LGBTQ+ Teenagers want Acceptance Just Like Other Teenagers

LGBTQ+ Teenagers want Acceptance Just Like Other Teenagers

Being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult. Besides dealing with mass school shootings and now the uncertainty of life due to the Coronavirus, they face other daily challenges. Many teenagers believe they must grow up and have jobs with fancy titles, make a lot of money and drive fancy cars to be a success as an adult. They face stereotypes about how boys must act if they want to be men and girls face stereotypes about how they must act to be considered women. I hear teens tell me everyday how overwhelmed and confused they are trying to fit into all the necessary stereotypes. They feel overwhelmed because at times they are not sure how to act and confused because at times they don’t agree with the stereotype. If they don’t, they are not sure what to do. This is a lot of pressure for a 13 year old child to be trying to cope with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that many teens turn to drugs as a way to cope. It is also not a surprise that Cutting is at epidemic rates for teens and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens (CDC).

Many of these teenagers are struggling with their sexuality. Some teenagers are struggling with the feelings of being homosexual, bisexual or Transgender. For many of them these are feelings they have had for a long time. However, they have people in their lives telling them they are too young to know for sure. Maybe some may change their minds, however given the violence and discrimination they face with this decision, who would put themselves through all of that pain if they were not sure?

If you look around the Country, many states are passing laws making difficult for LGBTQ+ teenagers to live and go to school and be honest about their feelings. Violence against LGBTQ+ teenagers has significantly increased over the last two years. LGBTQ+ teenagers are five times more likely to commit suicide and to use drugs (CDC). They are also more likely to become prostitutes. They are making these choices because they feel they have no other options. They are afraid of being rejected by their families and many are rejected and are thrown out of their homes to survive on the streets.

So what are they to do when they don’t fit into the “normal” teenage stereotypes? What if they suffer from depression? If they have a learning disability too? What do these LGBTQ+ teenagers do? This is how they were born and they cannot change that fact. Many of these teens will struggle trying to fit the stereotypes and also try desperately to hide from friends and family that they do not fit the teenage stereotypes. Some are lucky and parents or a teacher intervene helping them to get the help they need. Many are not so lucky and often choose suicide, as I stated above. These teenagers are in a very scary and sad place.

The CDC found one in five teenagers are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. Some LGBTQ+ teenagers may think about psychotherapy but often quickly block that option. They are afraid that their parents are sending them to therapy, so the therapist will “fix” them. They do not feel broken and they don’t want someone trying to convince them that their feelings are wrong. Psychotherapists are not supposed to try to “fix” LGBT+ teenagers, but there are some who still do. The American Psychological Association has removed homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis so know therapist should be trying to fix a teenager.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I hear daily from teens that all they want is to be accepted for who they are and they don’t want to have to always hide. The teen with depression or the learning disabilities wants to be considered just as important as the star quarterback on the football team. They want this from their school, their friends, society and finally from their families. Teenagers who identify as LGBTQ+ only want they same thing. Is this too much to ask for? June is dedicated to Gay Pride. If you have a teenager who is identifying as LGBTQ+, before you say it is a phase, maybe you can do some research so you have a better understanding of your teenagers feelings.

These teenagers are not stealing or doing anything to be ashamed of, they are being themselves just the way they were born. Why can’t they be accepted and celebrated? The answer is they can! It is something I teach them in every session we have together. There are organizations such as Alive and Free in San Francisco and Challenge Day in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with teens and society so these teens can feel accepted being themselves.

Another organization addressing this issue is called Born This Way. It was started by Lady Gaga and her organization works with teens and society so all teens feel accepted for who they are just the way they were born. Lady Gaga explains the mission of her foundation this way, “Safety, skills, and opportunity. Number one, I want everyone to feel safe in their community: school, home, whatever city you live in. Two: developing the skills that are needed to be a loving, accepting, and tolerant person, and to also inject that sentiment into all the people around you, being a supportive human being. And the third is opportunity. I believe once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving and accepting person, the opportunities for you are endless to become a great functioning human in society.”

For people who do better by hearing something or seeing it, I have included a link to a YouTube video where Lady Gaga explains Born This Way, https://youtu.be/

The concept really is very simple. Why can’t we accept children and teenagers just the way they were born. Every person is unique and everyone has talents to contribute to the world. So why do we pressure boys into the stereotype the must have big muscles and play sports to be a man? Why do we tell girls that boys are smarter and if someone touches them in a way they do not like it is their fault because of the clothes they are wearing. This is insane!

If we do away with the stereotypes and focus on teenagers liking their own personalities and bodies, we would have less cutting, suicide and drug use. We would also have many more teenagers who are happy and successful at life. Being happy is a successful life not a big bank account. Therefore, let’s get started on helping teens. We need people to support more organizations like the ones I named above. If we do we can eliminate the stereotypes and stigma of not fitting a stereotype. We also need to make psychotherapy more accessible to all teenagers and remove the negative stigma associated with mental health care. Now some people may think what I am proposing is impossible and just a dream. However, you are seeing more groups like the ones I mentioned open every year. We are seeing teenagers and parents being attracted to them. It is possible to improve the lives of children and teenagers. It may need to start with a dream. Dreams do come true look at what Walt Disney created with his dream.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is on the nations advisory board for Alive and Free. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy 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.

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.