What If My Teenager, Is Suicidal?

What If My Teenager, Is Suicidal?

Since the number of teenagers who are suicidal continues to increase, I decided to write this article for parents. Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine for the Coronavirus there has been a significant increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings due to survivors dealing with survivor guilt. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.

Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

A Relationship Does Not Make You a Complete Person

A Relationship Does Not Make You a Complete Person

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

As a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Are Kids Being Educated About MLK’s Message?

Are Kids Being Educated About MLK’s Message?

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This day was created to honor the memory of Dr. King and his message of acceptance and tolerance. However, are we honoring his memory and message? An argument could be made that no we are not honoring him or his message. In fact, you can say we have forgotten his message. On Monday schools will be closed in honor of Martin Luther King Day. However, when I mention to children and teenagers that they have a holiday on Monday, many kids are surprised. In fact, many kids do not even know why we have a holiday on Monday. How are we honoring the life and message of Martin Luther King, if students have no idea why they are having a holiday? Additionally, we have men and women in the Congress continuing to argue how we need to secure our southern border because “Mexican” immigrants are bringing drugs and crime into our country. The emphasis is on our southern border. The Congress doesn’t seem to worry about our Northern border or the thousands of people who enter our Country via planes and cruise ships. They appear not to worry about the immigrants and tend to focus on the “Mexican” immigrants. If we continue to view the world in this manner, are we remembering and honoring the memory and message of Martin Luther King?

Also let’s look at what is happening in our Country. Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Transgender individuals and minorities in general (CDC). Many Asian Americans are afraid to leave their homes and walk on the streets. They are afraid of being attacked by someone on the street because some people are blaming Asian Americans for Covid. Attacks on Jewish Temples and Anti-Semitic violence has been significantly increasing every year for several years now. Many Jewish Americans have been attacked and killed in Temples and Synagogues for no reason except they are Jewish. The Transgender and Transsexual communities are also afraid to go out and socialize because many of their clubs have been targets of mass shootings and many people have been killed senselessly (CDC). Again, how are we honoring Dr. King’s memory and legacy, if people are afraid to leave their homes and live their lives because they might be killed for being themselves.

Finally, the biggest point showing we are not honoring Dr. King is our elections. Many Southern States changed their voting laws for the 2022 election. A majority of these laws made it very difficult and almost impossible for every African American to cast their vote. Instead of moving forward, we have been moving backwards especially in the South. The changes are making voting for African Americans look like it did during the 1950s. Limiting the hours they can vote and making it illegal to give people waiting in line to vote a drink of water. What are we doing making it illegal to give someone a drink of water. Many older people or people with health issues need more water especially if they are standing in line for hours. The new voting laws were making people choose between exercising their right as an American to vote or taking care of their health. What type of choice is this? I am sure Dr. King never was advocating for laws such as these laws. In fact, he was advocating against these type of laws and that every person deserves to be treated with dignity regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation.

If we are not honoring his message, what are we teaching children born after the year 2000? These children never had a chance to be exposed to Dr. King’s message nor have they seen the discrimination that has occurred in the past. Many teenagers are wearing shirts or getting tattoos with racist symbols. Many of these teens have no idea what these symbols really mean. For many people we have felt we made a great deal of progress in our country regarding race relations. In fact, we had an African-America President. Therefore, some people have felt we did not need to teach children about past discrimination. However, we need to go further with education in the United States. I attended UC Berkeley and I took an American history class taught by a leading expert in United States history. I was never taught about the African American Wall Street and how it was destroyed. I was suppose to be getting one of the best educations in the Country because I was attending one of the best Universities in the Country. However, my education failed to address very important issues regarding race that I should have been educated about. If I did not receive a complete education regarding issues related to race and I attended one of the top Universities in the Country, what are other students receiving?

However, discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexuality and physical ability is very much alive in the United States. We do need to teach children about Hitler and the Holocaust. We also need to teach children about the White Supremest. We need to educate our children about their message and their symbols they use. We also need to educate children about how easily these people can come back and that discrimination still exist in the United States.

Dr. King’s message was to accept everyone and respect their human dignity. We have no right to judge someone based on race, color, creed, sexuality or physical ability. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated respectfully. He did point out that there are people who will decide to judge and hate others based on differences. Dr. King, like Ghandi before him, pointed out that we accept these people too. They are still people even though they are choosing to be cruel to others.

While he told people to acknowledge these people as human beings, he did not say to accept their hate. His message, like Ghandi, was nonviolence. You can accept the person without being cruel to them because of their message. Dr. King believed the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. Finding away to accept and love those who judge you is the strongest way of fighting the hate in their hearts.

If we look around, this message is still be taught to children. As adults we need to reinforce it. The Disney movie Frozen is an example. In the movie it teaches children how if someone does not feel love they will act out and make poor decisions. It also teaches that “love will thaw.” In other words, love is a stronger force than hate and can eliminate hate. This movie also looks at judging people based on differences. So here is a modern day example of Dr. King’s message. Love and acceptance will triumph over hate. As adults we need to reinforce this message to our children.

It is very important that we do so at this time in our country. We have people killing people due to the color of the skin, their religion or sexuality. This is not what Dr. King was teaching us. We have people in our government who want to treat people differently because of their color, religion or sexuality. Again this is not Dr. King’s message. Dr. King did not want us to hate these people either. He encouraged all of us to accept and love each other. Love can triumph over hate. It has in the past and it can again.

Therefore, in order to honor Dr. King and his message sit down with your children and teenagers and educate them about Dr. King’s message. Love is stronger than hate. I have included one of his quotes at the top of this blog that you can use.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Connection between Super Bowl Parties & Domestic Violence

The Connection between Super Bowl Parties & Domestic Violence

The Super Bowl is coming up quickly and many people are planning Super Bowl parties. It is a traditional weekend when family and friends gather together for Super Bowl parties. This has been a tradition for people for many years. However, due to the Coronavirus many people have had to skip their traditional parties. This year with restrictions being decreased many people are looking forward to more traditional parties. However, we still need to take precautions due to the Coronavirus. In addition to the Coronavirus, Super Bowl Sunday in is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States (CDC). This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

The first thing is to remember it is just a football game and it’s supposed to be a fun time for everyone. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treating domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

What do we do when 6 year old boys are shooting their teachers?

What do we do when 6 year old boys are shooting their teachers?

Parents, teachers and students have been worried about mass shootings and school shootings. Many children are afraid to go to school because they are afraid of being killed at school. Many children are frightened by the mass shooter drills. It makes sense why students, teachers and parents would worry about these issues and situations. However, now we have turned a very scary corner regarding school shootings. On Friday a six year old in Virginia had a disagreement with his teacher and he took a gun out of his backpack and shot his teacher (CNN, ABC, CBS news). Thank God, the teacher survived and is recovering in the hospital.

This brings up a whole new set of questions and concerns. How did a six year old boy manage to get a hold of a gun? How did he get it into his school? How did he know how to use a gun? Are teachers now going to need to be concerned that if a student is upset with them that the student might shoot them? Do they need to wear bulletproof vests while working? Do we need metal detectors in elementary schools? These are a lot of questions and unfortunately we don’t have any firm answers yet.

If we look at the history of school and mass shootings maybe we should have seen this incident coming. In 2022 we had an increase of 50% in the number of mass shootings compared to 2020 (Gun Violence Archive). The year 2022 had the most mass shootings on record for a year and the year held that record before 2022 was even over (CDC, Brady Gunn Violence Campaign). As I stated many children are afraid of attending school due to school shootings such as in Uvlade, Texas where 18 elementary school children and 2 teachers were killed. However, the police and school failed to give parents direct answers about what occurred that day even after several months had passed since the shooting. Can we blame children for being afraid 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?

We now need to answer how does a six year old get a gun and take it to school? If teenagers are feeling the need to carry guns and 10 year old boys are using guns for suicide, is it really a surprise that a six year old boy has a gun at school? If we examine the research as the number of school shootings have increased so have the number of students feeling that they need to have guns to be safe. Furthermore, as we follow the research the age of students feeling they need a gun is getting younger and younger. Ten year old boys were selecting guns for suicide so why wouldn’t they and younger boys start to feel that they needed guns to be safe?

If we are getting to this point with mass and school shootings, we must figure out why they are so common in the United States and start to implement remedies to stop them. Additionally, we need to examine and implement sane gun laws so that 6 and 10 year old boys cannot get access to and use guns for suicide or to kill someone else. We have laws preventing children from driving cars, drinking alcohol and even voting. These laws do not interfere with any adults from driving, drinking alcohol or voting. Therefore, safe, sane gun laws designed to protect children will not interfere with any adult’s second amendment rights. We must realize that the arguments the Gun lobby makes that laws protecting children are ridiculous and need to be ignored. Or do we want to have schools where a first grader can kill his teacher because he was upset with her? Think about that type of school.

While you are considering those facts here are some additional findings from the research study. 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.

What is happening in the United States? 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. As I stated above, 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.

How to Deal with the Bullying Epidemic at Schools

How to Deal with the Bullying Epidemic at Schools

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

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

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

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

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

• Health complaints

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

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

• Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults

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

• Engage in early sexual activity

• Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults 

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

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

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

• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety

• Miss or skip school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 yrs experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He is a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, an anti bullying program. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Epidemic of Anxiety in Teenagers, but The Lack of Treatment Available to Teens

The Epidemic of Anxiety in Teenagers, but The Lack of Treatment Available to Teens

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 go in to a concert or places such as Disneyland. Finally they have had to cope with COVID. Over 1,000,000 Americans, and counting, 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 these issues has resulted in a significant increase in depression, suicide, drug overdose and anxiety disorders in children and teens. 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. Their anxiety is interfering with teens attending school daily, paying attention in class and completing their homework.

In addition to children and teenagers needing to wait months to get into a psychotherapist or psychiatrist and this is not an exaggeration. If a child or teenager needs to be hospitalized because their symptoms are so severe, they often have to wait a day or two in the emergency room because the psychiatric department has no room. What does this do to a teenager who has raising thoughts or wants to kill themselves, to have to wait in the Emergency Department because there are no beds for them in the psychiatric department? I have had this happen to several patients that I tried to hospitalize.

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.

The Benadryl Challenge

The Benadryl Challenge

Teenagers will find ways to get high because they believe that it is fun. However, many teenagers are not aware that the ways they are choosing to get high can cause serious health risks even death. Teenagers were using the cough medicine, Robitussin, because it contains DMX an provides an easy high. Well teenagers are now using another allergy medication. Teenagers are now using the medication Benadryl made by Johnson and Johnson.

Many parents are familiar with Benadryl. It is a common medication pediatricians prescribe to parents when their children have allergies. This medication is considered safe for young children and parents can purchase it over the counter. Additionally, many pediatricians suggest that parents use this medication when children are having difficulties sleeping. Besides being a safe allergy medication for young children, it also has a tendency to make children and adults drowsy. Most people fall asleep after taking Benadryl.

Now the app TikTok has found away to abuse this medication. People who use TikTok have issued a challenge to other TikTok users. The challenge is to take as many Benadryl pills as they can so they start hallucinating and experience a high. Therefore, we have teenagers across the country taking dozens of Benadryl pills. Teenagers are able to get Benadryl easy because it is sold over the counter and is considered a safe allergy medication by most people. Therefore, most parents won’t suspect anything if their teenager tells them they are taking Benadryl for their allergies.

However this challenge posted on TikTok is dangerous and deadly. Johnson and Johnson has stated that Benadryl was not designed with the intention of taking dozens of Benadryl pills at a time. At this point a 15 year old girl has died from taking too many Benadryl pills. Additionally, three 15 year old teenage girls in Fort Worth, Texas are in the hospital because they took too many Benadryl pills. Johnson and Johnson has stated that if you take to much Benadryl it can cause seizures and serious heart problems. The company has the guidelines on the bottle regarding what is an appropriate dosage of Benadryl for different ages and weights. Johnson and Johnson is warning parents about this TikTok challenge so parents can address it with their teenagers.

Parents TikTok is very popular with teenagers, despite the fact that the government is banning its use on their cellphones. Teenagers are not thinking about how dangerous this challenge can be and that people can die. If your teenager uses TikTok discuss this challenge with them and watch to see if your teenager has any Benadryl. If they use TikTok and have Benadryl take the medication away from them. You may be saving their lives.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or on Apple.

Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

A new study on teenage brains shows that social media has a negative impact on teenage brains. Many parents have been concerned about this fact and wondering if social media impacts a teen’s brain. Now we have an MRI study which shows the effects on teen brains

While we can see the changes, we don’t know how they affect teens yet. So teens are recommended to take breaks from social media sites until we know the changes. Below is a link to the research study:

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/03/health/social-media-checking-teen-development-wellness/index.html

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

Teenagers have been experimenting and using drugs for decades. Prior to the pandemic opioids were a major issue and so was heroine. In 2017, Opioids were becoming more expensive and teenagers started turning to heroine. Teens were turning to heroine because it was available and cheap. However, it was responsible for a large number of teenage overdosing and dying from heroine. The CDC documented a significant increase in teenage deaths due to heroine between 2010 and 2017. However, during this time fentanyl was being introduced to teenagers and it became very popular. In fact, more teenagers were dying from fentanyl overdoses than heroine. In 2022, the number of deaths due to fentanyl overdose increased by 23% (CDC) and the rate continues to increase.

As it became more popular, people became aware of how strong fentanyl can be and how deadly it is in reality. It was cheaper than heroine but also more deadly. It is also very easy to overdose on. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 times more powerful than heroine and 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly. In fact 2mg of fentanyl can be deadly. Additionally, the drug is more deadly to people who have not used fentanyl before. Therefore, your first time could be your last.

During the pandemic, teenagers were bored having to stay inside and not being able to see their friends as much as they would like to. Furthermore, remote schooling was a failure and many teenagers developed anxiety and depression issues. In fact since the pandemic, depression and anxiety disorders in adolescents are at epidemic rates (CDC). However, many teenagers are not receiving the mental health care they need because many psychotherapists, who treat adolescents, are fully booked and cannot accept new patients. Also because our society doesn’t feel mental health is necessary and for teenagers and many times we just assume that is how teenagers and therefore they never receive psychotherapy they desperately need. As a result teenagers started to self-medicate and experimenting with Fentanyl because it was new, cheap and promised a great high. Many teenagers are able to get fentanyl via social media. So Snapchat, Instragram and Facebook are popular places for teenagers to find drugs. A major problem is they may think they are just buying marijuana, heroine or another opioid which is laced with fentanyl and they don’t know it. Remember the less experience you have with this drug, the more likely someone is going to overdose. It also became obvious that the drug was very deadly when deaths such as the singer Prince, who overdosed accidentally on Fentanyl, made it very clear that it was a very deadly drug. As a result of public health campaigns, parents and teenagers started to become aware of how deadly the drug was and people became cautious about it.

Obviously this did not sit to well with drug dealers. Fentanyl was still popular but it could be even more popular. The solution is that colored fentanyl pills and powders have been developed. These colored fentanyl pills and powders are becoming popular with teenagers. The colored pills and powders look safer and teenagers are therefore more willing to try and use it. This is putting a significant number of teenagers at risk of dying due to overdosing (CDC). As a result, 9 out of 10 teenage drug overdoses involve fentanyl is some form and the death typically occurs at home (Boston University).

According to the government the “brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.” Furthermore, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” according to the DEA. Additionally, these brightly colored fentanyl forms appear safer to teenagers and as a result there is an increase in the number of teenagers using them. In addition to more teenagers using the colored fentanyl, more teenagers are dying due to the colored fentanyl (CDC, DEA).

More than 109,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending March 2022, according to provisional data published this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in that time — up from just over half at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, annual drug overdose deaths have jumped 44%. There were 75,702 deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2020, compared with 109,247 deaths in the latest 12-month period ending March 2022.

Drug deaths among children are relatively rare. But unintentional overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, and experts suspect that the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.

Parents, please take this time to discuss and educate your teenagers about the colored fentanyl. Everyone does not know about it and many teenagers are believing the lies that the colored fentanyl is not really dangerous. Remember teenagers think they know more than they do and their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed so their reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore do not approach this topic as a lecture, approach it as a casual conversation. Allow your teen to open up and talk freely. You may hear information that may help you save their lives. Remember, many teenagers can be misled about fentanyl because it does not look as dangerous as other drugs do. Therefore, take the opportunity to educate yourself and your teenagers and if you feel your teenager is already involved with it, seek professional help. If they are using fentanyl typically you will notice personality changes that are more extreme than just teenage personality issues. You may save the life of your teenager by talking to them. Anyone can get mixed up with fentanyl.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.