|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Mental Health Articles
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Exercise regularly to help maintain physical as well as mental health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This May, join us in celebrating National Mental Health Month by raising awareness about mental health issues and helping everyone understand the benefits of treating mental health conditions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 out of 4 adults in America suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. This means that mental health issues affect us all, either directly and indirectly. This month, commit to learning more about our country’s mental health challenges and to taking steps in your own life to work towards wellness.
The focus of this year’s campaign is wellness. Many times, when confronted with mental health conditions, our focus narrows to getting healthy. While this is an important part of the process, the goal for every American is not only to achieve a healthy mental state, but to maintain that mental health as well. By shifting the focus from getting better to staying better, the campaign aims to help everyone, even those without mental health issues, understand how important an attitude of wellness is to maintaining both your physical and mental health.
Wellness, like health, can mean different things to different people. At the core, it is the absence of disease but it is also much more than simply not being sick. Wellness is about our overall well-being. It involves more than just our mental health. It is about achieving a state of health physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. It is the tools and techniques we develop that help us overcome adversity, manage change, and recover from illnesses of all kinds. Wellness is about getting healthy and staying that way.
The numbers tell a story that most of us don’t like to hear. No matter how happy we are, how successful we feel, how much money we make, or how healthy we feel today, we are all at risk of developing a mental health disorder. While this may be something we think happens to other people, the truth is that is happens to all of us and the best way to safeguard ourselves is to pay attention to our overall well-being. When we are taking care of ourselves and making sure our most important needs are being met, we are working towards wellness.
The national campaign stresses the following four steps as the key to following your own Pathway to Wellness:
- Eat a balanced diet filled with healthy food and plenty of water.
- Exercise regularly to help combat stress and increase resilience.
- Remember to relax, to laugh, and to let go.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
In addition to these four steps on the Pathway to Wellness, commit to making your mental health as important as your physical health. Make regular mental health checkups part of your overall health management plan and make it a habit to monitor your own mental and emotional well-being.
Take time this month to lend your voice to the awareness campaign and encourage everyone in your life to seek their own Pathway to Wellness.
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
As a parent, there is nothing more frightening than watching your teen struggle and feeling powerless to help them. (Photo credit: merfam)
As parents, there is nothing more frightening than watching our children suffer and struggle, and feeling powerless to help them. When teens are injuring themselves and struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, that powerlessness can feel overwhelming. Too often, parents disregard the signs and ignore what is right in front of them because they don’t know how to help. This “ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away” approach can have serious consequences for their teenager. Other parents see what is going on but don’t know what to do or how to help. The first step in getting your teenager help is to acknowledge that there is a problem. The second step is to find a professional mental health practitioner that can help.
When most people think of getting mental health, they likely envision traditional talk therapy or individual cognitive behavioral therapy, both of which are standard therapeutic approaches used to treat teenagers who are participating in self injuring activities and those who have expressed suicidal thoughts. Both of these approaches can be very effective in dealing with these issues and any underlying issues like depression and anxiety. There is also an emerging approach called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that has is also proving to be very effective at helping teenagers overcome these challenges.
DBT was originally developed as a way to treat women with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It combines individual cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, mindfulness, reality testing, distress tolerance, and the concepts used in assertiveness training. One of the hallmarks of DBT is that the mental health practitioner strives to create a relationship with the teenager that is allied rather than adversarial. In effect, the therapist or counselor acts as an ally, validating feelings and offering acceptance while helping redirect feelings and behaviors that are destructive or harmful.
DBT also uses a combined approach which incorporates both individual therapy sessions and group sessions. The group sessions focus on building a skill set that helps teens in four key areas, regulating emotions, practicing mindfulness, increasing effectiveness, and tolerating distress. One of the reasons DBT can be so effective in helping teens is this two-pronged approach. While the group sessions give teens the skills they need to overcome these challenges and the opportunity to practice utilizing these skills with other teens, the individual sessions ensure emotional issues and suicidal thoughts and tendencies get the attention they need while the teenager is building the skills they need to self-manage.
DBT can help teenagers who are already engaging in self-harm and may also be helpful in preventing self-harm behavior from occurring. By giving teenagers the skills they need to regulate their own emotions, become more resilient in dealing with distressing situations, and embrace a mindfulness approach to their lives, DBT can help troubled teens before they seek relief from maladaptive behaviors. DBT can be effective method for helping those who are already cutting and struggling with suicidal tendencies overcome those challenges as well as a way to prevent these problems before they start.
Monday, May 21st, 2012
Physical fitness is critical to maintaining overall health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
May is National Physical Fitness Month (NPFM) which provides us with a great opportunity to talk about how physical activity, healthy eating habits, and mental health are connected. The purpose of NPFM is to encourage all Americans to pursue a life filled with physical activity and proper nutrition in order to live healthy lives.
Physical fitness and daily activity are critical to maintaining overall health and the need to encourage activity is more true for teenagers today than at any point in the past. Between processed foods, sugary soft drinks, increased use of technology, and a lifestyle that is generally more sedentary than that of generations past, it is no wonder that the obesity rate in teens (and everyone else) is on the rise. The best way to fight this problem is to encourage our teens to adopt a lifestyle that is centered on physical fitness and healthy eating habits.
The benefits of physical activity don’t stop at improving our teenager’s physical health; it can also play a big part in managing mental health. Unlike obesity, physical activity and healthy food aren’t a way to cure or combat some of the most prevalent mental health conditions our teens face, but being active can help alleviate and manage symptoms. Treatment recommendations for depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and ADHD all include physical activity as one of the key components of treatment. When you consider the entire picture, it is easy to see that helping the teenagers in our lives increase their physical activity is a win, win, win.
Here are some great ways to get teenagers involved in more physical activity.
- Make physical activity a priority for your family. Active parents provide great role models for active teenagers.
- Plan family time around active pursuits. By making the time you spend as a family time you spend being active, you are building stronger bodies and stronger bonds.
- Look for physical activities that can be incorporated into your daily routine. For example, if there are places you can walk to, walk instead of driving.
- Plan parties and family gatherings that include physical activity. Setting up a volleyball net at the graduation party or holding a birthday party at a roller rink are great examples of how to make this work.
- Use local resources. If you live somewhere that people love to go hiking, try hiking. If you have access to lakes or rivers, try kayaking.
- Leverage everyone’s interests. If you can find physical activities that are also interesting to your family members it will be easier to incorporate them into your overall routine.
- Keep it simple. Physical activity doesn’t have to involve a ton of equipment or expensive fees. It can be as simple as an after dinner walk, playing Frisbee in the park, or going for a bike ride.
- Pick weatherproof activities. It is definitely easier to be physically active when the weather is right and it’s fun to be outside. But once it gets too hot, too cold, or there is inclement weather, you can get knocked off your routine. Find activities that your family can do together no matter the weather.
Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
This month, people all over the country will be working to spread awareness about mental health issues and the benefits of mental health treatment. At the forefront of this effort is Mental Health America, the oldest community-based network committed to helping people live mentally healthier lives. Since 1949, Mental Health America has been celebrating National Mental Health Month in May and encouraging everyone to become advocates for important changes to mental health policy and to help raise awareness about mental health conditions.
There are two themes selected for this year’s awareness and educational effort that may resonate with parents, teenagers, and families.
The first theme is Healing Trauma’s Invisible Wounds. This part of the campaign focuses on how traumatic events can impact people and the larger community. In many cases, traumatic events can have an overwhelming, often lifelong effect on the physical, emotional, and mental well being of those involved. It isn’t uncommon for survivors and those around them to forget that the impact can be lasting after the exterior wounds have healed. Raising awareness about how significant the impacts can be and how therapy can help is the goal of this part of the campaign.
For parents, understanding that trauma is more than just physical injury and that all trauma can leave lasting damage that needs to be treated can give them the information they need to get help for their child.
Traumatic events come in many shapes and sizes and go far beyond those circumstances that result in physical trauma. According to the Healing Trauma’s Invisible Wounds literature, there are several different kinds of trauma including:
- Interpersonal Violence including physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, and bullying.
- Social Violence including terrorism, war, and living under an oppressive political system. This also includes the trauma experienced by serving in combat.
- Natural Disasters including hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and floods.
- Accidental Causes like automobile accidents, sports injuries, or other serious injuries sustained under accidental circumstances.
- Chronic Social Stress including being a victim of racism, sexism, poverty, or cultural problems.
- Childhood Trauma which includes being neglected, having a parent who is an alcoholic or drug addict, living in a home where domestic violence is present, the loss of a parent, and being the victim of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.
Healing the wounds that traumatic events leave behind is critical in order to help survivors develop healthy coping mechanisms and behaviors.
The second theme is Do More for 1 in 4. This part of the campaign seeks to increase awareness about the prevalence of mental health conditions amongst U.S. adults. This call to action aims to inspire people to help the 1 out of every 4 adults who live with a diagnosable mental health condition to get the treatment they need and live the life they deserve.
For parents, understanding how mental health conditions can impact their teens and adolescents, and being open to getting adolescents the help they need early on in their life, can drastically change the course of their lives.
Join us in celebrating Mental Health Month and get involved. Visit Mental Health America for more information.
Thursday, March 1st, 2012
These tips are adapted from Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby (HCI Books)
by Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei
Take weight out of the equation. This might seem like a radical suggestion considering that pregnancy weight gain and post-baby weight loss are such hot topics of conversation among mothers-to-be and new moms. To add fuel to the fire, weigh-ins are often the center of every visit to the doctor. But truthfully, there really isn’t any reason you need to keep track of your weight. If you know that it could become an unhealthy fixation, tell your OB or midwife that you prefer not to discuss the number unless it becomes a medical issue. When it is necessary to be weighed, you can step on the scale backwards and remind the physician’s assistant that you don’t want to be told your weight. You’ll discover that there are plenty of other interesting—and more substantive–things about becoming a mother that you can talk about than the number on the scale.
Choose a health care provider who is sensitive to food, weight and body image issues. Most women have struggled with poor body image and many have personal experience with disordered eating. That means we need to find prenatal and postpartum healthcare providers who are knowledgeable and compassionate when it comes to these issues. We’ve heard from women who ended up in the examination room—and sometimes even the delivery room—feeling belittled and unsupported by their own doctors. The best way to avoid this scenario is to push through whatever shame you might be feeling and be upfront with your OB or midwife about your history and your pregnancy-related body image fears. If you’re met with criticism or any other reaction that makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that you are well within your rights to walk out that door and find another doctor who will treat you with more respect. Of those we surveyed, 73% of pregnant women with body image issues and histories of eating disorders and disordered eating said they had not discussed this history with their OBs or midwives. It’s time to break that dangerous silence.
Be aware of the triggers of pregnancy. The incessant counting, comparing, and measuring that happens during those nine months and beyond can tap into some of the very vulnerabilities that are linked to eating disorders and food and weight obsessions. Perfectionism, loss of control, feelings of isolation, and memories of childhood often bubble right to the surface. But if you’re getting the support you need, you’ll have a better chance of weathering those storms without resorting to self-destructive habits. Resist the urge to shut down or close off. Remember that there is nothing shameful about asking for help. It’s the most courageous thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Look at your recovery as an ongoing process that will help you reach your full potential as an individual and as a mother.
Break the cycle of body hatred. Allow yourself to celebrate the fact that your body is working some serious magic right now. Before you get stymied by stretch marks or focused on flabby skin, take time to reflect on how you will teach your child—in your words and in your actions—that you appreciate your body. We have the power to help future generations grow up placing a higher value on good health than on weight and physical appearance. But before we can pass along those positive attitudes, we must first embrace them for ourselves.
Everybody Knows Somebody. Get involved in NEDAwareness Week 2012, February 26- March 3! Visit the NEDAwareness Week homepage under Programs & Events to register today and learn more about how you can do just one thing to help raise awareness about eating disorders and become part of the solution.
National Eating Disorders Helpline: 800 931-2237