The Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment

Many schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, however they can still have IEP meetings or the meeting will resume when school resumes. This will give parents time to prepare for their IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon to help a student who is having difficulties learning at school. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or www.LucasCenter.org.

Why Are We Afraid of Mental Health?

Why Are We Afraid of Mental Health?

Many people in our society appear to feel mental health issues only apply to drug addicts or “street people.” In India they refer to these people as the “untouchables.” In India and here in the United States, we don’t pay a great deal of attention to theses people except for being annoyed how they make our cities look dirty and many people are afraid to walk pass them because they may be attacked or they are afraid of catching some disease from these “street people.” However this is not reality. Mental health impacts adults, children, teenagers and it impacts people who are poor and rich. Also every ethnicity and sexual orientation has mental health issues. The bottom line is mental health impacts all of us. We all have mental health issues just like we all have physical health issues.

By ignoring mental health issues, we are doing a great deal of harm to children and teenagers. By conservative results, one out of every five teenagers has a mental health issue which requires treatment. Since the year 2000, every year the number of teenagers diagnosed with depression and anxiety have increased. Additionally, drug abuse has been increasing as teenagers try to self-medicate. Finally, the suicide rate has increased every year. It use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers. Now it is the second leading cause of death for teenagers and it is close to becoming the number one leading cause of death for kids 10 years old to 18 years old.

The issue has become so serious that Time magazine and Kaiser Permanente joined together and produced a video discussing the epidemic of mental health issues children are experiencing and the lack of treatment due to our attitudes. Here is a link to the video https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/total-health/health-. Please watch this video so you understand what we are discussing.

As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I can confirm what this video is showing. Since the year 2000, I have seen an explosion of children and teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety, depression, self-mutilating (cutting themselves) and suicide. I have added extra hours but I still cannot meet the demand to see everyone calling my office. This is a major tragedy. Since people are so ashamed of mental health if they call and cannot get an appointment, they will probably give up on therapy. Why do I say this? I say this because the children and teenagers who come in for therapy are embarrassed and ashamed. They tell me there is something wrong with them and they fear they never will get better. Why do they feel this way? They feel this way because they hear how people talk about people with mental health issues and the stereotype that it only happens to “street people.”

We must remove this mental health stigma. This stigma is resulting in the deaths of many children, teenagers and adults. The majority of people who have mental health issues can live happy, productive lives with appropriate treatment. In fact, one of the leading researchers on Bipolar Disorders has Bipolar Disorder and is a professor at Harvard University. Therefore, this outdated stereotype about mental health is costing the lives of children for no reason and is preventing us from making scientific advances. A teenager with a mental health issue may be able to discover a cure for cancer, but it will never happen if the need psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is not easy and can be very painful. Anyone who is willing to participate in psychotherapy because they need it should be given encouragement and support not looked down upon. It is similar to ancient times when women were considered dangerous and could not be around anyone when they were undergoing their menstrual cycle. We now know this idea is crazy. If you look at the research we know the same facts about mental health. Therefore, why do we continue to use the old stereotype. If we want the mental health issues in children and teenagers to decrease and if we want to decrease the number of people living in the street, we need to provide mental health services to anyone who needs them without making the person feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Some people may say I have no right to say what I am saying. I disagree with that opinion. I am dealing with this epidemic daily, therefore I know what children and teenagers are facing. Part of helping them face their issues is speaking out on their behalf.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Helping A Child Grieve the Loss of a Parent, Sibling or Close Friend

Helping A Child Grieve the Loss of a Parent, Sibling or Close Friend

The tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter along with the seven of their friends has brought up the issue of grief and especially the issue of children and teenagers grieving the death of a parent, sibling or close friend. Our society does not deal with grief in the first place. Therefore, when the person grieving is a child grieving the loss of a parent or sibling, we really do not know how to respond. Many people may decide to give the child privacy because they do not know what to say and it is easier. However, unless the child has asked for privacy, this is the wrong approach.

The death of a parent, sibling or close friend for a minor child or teenager violates how we expect life to occur. We expect kids to grow up, develop an adult life with loved ones and friends and also they will have a career. We assume people will die later in life such as 80 years old and people will lose their parents and sibling started around the age of 60. When it occurs at the age of 13 years old it violates all our assumptions about life. The 13 year old child must deal with something we assumed they would not have to face until they were 60 years old. We are in shock because our assumptions about life have been violated and we can’t imagine how the 13 year old can handle this tragedy.

The 13 year old must now figure out how they are going to continue living their life without the parent, sibling or close friend that they lost. This is a large part of grief learning to live your life without the loved one you lost. This is difficult for adults it is especially hard for a child or teenager. A fact we need to remember as the teen is grieving and as you are trying to help them and be supportive.

The first major point to remember is grief is not the same for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are stage theories about the grieving process. The main stage theory is by Kübler-Ross. This theory states there are five stages of grief. However, research has shown that grieving is an individual process and people experience different emotions depending on their process. Therefore, do not force a teen into the emotions you believe they should have as the grieve. Allow them to have whatever feelings they need to. In other words, if they don’t get angry or cry, it’s okay. They will have their own way of expressing the feelings they need to express. Allow them and support them in this process. Reassure them that whatever feelings they have or don’t have is normal and their is nothing wrong with them.

They are going to need to talk at times about the death. Be open and honest with them about the death. Hiding facts will not help them and cause more harm when they find out everyone was keeping a secret from them. Talk to them on their level using the terms they use. Try not to avoid the subject. If you avoid it, you send a message to the teen that they should avoid the topic too. This prevents the teen from coming to terms with the death.

Be prepared that children and teenagers will have a lot of different emotions regarding the loss. Therefore, expect mood swings and try to provide healthy ways for teenagers and children to express their feelings. Such as hitting a pillow for anger, writing a letter to the loved one to help with the feeling of missing the person who died. Also ask the teen if they have an idea on ways to express their feelings. Teenagers and children often have the best ideas. The main point is help them express their grief in a healthy manner rather than turning to drugs or alcohol.

As they are starting to express more emotions, this is a good time to bring up the idea of psychotherapy. Most people who experience a close personal loss can benefit from psychotherapy. Children and teenagers are no different. At first, the concept of therapy may be too soon. Remember to allow the child to go through the process at their pace. Often it helps to make a deal about psychotherapy. Ask the child or teenager to try a minimum of six sessions. After six sessions the need for therapy can be reassessed. If they are benefiting they continue, but if everyone feels they were doing just as well before they started therapy then they can stop. They can always resume therapy if needed.

Allow them to be involved in the funeral services. Many people feel a funeral is too much stress for a child or teenager having a difficult time accepting the death. The point of a funeral is a way to say good-bye to the loved one. I have worked with many children who were not allowed to plan or attend the funeral and they are usually mad that they didn’t get to say good-bye like everyone else. Remember to have some flexibility. Allow the child to participate in the part of the funeral services they want to participate in. If they do not want to go to the cemetery no problem. After the funeral mass have someone take them to where the reception is being held, while everyone else goes to the cemetery.

Finally, remember to be flexible with children and teenagers who are grieving. The grieving process takes at least a year. Therefore, there may be issues at school, with grades and mood swings. It will be a tough year for everyone. Especially birthdays and holidays during that first year. Therefore, you know it’s going to be difficult so don’t expect perfection. Allow the child time to continue grieving. If their grades fall for one year no big deal. This also may be another time to try therapy. If you remember everyone is hurting and everyone tries to work together, you will make it through this tragedy. It may not seem like it, but you will.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating kids and does specialize in working with grieving teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Dealing with the Holidays when you have Mental Health Issues

Dealing with the Holidays when you have Mental Health Issues

For many people the Holidays can be a stressful time. For some people there is the stress of not having enough money. For others, they lost a loved one this year and this is the first Holiday without their loved one. For others, there are family issues that make this a difficult time of the year. Finally, for people with mental health issues, the Holidays can be a very difficult time.

For people with mental health issues the Holidays can be difficult for many reasons. They may be dealing with family issues, financial issues or not feeling happy. Not feeling happy can be difficult because everyone is supposed to be happy during the Holidays. At least this is what we are told by society. Also some people with mental health issues may find the Holidays difficult because their condition is not stabilized yet or the Holidays can be a trigger for their mental health issues. I see this with the patients I work with who are Bipolar or patients who are dealing with eating disorders. Just to name a couple of mental health issues that are triggered by the Holidays.

People who are suffering with mental health issues that are triggered by the Holidays need support and understanding. You cannot just tell them to pull it together or to take a pill. It is not that easy for them. If it was, they would automatically take those steps on their own to solve the situation.

There are some things that people with mental health issues can do that may help them. Dr. Pooky Knightsman, who deals with her own mental health issues, describes some of these options in her video. I have included a link to it so you can watch it. If you have a loved one who has mental health issues, please watch this video and may be you and suggest some of these ideas to your loved one. If they work that would be fantastic for the person coping with mental health issues. If they do not work, please understand the person is not having issues on purpose. If you love them you need to be patient and understanding and help them through this difficult time. Here is the link to Dr. Knightsman YouTube video https://youtu.be/ch5JLIYyPtU.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many of them are Bipolar. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

We are Accepting Mass Shooting as Normal Daily Events

We are Accepting Mass Shooting as Normal Daily Events

many children who are suffering with severe anxiety and refusing to go to school. They are terrified of going to school. Why would a child be terrified of going to school? Because of all the mass shootings in the United States and our government has failed to pass any sane gun laws protecting children. As of July 31, 2019, there had been 248 mass shootings, 246 people killed and 979 injured. Given the number of shootings this year, it averages out to a mass shooting every 1.2. days. These statistics were valid as of July 31st. Since then there were three more shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. Therefore, there have been 250 mass shootings this year (it’s only August) and we are still waiting on the total number of people who have been killed or injured.

The statistics from the Gun Violence Archive reported above are no longer accurate. As of September 24, 2019, there have been 334 mass shootings, 1347 killed this year in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured. The really sad fact is these statistic are no longer valid. Yesterday there was a mass shooting in Long Beach. People were at a Halloween party and someone started shooting at them and killing people. The statistics on this incident have not been released yet. The really sad thing is this barely mad the news. Most people have not heard about the shooting and the was very little news coverage about the event. Why? Because these shooting are becoming normal to us. No one is shocked to hear about another shooting, they have learned to expect it. The GVA has reported that 2019 will be the year with the most mass shooting events, deaths and injuries based on the statistics to date. What are we doing to change the problem? It is getting worse not better and the President and Congress take no action.

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

The President has tried to say it is simply a mental health issue. By doing so he doesn’t help the issue and he reinforces the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he refers to a mental health issue, he calls the people “sick” and states they need to be locked up. The research clears shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information.

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

So when I have children coming into my office saying they are afraid of being killed and the mass shooter drills scare them, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. Children hear things and they will know that I am lying. Most would have heard some where that the President refused universal background checks. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Also with the statistics I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.

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

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

Since it appears the President will not act, we need to learn from the high school students from the Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election. Next, contact Mitch McConnell and demand that he bring the sane gun laws to the Senate floor for a vote. If he received numerous phone calls demanding action or people with be supporting who ever runs against him, he will bring the bills to a vote. He only cares about keeping his senate seat. If he cared about the families devastated by these shootings, he would have been there trying to help instead of staying on vacation. His contact information is below:

Senator Mitch McConnell : U.S. Senate, 317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 205100001

ph: (202) 224-2541

fax: (202) 224-2499

Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing and trauma therapy. I am tired of hearing how the first

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

Many kids, despite what they say, really enjoy school. They like seeing their friends, their teachers and learning. However, some kids are not as excited and even worried about going to school. Many of these kids have been bullied and they are afraid of being bullied again. The month of October is dedicated to bully awareness. Hopefully, this article will provide you with information you need to protect your child from being bullied. Hopefully, we may even be able to stop bullying.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on Netflix and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have been commuting suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase so do the number of suicides and drug use increase. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause according to the CDC statistics. Also fifth graders are beginning to use alcohol and marijuana.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied at school. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame you or be ashamed of you. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Ignoring Mental Health Creates Major Issues for Teens & Their Families

Ignoring Mental Health Creates Major Issues for Teens & Their Families

I have had many parents tell me they had a tremendous difficulty finding mental health care for their child. As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I have seen how teenagers and their parents do not receive the access to the mental health care they deserve. This topic is very important now because the President states we have an issue with Mental Health care in our Country. Hopefully this article will explain the difficult people experience when they need mental health care and specifically what teenagers and their parents deal with and the changes that we need to make.

We often hear parents complain that their teenager is driving them crazy or a teenager complaining how unfair their parents are to live with on a daily basis. However, there are another set of complaints that get ignored on a routine basis. The complaints that get ignored are parents begging for mental health care for their teen or a teen crying out for help by cutting themselves or running away.

Many of us assume that if a parent wants mental health care help for their teen or if a teen needs help, all either one of them has to do is ask for help. Unfortunately, this is not how our world works.

It is very common for parents to ask everyone they can think of for help for their teenager and the only answer they get is, “I am sorry we cannot help you or your child. We don’t handle that issue.” It is also not uncommon for teens to ask for help by admitting to someone that they are feeling suicidal and the teen is told stop being so dramatic or “sorry there is nothing we can do for you at this time, but try calling this number.”

Some of you may assume that I must be exaggerating, but I am not. I have had many parents beg me to see their child because no one has any appointments or they don’t deal with teen issues. When I interview these parents, they have been every where asking for help, but no one has offered any help or they are referred to someone else because they don’t deal with their child’s issues. Many parents tell me they had called over 20 psychotherapist and had no replies. My office was the only office to call back.

For example, one Thanksgiving I had a mother have my answering service page me and she was begging me for help because her teen was suicidal. I was referred her to the mother by the County hospital because the County hospital said they had no room for her son. When speaking to the mother it was obvious the teenager needed to be hospitalized. When I asked her why her son was not in the hospital, she again told me the County hospital gave her my telephone number because they had no more beds for suicidal teenagers. No one in the system cared what she was dealing with and how concerned she was about her son. I also have had the Crises Unit at the County Hospital not to send anyone over because they had no space for suicidal teens. So if I have a suicidal teen, what do I do?

Again, some people might believe these are isolated cases. Sadly these are not isolated cases. I specialize in treating suicidal and bipolar teens. There have been a number of times I have sent a suicidal teen by ambulance from my office to the County hospital only to have the teen released in less than an hour because the hospital had no beds. I had one person on the Psychiatric Crises Unit tell me on the telephone unless the person had a shotgun in their mouth not to send them to the Hospital because they had no beds for suicidal teens.

Now, some of you may assume the situation would be different if the teen had private insurance because I have been referring to the County Hospital. If you are thinking having private insurance would make a difference, you are wrong. I have had many private insurance companies deny my request to authorize additional therapy sessions for a suicidal teenager. When I remind the insurance that the teen is suicidal and needs therapy to prevent them from acting on their feeling, they often say to refer them to a community counseling center. When I remind them that most non-profit counseling centers have closed due to the economy, they simply say sorry they have exhausted their benefits and they will no longer cover their treatment.

This puts the therapist in a difficult position. Do you just discharge the teen or do you continue to treat the teen for a low fee or for free? When 1 out of 5 teens have a psychological condition that needs treatment, what do you do when treatment is denied or there are no treatment options? Also, when you examine the results further you find that teens who need therapy but fail to receive it are more likely to get involved with drugs, crime, are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to get pregnant or father a child and that child is more likely to become a foster child. These teens are also more likely to end up on probation, homeless and on welfare.

As a society we do not place much emphasis on mental health care. Mental health care programs are always some of the first programs cut when the budget is cutback. In fact if you look at the recent cut backs due to the Congress not balancing the budget, mental health programs were some of the first programs to be cut.

I find it very interesting that Contra Costa County had enough money to build a new Juvenile Hall, which is three times the size of the old Juvenile Hall, but there was not enough money to fund mental health services which were cut.

We often look at teens who are acting out and blame their parents. We ask why don’t they get their child the help they need? What stops them from helping their teenager? Why is the teen always getting involved with drugs or not going to school? The answer could be because the teen needs mental health care and the parents have been and continue to try to get their teen help but their is no help available. The teen may be acting out because they are tired of asking for help and being in pain so they start looking for the easiest way out of pain.

If we want our teenagers to grow up to become productive members of society, then we need to provide them with the mental health care they need. If we want parents to be responsible parents then we need to provide parents options for how to get their teens help when they ask for it.

What can we do? We can write our Congressmen and Senators and demand that they fund community mental health centers. We need more mental health clinics. We don’t need an useless wall on the Southern border.

We can also demand that private insurance companies be required to offer teenagers and provide their families adequate mental health benefits based on what professional therapists are recommending. The professional treating the child knows what the child needs not some clerical worker with a Bachelors degree who is answering phone calls at the insurance company.

In short, if we want our teenagers to survive their teen years we all need to act together and demand that our children receive the treatment they need and deserve. Private insurance companies make huge profits and drive the cost of health care up based on how they do business. If we don’t start to speak up for our kids, they will never receive the care they need. Look at your next pay stub and look at how much you pay for health insurance and compare that to the benefits you receive.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.