Georgia HOPE is currently providing Mental Health and Substance Use services throughout the state of Georgia via TeleMental Health for children, adults, individuals and families. If you, your child, or someone you know, are interested in services, you can submit a referral online to us or call 706-279-0405.

If you’re interested in learning more about our services, please contact us here.

#HOPEisHere

What Is a Traumatic Event?

A traumatic event is a scary, dangerous, or violent event that possess a threat to a child’s life. Witnessing a traumatic event that threatens life or physical security of a loved one can also be traumatic. This is particularly important for young children as their sense of safety depends on the perceived safety of those around them.

Traumatic experiences can bring out strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. Children may feel scared, helpless or overwhelmed.

Even though adults work hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family (such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence) or from within the family, such as domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one.

What Experiences Might Be Traumatic?

  • Bullying
  • Family or community violence
  • Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse and neglect
  • Natural and technological disasters
  • Sudden or violent loss of a loved one
  • Serious accidents or life-threatening illness
  • Military family-related stressors (e.g., deployment, parental loss or injury)

Prevalence of Traumatic Exposure & Symptoms

In a nationally representative survey of 12- to 17-year-old youth, 8 percent reported a lifetime prevalence of sexual assault, 17 percent reported physical assault, and 39 percent reported witnessing violence. Among 536 elementary and middle school children surveyed in an inner city community, 30 percent had witnessed a stabbing and 26 percent had witnessed a shooting Among middle and junior high school students in an urban school system, 41 percent reported witnessing a stabbing or shooting in the past year. (source)

In a community sample of older adolescents, 14.5 percent of those who had experienced a serious trauma developed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). A recent review of research on children exposed to specific traumas found wide ranges in rates of PTSD: 20 percent to 63 percent in survivors of child maltreatment, 12 percent to 53 percent in the medically ill. 5 percent to 95 percent in disaster survivors. Based upon data from a variety of sources, a conservative annual cost of child abuse and neglect is an estimated $103.8 billion, or $284.3 million per day (in 2007 values). http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/facts-and-figures https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources//impact_of_complex_trauma.pdf

Things to look for with traumatized kids:

  • Anxiety, fear & worry about safety and others
  • Changes in behavior
  • Discomfort with or avoiding feelings
  • Trouble with trust and perceptions of others
  • Over- or under-reacting to bells, physical contact, doors slamming,
  • sirens, sudden movements
  • Repetitive thoughts and comments about death or dying
  • Heightened difficulty with authority, redirection, or criticism

Things to Remember with Traumatized Kids :

  • Be aware of BOTH those youth who act out AND those who are quiet.
  • Anniversaries of the event or media reports may act as reminders to
    the adolescent, causing a recurrence of symptoms, feelings, and
    behaviors.

The Importance of Relationships:

“Trauma and our response to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships. Whether people have survived an earthquake or have been repeatedly sexually abused, what matters most is how those experiences affect their relationships – to their loved ones, to themselves and to the world….As a result, recovery from trauma and neglect is also all about relationships – rebuilding trust, regaining confidence, returning to a sense of security and reconnecting to love….Healing and recovery are impossible – even with the best
medications and therapy in the world – without lasting, caring connections to others.” – Bruce Perry (The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog, pp. 231-232, emphasis added)

Things to Remember:

  • Healing from trauma is best done in the context of relationships.
  • So the best thing you can do is to be there, listen, and support them.
  • Take care of yourself!
  • If you notice that you feel overwhelmed or triggered by what you’re hearing,
    ask for help!
  • Don’t try to do it all on your own.
  • Referrals to professionals can be helpful supplements to the relationships you
    have with these youth.
  • Take a break!

What Resources Are Available?

Trauma is real but it doesn’t have to secure a child’s fate.

Resources available in Georgia

  • Community-based counseling
    • Community Service Boards (CSB)
    • Private Providers (i.e. Georgia HOPE)
    • Care Management Entities (CME)
    • Types: CORE, DFCS-contracted, IFI, wrap-around
  • Private Practice Providers
  • Child Advocacy Centers
  • Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners
  • Medical Doctors (Pediatricians)

Example of Community Interventions – Special Programs at Georgia HOPE:

Types of Services

  • Individual Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Skills-building (i.e., CSI)
  • Parent Training
  • Medication Management
  • Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)

Great Resources Available to You:

Georgia HOPE is here for you and your family during, always. Whether it’s providing tips through our blog and social media channels or online family therapy. If there is anything we can do to help you and your family, please feel free to reach out to us! HOPE is here.

April is Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month, a time to act together to raise awareness and empower people across the nation to play a role in making great childhoods happen. In a time of physical distancing, we encourage you to keep the messages of child abuse prevention month strong in alternative ways as well as connecting with one another through positive messages, virtual hugs, text, FaceTime, and even to just offer emotional support is important during these times.  

Here’s some great resources to get involved and take a stand for child abuse prevention month:

What’s the Blue Pinwheel? 

Pinwheels for Prevention


Pinwheels for Prevention® is a national public awareness campaign during Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAP Month) every April, designed by Prevent Child Abuse America to communicate efforts and change the way states think about prevention. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia (PCA GA) encourages community activities and the support of public policies that prioritize healthy child development and child abuse prevention right from the start!

The classic blue and silver Pinwheels for Prevention® are available for purchase through PCA Georgia’s online store. You can download a pinwheel coloring sheet that is great for children of all ages. For older children, download instructions on how to make your own paper pinwheel

Did you know Georgia HOPE mental health and substance use services are available even during COVID-19?

We are offering several different types of groups for children, adolescents, and adults via TeleMental Health.

If you or your child is experiencing sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, or any other mental health symptoms, please know that there is help. Simply contact Georgia HOPE at (706) 279-0405 or https://gahope.org/make-a-referral.

#HOPEisHere 

Supporting your Child in Adjusting to a New “Temporary Normal”

The last few weeks for many families have been spent making sure basic needs are acquired, accepting the need to change most plans for an uncertain amount of time, and overall just wrapping minds around our current status. There is a range of feelings regarding school being canceled, parents losing jobs, and the possible illness of family members and friends which make for stressful topics to address with any child who inevitably feels the change in tone from all. These are not topics to avoid though but to address with age appropriate explanation and support. Below are some tips on supporting your child through their uncertainties while coping with your own: 

1. Do not fear talking with your child in an age appropriate manner about Covid-19 and some of the fear around the virus.

By now there are many resources available to aid in doing this. Children are often more perceptive to the feelings and tone of their surroundings than we realize. Ignoring the issue does not eliminate the feelings it creates.  Here are some resources to help in doing this: 

2. Make sure as a parent you are participating in self-care and taking steps to manage your own stress.

Practice the saying “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer” from the Child Parent Relationship Therapy Manual written by Sue Bratton, Gary Landreth, Theresa Kellam, & Sandra Blackard. We want to understand and be with our child during hard times but not let their fear and anxiety during a situation raise ours and vice versa.

3. Practice using Validation when speaking with your child about their fears.

Validation is not confirmation, yet a way to communicate understanding to your child and further connection.  Examples of this may look like, “I could see how you would feel that way.” “I understand how that is hard to think about.” According to Miller, Glinski, Woodberry, Mitchell, and Indik (2002), there are six levels of validation: (https://www.goodtherapy.org/Validation )

  • Listen – ex:“I hear you”
  • Reflection – ex: “ I hear you saying you are really worried about our safety right now” 
  • Empathize – ex: “I understand how you may feel that way with all the changes happening right now.” 
  • Acknowledge Reasons for Behavior – ex: “I understand why it has been hard for you to sleep without answers to your questions.” 
  • Acknowledge Courage- ex: “It takes allot of courage for you to continue trusting that we will all get through this hard time.” 

4. Use this time to create a new schedule that fits your family’s needs.

Children tend to function best, especially in times of uncertainty, with a schedule of things they know they can count on. Mealtimes outlined, learning time, reading time, quiet time and outside time (weather allowing) scheduled for their new routine. Let them know they can count on you to make sure certain these scheduled events happen daily. 

5. Take advantage of the many resources out there to keep the environment fun and light hearted.

These are all resources one may not have been able to take advantage of previously. Below are a few gathered from Georgia HOPE’s Wellness Coordinator, Jana Clift: 

In conclusion, know that we at Georgia HOPE are still here to offer the extra support for parents, children and families that may be needed during this atypical time!! Please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can walk beside you as you navigate your New Temporary Normal.  #HOPEisHere         

Written by: Jennifer Cooper MS, LPC, RPT, NCC 

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

With schools being cancelled for the rest of the year, it can feel overwhelming for both parents and kids. That’s why we’ve put together some of our top educational resources from toddlers to K-12. Check out our resource list below and reach out to HOPE with any questions, we’re always here.

COVID-19

Toddlers

Reading

Speech

K-12

Conflict Resolution:

Social Emotional Learning Stories:

Emotional Regulation & Mental Health:

Social Skills:

Financial Life skills: 

Great resources of all kinds:

FREE WEBSITES

Download the Educational Resources PDF below:

#HOPEisHERE

Parenting Tip: Substance Use Prevention During COVID-19

Anyone else feeling the stress of homeschooling right now? I know I’m not alone in that! What about stressors of having to work from home with kids there, losing a job, not having access to valuable resources, worrying about medical issues? 

Many parents, guardians and adolescents are facing a big change in their lives right now…being stuck at home – unable to go to work, school, attend social gatherings or be out in the community. Not only have our days changed but big life events have been cancelled and futures are uncertain. What might be some negative things that you and your teen experience during the COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing guidelines that have disrupted normal routines? Fear, Stress, Boredom/Freedom (lack of supervision), Loss, Trauma. 

So why is it important that we take careful thought and action during this adjustment period? Because when any of the above negative thoughts, emotions or situations occur, it can lead to substance use problems.

Let’s start with the basics: why do people begin using drugs or alcohol?

  • To feel good – most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure (stimulants produce “highs” followed by feelings of power, self-confidence and increased energy: opiates produce euphoria followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction) 
  • To feel better – to lessen feelings of pain (injury or chronic medical condition) and distress (social anxiety, stress, and depression)
  • To do better – pressure to chemically enhance or improve their cognitive or athletic performance 
  • Curiosity and “because others are doing it” – engage in risky behavior to impress friends and express freedom from guardians or social rules (strong influence of peer pressures where adolescents are particularly vulnerable) 

* Children and adolescents are at a vulnerable age as early use increases the chances of developing an addiction

How can we effectively cope with these unique stressors to protect our teens from substance use?

As I provide some education about the risk and protective factors for substance use and associated resources, know that risk and protective factors associated with substance use are common across multiple mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.). 

Here are the main risk factors for early substance use as well as some tips, resources and interventions for these risks:

  • Lack of parental supervision – This often leads kids to hang out with older individuals and to be exposed to more dangerous environments. Here’s a helpful resource on the power of parental supervision
  • Academic problems – Online tutoring: keep them learning.
  • Undiagnosed mental health problems – If you suspect your child is dealing with mental health issues, please contact a mental health professional. Georgia HOPE would love to help!
  • Peer pressure/peer substance use – Talk with your child about peer pressure and know their friends. Here’s a great resource around content preventing substance use in teens.
  • Drug availability – A child’s first experience with substances is usually in the home, so safely dispose of prescription medicines.  Here’s a resource on safely disposing your prescription medicines.  
  • Poverty – Find a free and reduced-price prosocial activities for children.
  • Peer rejection – Ask your child if they are being bullied; ensure that they are having ongoing positive social interactions.
  • Child abuse or neglect – Take care of your own mental health as parental mental health and substance use issues are the number one reason for child welfare reports.
  • Genetic predisposition and parental exposure – If your family has a history of substance use, talk to your child about predisposition and the probability of addiction from experimentation 
  • Trauma – If your child has experienced something traumatic, ensure they can process it with a mental health therapist.

Here are the main protective factors and some tips, resources and interventions to build these protective factors:

  • Parent-child attachment – Foster a strong relationship with your child.
  • Commitment to school – Make education and learning a priority (help them with their new way of doing school at home, go on virtual vacations like visiting a museum from home with a free virtual tour). Here’s a resource of an out of school toolkit.
  • Family values – Have family meetings and create family values together.
  • Expectations of future career – Tell your child about the skills and talents they have and help them grow an utilize those abilities.
  • Positive peer group – Provide opportunities for them to create friendships with other families that hold similar values as your own.
  • Positive self-esteem and good mental health – Speak life, hope and kindness in your home and to your children. Help them learn positive coping mechanisms. Here’s a resource on how to talk with your teen.
  • Extra-curricular/prosocial activities – Assist in building character, talents, interests, positive peer groups and prosocial behaviors.
  • Positive parenting: Here is a good outline for positive parenting practices to prevent youth drug use:
    1. Relationship: Meet basic needs and develop close relationship.
    2. Role model: Be a good role model when it comes to drinking, taking medicine and handling stress.
    3. Know your child: Know your child’s risk level and know your child’s friends.
    4. Monitor, supervise and set boundaries: Remember that you are the parent and not the friend.
    5. Talk to them: Have ongoing conversations and provide information about drugs and alcohol

Hot Topics

  1. Social Distancing: I’ve heard from a lot of parents who are struggling to force their teen or young adult to quarantine and practice social distancing. Here is a great resource to help with your teen understand social distancing:  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_help_teens_shelter_in_place.
  2. Vaping: There is currently an adolescent vaping trend that can impact peer groups. Smoking drugs increases addictive potential as it enters the brain in seconds producing a powerful rush of pleasure.
  3. COVID-19 and Substance Use: Substance use takes a negative toll on your health and weakened immune systems are more likely to contract and have complications from disease, including COVID-19. Social practices connected with drug use increase exposure to infections pathogens, including COVID-19P. Inhaling smoke of any kind can be damaging to your lungs and COVID-19 is a respiratory disease which impairs breathing.

Georgia HOPE is here for you and your family during, always. Whether it’s providing tips through our blog and social media channels or online family therapy. If there is anything we can do to help you and your family, please feel free to reach out to us! HOPE is here.

HOPE is here.