Mental Health Care for Men and Teenage Boys

Mental Health Care for Men and Teenage Boys

We need to follow Heads Together and develop programs for men and male teens to help them address their mental health and their emotions. This would help eliminate the out dated male stereotype about how men should act https://www.headstogether.org.uk/duke-of-cambridge-visits-male-mental-health-organisations/

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Teenage Boys and Cutting

Teenage Boys and Cutting

Last Sunday, I was a guest on the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL. The topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about the cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls.

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I have more and more teenage boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Cutting occurs in boys too. We need to be aware of this fact. Cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com , http://www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Helping Children Cope with Stress

Helping Children Cope with Stress

Many times parents can see that their child is dealing with stress or worry that a situation may cause a child to be stressed. Many parents will ask me what they can do to help their child cope with stress or if they can prevent a stressful situation before it occurs. These are valid concerns and questions for parents to ask. Given the state of the world with mass shootings occurring at schools on a regular basis and many children are now homeless in the United States, children are experiencing many stressful situations that never existed before. Since children’s brains are not fully developed, they process information differently and coping with stress can be difficult for children. Also parents are having less control to the stress their child is exposed to due to technology we now have instant coverage of events and 24 hour media coverage which makes it difficult for parents to help their children. I recently read an article by Lori Lite with some good tips for parents to help children cope with stress. I have included these tips and information below.

Children do not think, act, or manage stress like adults; the younger the child the smaller the stressors. Help children cope with stress by realizing you can empower your children.  Arriving at school to find a  rearranged classroom or a substitute teacher can be big stressors to kids.

Young children do not yet have the ability to identify or express their own feelings of stress. They struggle with their own emotions and they pick up on their parents tension. The American Psychology Association noted that 39% of children feel sad and worried when their parents are stressed. Often a stressed out child can be detected when a teacher or parent  observes changes in a child’s  behavior.

Frequent melt-downs, sleeping problems or nightmares, clingy behavior, refusal to go to school, acting younger than their age, bed-wetting, stomachaches and headaches are  signals that your child may be experiencing too much stress. The main thing to look for is a change in behavior. Trust your instinct.

Tips to Help Stress:

1. Help children put words to their feelings. Ask them if they feel nervous, scared, or worried. Ask them what is making them feel that way.

2. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and encourage the use of positive statements. Often children do not understand the outcome of an action or change. Instead of realizing their favorite teacher will be back tomorrow..they might think she is gone forever. Create positive statements for the situation.

“I am safe. My substitute teacher is fun. My teacher will be back soon.”

3. Introduce stress management techniques to  children. Parents and teachers can easily teach and use techniques like breathing, positive statements, and visualizing on a regular basis. Lesson Plans are available.

4. Establish a bedtime routine that helps kids relax. Soothing music or relaxing stories.  Indigo Dreams: Kids Relaxation Music promotes sleep and relaxation.

5. Spend reassuring quality time with children. Parents and teachers can  laugh and play together. Singing songs like This Is The Way We Laugh And Play and If You’re Happy And You Know It can be a liberating and fun stress reliever that you and your children can enjoy together.

I hope these tips are helpful. Parents it is important to remember all you can do is your best to try to help your child. However, as I stated above, with the advancement of technology and events such as mass school shootings happening on a regular basis, you cannot protect your child from every stressful event.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work or private practice visit one of his websites www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Importance of Extended Family

The Importance of Extended Family

In our fast pace world and chaotic lives we sometimes forget the importance of passing on 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.

However, since many families are not living close to each other, family members cannot provide they 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, when they live close by. These adults could serve as additional role models and inform parents if something seemed off with the child. They are also able to spend additional time with the children and reinforce what parents are 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, 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.

I have attached a link to an article with a link to an article 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.

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 website at http://www.rcs-ca.com.

Helping Teenagers Avoid Risks Associated with Memorial Day and Graduations

Helping Teenagers Avoid Risks Associated with Memorial Day and Graduations

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer and graduations and graduation parties are starting to occur. Many teenagers will be involved in various activities celebrating graduations and Memorial Day. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be going to parties, drinking, and having swim parties and barbecues with friends. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year over this weekend, 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. One in five teenagers die in these drownings (CDC statistics). This is only the number who die. It doesn’t include Traumatic brain injuries or teenagers breaking their neck or back in an accident. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months or longer. Again we assume such activities as swimming or a barbecue are safe and nothing will happen, however, accidents do occur.

Since it is Memorial Day Weekend and people will beginning to celebrate graduations too, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental drug overdosages. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

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

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

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

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

Also take the opportunity to talk to your teenagers about parties or activities they have planned. Acknowledge there may be drinking or drug use and discuss a safety plan with your teenager, if they find themselves in an unsafe situation due to alcohol or drugs. Many high schools now have Grad Nights because of these risks. Grad Night provides teenagers the opportunity to celebrate their graduation in a safe environment. Thereby, decreasing the possibility that someone may accidentally get hurt. Therefore, high schools have given you an opportunity to discuss these issues with your teenagers and hopefully prevent a tragic accident. My recommendation is to take the chance you have been given by high schools and have an open, honest discussion about their safety.

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