation?

When Do We Address the Issues Impacting Teens and our Nation?

As we start to re-open the Country issues we have not been paying attention to are reemerging. Those issues are mass shootings and hate crimes directed at people of certain races. This past week 6 South Korean women were killed in Atlanta by a mass shooter. Additionally people died in the hospital. The statistics we have from the Gun Violence Archive for 2019 through November of 2019 indicate there were 336 mass shootings that year.

The official statistics for 2019 indicate1347 people were killed in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured in 2019. Additionally, these statistics don’t account for how many families have been changed forever and how many first responders are dealing with traumatic reactions.

At the beginning of 2020, we started to focus on the Pandemic and were not focusing on mass shootings. We have over 500,000 Americans who have died due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, in addition to people grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions due to mass shootings, we have added over 500,000 American families who are grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions due to the Coronavirus. In addition to family members, again we have first responders who have been emotionally impacted by the Coronavirus virus.

Finally, the other issue we have had going on, but not paying attention to are hate crimes directed at Asian Americans. Donald Trump blamed China for the flu and assigned a racial slur to it. As a result, many Asian Americans have been yelled at, spit on and killed. There are numerous older Asian Americans who have been attacked walking on the streets and have died from their injuries. Again, we are adding to the Americans grieving. We have Americans involved with mass shootings, the Coronavirus and Asian Americans all grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. We have a tremendous amount of people grieving and coping with trauma in the United States, but what are we doing about it?

In 2019, former President Trump said he would address the mass shootings in the United States. He said we would definitely be taking action and there would be universal background checks. He then made a public statement from the Oval Office that there would be no universal background checks. The President stated the background checks we currently have are enough to keep us safe. He also publicly stated that the people who helped him win the election would not be happy with universal background checks. He had been speaking to the chairman of the NRA that day. Therefore it appears, the money the NRA donated to his campaign was more important than the children of the United States.

The former President initially said he would support sane gun laws and the he decided that the issue was simply a mental health issue. By doing so he did not help the issue and he reinforced the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he referred to a mental health issue, he called the people “sick” and stated they need to be locked up. The research clears shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information (2019).

Mental health issues are not the primary reason for mass shootings, hate is the primary issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reported he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man is not being labeled as mental ill. He is being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.

As children start to resume going back to their schools and they come into my office saying they are afraid of returning to school due the mass shooter drills and the possibility of a mass shooting, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. We have not passed any sane gun laws. How can I say don’t worry when every day in 2019 there was a mass shooting and more students were killed at a school? Children today also hear the news easily and they will know that I am lying. Remember, most teenagers and middle school students have access to the news very easily because the news updates pop up on their phones. In order for therapy to work, the children and teenagers need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the issues I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.

The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. Former President Trump has been on national television stating all mass shooting is due to mental illness. He refers to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” Teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly during the Pandemic. Cutting is also at epidemic rates in teenagers and children. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up or called a “sick puppy” by their friends and they will fight their parents about going to therapy.

Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting or lost a loved one to the Coronavirus, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides being labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the former President and republican senators have responded to mass shootings and such things as masks. We already have survivors of mass shootings and the Coronavirus committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain associated with their grief. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?

Since the former President refused to act, we need to learn from the high school students from Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election. Next, demand they make decisions about the Coronavirus based on the medical experts. Several states reopened for Spring Break even though public health experts said it was too soon. The result, Florida again is seeing a significant increase in the number of Coronavirus cases. Finally, demand that Congress take steps to protect Asian Americans.

There have already been 3,800 Asian Americans attacked this year and most victims were women (NBC news). These number is probably lower than reality because most Asian Americans tend not to report these attacks to the police because they fear for their safety. A majority of the victims are older and many of them were killed. Why have Asian Americans been attacked so often this year? The former President Trump has blamed China for the Coronavirus. Many of his followers have misinterpreted Trump’s racist remarks as a reason to blame Asian Americans for the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is absurd because there are strains that came from Europe in addition to China. The Asian Americans did not create or cause the Coronavirus and they are Americans just like the rest of us are Americans. Therefore, they are entitled to the same rights and protection. However, most Asian Americans are now worried about their grandparents leaving their houses. Again we have more Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. When are we going to learn that we are all in this together and need to work together to solve these issues?

No American should be afraid to go outside because they may be shot, catch a deadly virus or attacked because of their ethnicity. We have a number of Americans who are suffering emotionally and need professional mental health care. We need to focus on providing mental health care to those who are in need of it and also how we are going to work together to solve our issues in the United States.

Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing, certified as a first responder therapist and specialize in treating trauma victims. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA stopping sane gun laws. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues are not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma, he is certified as a first responder therapist and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenage Body Issues Associated with the Coronavirus Pandemic

Teenage Body Issues Associated with the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many adults and teenagers are currently concerned about their weight due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. For a year most adults and teenagers have been confined to their homes. Teenagers have not been able to participate in their normal sports or go to the gym like they are use to doing. Now many of us are concerned due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, however, many teenagers worry about their weight all the time. In fact, the last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. It’s sad to say, but eating disorders have become so prevalent that we designate a week of the year to focus on the issue.

Here are important facts about eating disorders everyone needs to know. Eating disorders and body image issues are a major problems for teenagers. Despite what most people may think, these issues impact girls and boys. Most people assume eating disorders only impact girls, but they impact boys too. Boys worry about their abdominal muscles and having the “six pack” look and how strong they are compared to other boys. Also for some sports such as wrestling they must make a certain weight to compete. Therefore, they worry about their weight. Many boys may not eat or over eat before a wrestling match so they can make it into their weight class. So eating disorders impact boys too.

Looking at the prevalence of eating disorders in teens can be very difficult. Some people break the statistics down to diagnoses such as anorexia. While some focus on under eating, teenagers who over eat can also have an eating disorder. Another classification is unhealthy eating that many teens engage in. Some may skip meals or some may consume to many calories to make weight for their sport and then go days without eating. Therefore, eating disorders can take many shapes and forms. Overall, it is estimated that eating disorders impact 5% of female teenagers and 1% of male teens (NIMH). However, the number for males is considered to be under reported. This assumption exists due to the belief many people have that eating disorders only impact girls. Therefore, there is an assumption that the 1% for boys is an underestimate due to under reporting. Working with adolescents I am sure the 1% is incorrect. I hear many teenage boys complain about their bodies or needing to make weight for their sport. I also hear things they do such as only drinking water a week before a weigh in or loading up on protein drinking before working out. What they report may not fit the picture of anorexia we have, but it definitely is not healthy and is involved with body image. This is a major factor in all eating disorders whether it be anorexia or over eating. Furthermore, since many teenagers have been at home during the Pandemic with nothing to do, many have been eating because they are bored. Many teenagers have complained about eating too much or eating unhealthy foods, but they also say they are very bored due to the Pandemic and there is nothing else to do.

One reason I’m addressing this subject is as I stated above most people assume that eating disorders do not impact boys. Eating disorders impact boys and teens from every economic level, ethnicity and religion. Additionally, we have all had to deal with the boredom caused by the Pandemic and many people have been eating because they are bored. Therefore, eating disorders are equal opportunity disorders. Another reason I’m addressing this issue is suicide is the number one mental health issue killing teenagers in our country. Eating disorders are the second leading mental health issue killing teenagers. It is estimated that every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorders (NIMH). The death may occur after someone has received treatment and is considered in recovery. Eating disorders take such a toll on teenage bodies they may die even though they are considered to be recovered. The singer Karen Carpenter is a prime example. She struggled with an eating disorder for years and struggled with treatment too. However, she finally reached a point where she was considered recovered from her eating disorder and started to resume her life. Unfortunately, she died suddenly one day from a heart attack. The toll the eating disorder put on her body weakened her heart severely. So severely that it caused her to have a heart attack even though she was in recovery.

This is a very sad story and fact. We can avoid these issues by early diagnosis and treatment. We also must realize that eating disorders impact boys too. If we are not aware of this fact, we are not addressing the entire problem. We need to address how our society look at men’s bodies and women’s bodies and the expectations we place on both genders. No one can live up to the female and male stereotypes we have created. In order to change these stereotypes we need to start with teenagers and provide them with enough self-esteem to reject the stereotypes.

As I stated early treatment is necessary. To have early treatment we must have an early diagnosis. I have included a link to a video by Dr. Pooky Knightsmith which discusses the ten common warning signs of an eating disorder in teens and children, please watch this video https://youtu.be/nKwbE8mP_PA.

If your teen or child displays any of these warning signs, if they are discussing gaining too much weight due to the Pandemic or, if you feel your teen maybe struggling with an eating issue, make an appointment with an adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in adolescents and eating disorders. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed. A mental health issue is no different than a physical health issue. We only believe their is a difference due to the stigma we have created. However, keeping this stigma is endangering the lives of many teens so help your teen and ignore the stigma. Help them deal with their health issue.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He also treats teens including boys with eating disorders. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Looking at the Issue of Teenagers Cutting

Looking at the Issue of Teenagers Cutting

Today’s teenagers are under a great deal pressure. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 out of every teenager has a diagnosable mental health issue. In addition, depression, anxiety, drug overdoses and suicide are currently at epidemic rates for teenagers. In fact, suicide was the third leading cause of death for teenagers and now it is the second leading cause of death (CDC). Furthermore, cutting or self-harming behaviors are also at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Self-harming behaviors include teenagers cutting themselves with knives or scissors in addition to scratching themselves severely and sometimes teenagers may even use erasers to erase their skin and cause sores. These are only a few examples.

Ten years ago if I asked a teenager if they were cutting or had ever cut, once in a while I would get an answer of yes. Today when you ask teenagers about cutting most teenagers answer yes. In fact, it’s no longer just teenagers. Children as young as 8 or 10 years old often respond yes to this question. This is alarming, but it is evidence of the amount of emotional pressure these kids have to deal with today.

When you ask a teenager about cutting behavior, they usually respond it was easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional turmoil they were dealing with inside. Others will say the cutting takes their mind off of the emotional situation and others even say it makes them feel human. So as you can see there are numerous reasons, but teenagers are also very embarrassed and ashamed about the cutting behavior. If I am treating a teen who is engaging in cutting I must be very sensitive and non-judgmental about the behavior if I’m going to help. In addition, the family needs to be non-judgmental as well. Teenagers do not cut for the attention and as I stated above they are embarrassed about their behavior. If they sense that someone is viewing them in a negative way, they will not talk about it. Additionally, teenagers who are engaged in cutting hide their cuts so no one will know about their behavior.

Therefore, when treating or dealing with a teenager who is cutting you need to be patient and non-judgmental. Remember they are resorting to this behavior because it is the only way they are able to deal with the emotions they are feeling and the situations they are facing. Life today can be very overwhelming and often teenagers are not prepared for what they have to face in life and they are embarrassed to ask for help too. Often they are embarrassed because our society looks down on people dealing with mental health issues. I recently had a 13 year old ask me, why don’t we place more emphasis on mental health so people can get the help when they need it? A very good question to ask. Our society has a very strong negative stereotype regarding mental health and therapy. As a result, it is very difficult for teenagers to ask for and receive the mental health care they need.

After being treated for cutting, many teenagers are still embarrassed and feel awkward about their past behavior. Many times teenagers are left with scars on their bodies from cutting. Most families cannot afford plastic surgery and insurance will not cover it, even though it is a mental health need and in my opinion should be covered. The point is many teenagers continue to feel embarrassed and ashamed of the scars years after they have stopped cutting. Below is a blog from a teenager who discusses how they feel about their scars and people’s reactions. It also may help give you some insight to what teenagers are going through these days and how many of them are feeling overwhelmed by life. Instead of ignoring their cries for help we need to figure out how we can help them without making them feel embarrassed or crazy.

My self-harm scars are “hideous.” I’m covered in them. Head to toe. No amount of time, no amount of fading will make them unnoticeable. That doesn’t mean I hate them. It doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed by them. I am aware that they make other people uncomfortable and there are times, when out of respect for others, I will cover them. There are other times when I won’t cover them. Whether I choose to cover them or not, I don’t feel that I should have to explain my choice. If I choose to cover them, it doesn’t mean I’m ashamed or feel forced to cover them. If I choose not to cover them, it doesn’t mean I want attention.

I regularly see people comment on social media saying, “If you make a public post people have the right to say whatever they want.” Apparently this entitles people to be nasty and judgmental. It excuses them from filtering what they say and think. It exempts them from extending basic decency and courtesy to others.

I’ve heard the same said about people who walk around with self-harm scars exposed. No. Just because you can see my scars doesn’t give you a free pass to say what you want. You don’t get to say, “You’re too pretty for that.” You don’t get to say, “You’re too smart for that.” It doesn’t matter whether you know me or not. They are my scars from my battles. Even if you know me, I can guarantee you won’t know all about my battles. You won’t know my darkest moments or thoughts. If you’re a stranger? What could you possibly think you know about my life? You don’t get a say on what my scars look like. You don’t get a say on whether or not I’m too pretty, too smart or too strong for that. You don’t get a say on whether or not I cover them.

Yes, you can see them. Yes, they are “hideous.” Look away. Walk away. Think about it by all means. Talk to someone else about it. If you’re game, educate yourself on it. Take responsibility for what you are doing. Take responsibility for what you are saying. Yes, you can see my scars but that doesn’t make me responsible for your reaction.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. In addition, he specializes in treating victims of trauma and first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Why Family History is Important

Why Family History is Important

Since technology has advanced so rapidly, many of our lives have become more complicated. One result I have observed is that we are having difficulties maintaining family connections and traditions. As a result of our fast pace world and chaotic lives we sometimes forget the importance of passing on these family traditions from generation to generation. Another problem that impacts this is our society has become very mobile. We no longer live close to our relatives. It’s not uncommon for grandchildren to live in California and grandparents to live back east. Also with jobs becoming more difficult to find and the cost of living increasing families are moving where ever they can find a job or to a place to live that is affordable.

The month of February is dedicated to Black History, however, it also addresses the importance of contact between generations. Black History month has many goals. It is a way to acknowledge what Black Americans have contributed to the United States and also a way to remember the struggles they faced due to discrimination. Therefore, it is also away to establish pride in younger Black Americans by helping them to become aware of their history and to remember their history and the struggles. By helping the younger generations remember their past, a bridge is being connected to their past generations which shows how the prior generations helped Black Americans achieve what they have achieved and are achieving today.

Now since many families are not living close to each other, family members cannot provide the support they could in the past, such as watching grandchildren after school. Additionally, children cannot as easily establish close relationships with grandparents and aunts and uncles, the same way as when they lived close by. These adults could serve as additional role models and inform parents if something seemed off with the child. They were also able to spend additional time with the children and reinforce what parents were teaching their children and reinforce the family traditions and values.

The other thing that the close connection to generations provided was a sense of security. If there was a problem a child knew they could turn to their parents, aunts or uncles or cousins. It also helped a child’s self-esteem. You had the adults who could reinforce that you were worthy and you had cousins who would defend you at school or in the neighborhood because you were worth it. Also your older cousins could help you learn what to expect as you went from grade to grade. There was a sense of support and security that most children don’t have today. Furthermore, children with support from extended family members are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

The advancement in computers and communication may provide a way to try to recreate this sense of family. With such things as Skype and Zoom, where you can talk and see the other person, it’s almost like being with the person, but it is not the same. Children can Skype with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins too. We just have to make time for it. For those families that live close to each other, you need to remember the value of family and make time for family. At times it may be difficult, but you will find that the time and effort are worth it. I have found that children with close family ties and connections to their cultures do better in school and life. They have a sense of pride and a sense of where the came from that other children don’t. Additionally, research has shown that families who eat dinner together have less mental health problems. Furthermore, research shows that children who are connected to their family generations have better self-esteem as adults.

I have attached a link to an article which is about sharing traditions with family. Check out this article from First 5 LA: http://www.first5la.org/index.php?r=site/article&id=3615&utm_content=buffere936a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

I think you will find it interesting.

Finally, I think we can learn a lesson from Black History Month. Knowing where you came from and the issues your grandparents and great grandparents struggled with is important information for everyone and parents should take time to educate their children about family history. In addition to maintaining bonds between the generations. Another issue which points out that this is important for someone’s mental health is children who were adopted. Most adopted children around the age of 20 years old do seek out information regarding their biological families. They typically say they have a need to know about themselves. They love the families who adopted them, but it doesn’t answer the question who am I?

Dr Michael Rubino has been working with children/teens and their families for over 20 years and is well respected. For more information at Dr Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenage Boys Need and Want Help Despite What They Say

Teenage Boys Need and Want Help Despite What They Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also one of the founding members for the national advisory board for Street Soldiers. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.