By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialsit)

What are the facts?

  • 1 in 7 children experienced abuse of neglect within the last year (CDC, 2022). 
  • In 2020 Georgia ranked 38th in the nation for child well-being (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Types of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse: injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker other than by accidental means​
  • Neglect: parent or caretaker allows a child to experience avoidable suffering or fails to provide basic essentials for physical, social, and emotional development​
  • Emotional Abuse: parent or caretaker creates a negative emotional atmosphere for the child ​
  • Sexual Abuse: any adult or older or more powerful child employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in any form of sexual intercourse​
  • Endangering a Child: a person intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence, and/or a person knows that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Warning Signs of Abuse

Mayo Clinic notes multiple signs and symptoms of abuse.

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
  • Attempts at running away
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

What can I do?

As a mandated reporter, you are required to make a DFCS report. According to GA law, failure to report abuse can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

How to Report:

Child abuse and/or neglect reports are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A report can be submitted on online via the portal or by paper and faxed in.

1.855.GACHILD (+1 855-422-4453)

Resources:

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services: https://dfcs.georgia.gov

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

http://www.pcageorgiahelpline.org

Self-harm: this is when one hurts themselves as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings.

Some individuals self-harm as a way to:

-express their feelings when it is hard to put into words

-change emotional pain into physical pain

-reduce overwhelming feelings

-punish themselves for their feelings and experiences

-express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life

Ways individuals self-harm: 

-cutting yourself

-over-eating or under-eating

-biting yourself

-hitting yourself or walls

-pulling your hair

-picking or scratching at your skin

How to overcome self-harm:

  • Learn to recognize triggers: triggers are people, places, situations, sensations, or events that cause specific thoughts or feelings. 
  • Become aware of the urge to self-harm: being able to recognize urges helps an individual take steps towards reducing or stopping self-harm. 

Urges can include:

-strong emotions like sadness or anger

-racing heart or feelings of heaviness

-disconnection from yourself or a loss of sensation

-unhealthy decisions, like working too hard to avoid feelings 

-repetitive thoughts about harming yourself

  • Identify distractions: identify distractions that can help distract the urge to self-harm. 
  • Keep a diary: a diary can help keep track and understand self-harming behaviors. This is useful to keep track of what occurred before, during, and after self-harming. After a period of time, the diary can help spot patterns of self-harming behaviors (Melinda, 2022). 
  • Use coping techniques: to help overcome self-harm, an alternate coping skill needs to take its place. 
  • If self-harm is to express pain and intense emotion: paint, draw, journal, write a poem, listen to music
  • If self-harm is to calm or soothe: take a hot bath, pet an animal, use a warm blanket, massage your neck, hands, and feet, listen to calming music
  • If self-harm is to disconnect or numb pain: call a friend, take a cold shower, hold ice in hand, chew something with a strong taste
  • If self-harm is to release tension or vent anger: exercise, punch a cushion, squeeze a stress ball, rip something up, make noises with instrument, bang pots and pans
  • Seek professional help: trained professionals can help direct towards overcoming cutting or other self-harming habits. 

Client Support Specialist: a CSS can help identify triggers and develop coping skills.

Therapy: a therapist can help explore past or current trauma that may be triggering self-harming behaviors and can assist in helping develop coping skills (Self-harm, 2020). 

Resources

Melinda. (2022, February 7). Cutting and self-harm. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

Self-harm 2020 – mind. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5783/self-harm-2020.pdf

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression), is a mental disorder that causes and unusual shift in mood, with extreme highs and lows.

Types of Bipolar:

  • Bipolar I 

Having at least one manic episode followed by hypomanic or major depressive episode. Manic episodes lasting at least 7 days or needing immediate hospital care 

  • Bipolar II

Having at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic, but no manic episodes

  • Cyclothymic

Having periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Types of Episodes:

  • Manic

A manic episode is characterized as at least one week of being extremely high-spirited or irritable most of the days, possessing more energy than usual, and at least 3 of the following: 

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Fast speech
  • Uncontrollable racing thoughts/quickly changing topics while speaking
  • Distractibility
  • Increased activity 
  • Increased risky behaviors 

Some people in manic episodes report psychotic features, such as false beliefs and/or hallucinations.

  • Hypomanic

Hypomanic is characterized with less severe manic symptoms only 4 days in a row versus a week.

  • Major Depressive

Major depressive is characterized by at least 2 weeks where at least 5 of the following symptoms present:

  • Intense sadness or despair
  • Loss of interest in activities the person once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Increased or decreased sleep
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Restlessness or slowed speech or movement
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment:

Bipolar Disorder comes with lifelong treatment. Medication is used to balance and stabilize mood. Along with medication, therapy/counseling has proven to be helpful with managing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/bipolar-disorders/what-are-bipolar-disorders

Self-esteem is defined as the overall opinion of yourself. This is determined by the feelings you have towards your abilities and your limitations. Everyone has a self-esteem, but each person differentiates between low or just right self-esteem. 

Low self-esteem is characterized as ones focus on perceived weaknesses and faults and they give no or little lack of credit to their skills or assets. 

Healthy self-esteem is characterized as a good balance and accurate view of self and has a good opinion of abilities but also recognizes their faults. 

Most individuals fall between the range of low and healthy self-esteem, but there are a significant number of individuals who battle with low self-esteem. 

So, how can we boost self-esteem so that healthy self-esteem is attainable? 

Here are four steps to take to achieve healthy self-esteem:

  1. Identify troubling conditions: think about the conditions or situation that tend to deflate your self-esteem. 

Some common influences of self-esteem can be:

-Your thoughts and perceptions

-How others react to you

-Experiences at home, school, work, and in the community

-Illnesses, disability, or injury

-Age

-Role and status in society

-Media messages 

  1. Become aware of thoughts: Once you have identified the troubling condition(s), pay attention to your thoughts about them. 

Ask yourself, is what I am thinking true? Would you say these thoughts to a friend? If the thoughts you are having is something that you would not say to a friend then you should not say them to yourself. 

  1. Challenge negative thinking: Initial thoughts may not be the only way to view a situation. 

You want to ask yourself if your thoughts line up with the facts of the situation? Is there other explanation to the situation other than my initial thought? 

  1. Adjust your thoughts and beliefs: Replace negative or inaccurate thoughts with accurate and constructive thoughts.

-Adjust your negative thoughts to positive ones

-Use encouraging words to yourself 

-Forgive yourself if applicable 

Once healthy self-esteem has been attained then we can enjoy the benefits. 

Benefits of healthy self-esteem include: 

  • Able to form secure and honest relationships
  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical with yourself
  • Resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks 

And most importantly to feel good, secure, and increased self-worth (Mayo, 2020). 

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, July 14). Does your self-esteem need a boost? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-esteem/art-20047976

Over 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with more than 800,000 enslaved each year (Human Trafficking, 2021). In the United States, there have been 11,193 reported cases in 2021. Since 2007, there have been a total of 5,557 reported cases in the state of Georgia. That is around 396 human trafficking victims per year in Georgia alone (Georgia, 2021).  

Human Trafficking: is defined as the recruitment and movement of people using deception and coercion for exploitation.  

Over half of human trafficked survivors receive mental health services. The most common mental health problems associated with trafficking can be: 

-Depression 

-Anxiety 

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

-Self-harm 

-Suicide attempt 

These mental disorders are influenced by pre-trafficking abuse, the duration of exploitation, violence, restriction from movement, a significant number of unmet needs, and no social support.  

As a mental health provider, these are the things to look for in potential trafficking victims: 

  • The client discloses trafficking to a mental health provider 
  • The client has signs of physical and psychological trauma  
  • The client is unable to speak the local language 
  • The client is unable to provide essential identity documents (license, passport, birth certificate) 

Mental health care workers who work with trafficked victims should: 

  • These clients should be routinely asked about current or past experiences of abuse.  
  • Risk Assessment  
  • Safety Plan that includes the risk of re-trafficking 
  • Should explore past emotions such as fearfulness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, anger, easily startled, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.  
  • The treatment for clients who have survived human trafficking should be in line with those clients who have experienced trauma. Evidence-based interventions for PTSD or trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy can help treat survivors of human trafficking. Along with assistance in social, financial, and legal support, help with regulating emotions and coping with dissociation (Altun et al., 2017).

References 

Altun, S., Abas, M., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L. M., & Oram, S. (2017, February 1). Mental health and human trafficking: Responding to survivors’ needs. BJPsych international. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618827/

Georgia. National Human Trafficking Hotline. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/georgia

Human trafficking. Human Rights First. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/topics/human-trafficking

As the year ends, we start to think about the resolutions we want to set for the upcoming year. These resolutions or goals may be for physical health, new habits, finances, or focus on your mental health. Whatever the goal may be, making significant long-lasting change is difficult. When we fail to achieve these goals the first month of the year, we can increase our anxiety and become frustrated with ourselves.  

This New Year’s, we should set realistic, small, manageable goals for the New Year. The goals that we set should be thought-out and prepared with a plan to achieve this goal. A great way to achievable goals for this upcoming year is to use SMART goals.  

S –Specific  

M –Measurable  

A –Achievable 

R –Realistic  

T –Time-Bound 

Specific: Be specific in what you want to accomplish. Use who, what, when, why, and where when thinking about achieving your goal. This is the mission statement for your goal. 

Measurable: Make your goal measurable to track your progress. Ask yourself what metric system can be used to measure your goal? If your goal is a task that may take a few months to accomplish, then set milestones along the way to encourage the completion of the goal.  

Achievable: Set your goal to be achievable and focus on the importance of the goal. Ask yourself what is required to achieve this goal? How will you accomplish this goal? Remember that the goal is to motivate yourself and not discourage you.  

Realistic: Choose a realistic and attainable goal. If your goal is unrealistic such as learning a new language in one week, you are most likely setting yourself up for disappointment. You want to set a realistic goal that you can meet and increase your motivation to accomplish this goal.  

Time-Bound: Provide yourself with a realistic time frame to achieve your goal. If you allow yourself plenty of time to achieve your goal with small target dates along the way, this will increase motivation to meet your target goal (Borenstein, 2020).  

We want to set realistic, small, manageable goals to set ourselves up for success. After deciding on your SMART goal, we want to take the following steps: 

  • Start small: Setting a goal that you can keep.  
  • Change one behavior at a time: Do not get overwhelmed by trying to achieve your goal all at once. If your goal is to stop drinking soda, then start by cutting out one soda a day for a week rather than completely stopping drinking soda.  
  • Talk about your goal: Talk about your goals with family or friends. To help achieve your goal seek out an accountability partner.  
  • Do not beat yourself up: If you happen to take a minor setback, do not beat yourself up over it. Do not give up completely, and remember that perfection is not achievable. Resolve and recover from your mistakes and get back to attaining your goal.  
  • Ask for support: If you become overwhelmed or unable to achieve your goal, consider seeking professional help if needed. Therapy and Client Support Specialists can help you set realistic goals and help you build skills to attain those goals, along with helping you address emotions and unhealthy behaviors that may occur from not being able to achieve a specific goal (American Psychological Association, 2019).  

Resources 

American Psychological Association. (2019). Making your New Year’s resolution stick. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/behavioral-health/new-year-resolutions

Borenstein, J. (2020, March 19). Setting Mental Health Goals for the New Year. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/setting-mental-health-goals-new-year

At Georgia HOPE, we believe in the strengthening of the family unit. We do so by providing affordable services to individuals and their families. More specifically, we offer parent skills training, individual/family counseling, and group counseling. With these services, we can assist you in meeting identified goals for yourself and your family. Whatever your need may be, we are here for your benefit. Georgia HOPE can also connect you to resources within your community based on need. For more information regarding our services, visit https://gahope.org/our-services/

Spending quality time with family is an inaugural part of child and adolescent development. Did you know that spending 15 short minutes a day with your child can lead to happier and healthier well-being? It can be as simple as watching a movie, playing a game, or baking cookies. Studies have shown that children are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use when they have more quality time with family. Children who engage in quality time regularly are less likely to experience behavioral issues at home and school. Children who have spent time with their families are more confident in themselves to succeed mentally and emotionally. 


Reference: https://extension.sdstate.edu/why-spending-quality-time-your-children-important

Written by: Taylor Luczynski

PTSD also known as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological disorder that happens when one has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Traumatic events include: a serious accident, war/combat, rape, natural disaster, a terrorist act, threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.  

There are four main categories for PTSD symptoms, however, they can vary in severity:

  1. Intrusive thoughts like flashbacks, repeated, involuntary memories, stressful dreams. These can happen and make one feel as though they are re-living the event.
  2. Avoiding people, situations, objects, and places that remind one of the traumatic event. The avoidance can be so profound that one will resist thinking or even talking about it.
  3. Thoughts and mood will be distorted and often hard to remember that may be important aspects of the traumatic event. These distortions can make it difficult for one to experience positive emotions, have any interest in previously enjoyed activities, or feel detached from others.
  4. Distortions in reactivity and arousal such as irritability and anger outbursts, acting in self-destructive ways, being suspicious of one’s surroundings, easily startled, or difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Information found and provided by:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

School Intervention:

Dr. Sheryl Kataoka provided an intervention for teachers, school staff and adults to help children and students that experience PTSD symptoms while at school. This intervention is a part of Psychological First Aid for Schools.

Step 1: Listen

During step one, teachers or adult school staff should provide students with an opportunity to share their experiences and express feelings of worry, anxiety, fear or other concerns about their safety. Speaking with students can occur one-on-one if a teacher and student find themselves in a relatively private place to talk. The adult should convey interest, empathy and availability, and let students know they are ready to listen. The teacher can open the discussion by acknowledging what has happened and letting students know that it is not only acceptable to share their experiences and establishing that the school is a safe place to do this.

Adults should avoid making judgments and predictions, such as “You’ll get over it,” or “Only the strong survive.” It is important to validate the students’ life experiences without probing students for more details than they are willing to share. Forcing students to go over their experiences in too much detail, especially immediately after the crisis, can re-traumatize the student and may cause more emotional and psychological distress to themselves and to others who may hear additional details about the event.

Step 2: Protect

For this second step, adults should try to reestablish students’ feelings of both physical and emotional safety. They can honestly inform students about events surrounding the crisis, such as sharing with them information about what is being done in the community and school to keep everyone safe. This information should be provided in a developmentally and age-appropriate manner. In the classroom, or around school, adults should maintain structure, stability and predictability, and make efforts to reestablish routines, expectations and rules. For example, bell schedules should return to normal as soon as possible. If shortened days are required, keep them to a minimum. Traumatized students may experience more confusion when disruption comes to their school routines, including after school activities, by too many changes to their regular schedules. Concerns about separation from parents or caregivers are frequently children’s paramount concern. Parents can help stabilize children’s reactions by resuming mealtime, homework, and bedtime routines as well as community or church activities disrupted by the crisis or emergency. It is also important at this phase to protect students from further physical harm or psychological trauma which can occur through their viewing or hearing repetitive media reports on the incident or through bullying by peers at school.

Step 3: Connect

One of the most common reactions to trauma or fear is emotional and social isolation and the sense of loss of social supports. It can occur automatically, without students or adults realizing that they are withdrawing from their teachers or peers, respectively. The third step is to help students reestablish their normal social relationships and stay connected to others in order to experience social support. Restoring and building connections promotes stability, recovery and predictability in students’ lives. A student’s classroom and school is a safe place to begin restoring normalcy during a crisis or disaster. Through the eyes of children, adults can identify the “systems of care” that are part of their everyday life, move from beyond the classroom and school to the family and then to other community anchors including preexisting faith and cultural supports. This objective serves to help students reconstitute the relationships between the key community systems or “anchors” in their lives. Teachers or other school staff that reach out and check in with students on a regular basis can do this reconstitution, sometimes several times a day Students also can be encouraged to interact, share “recovery” activities and take on team projects with other students, friends or teachers. With this type of interaction, students feel the caring and consistent support of adults in their lives, even during a difficult time of coping.

Step 4: Model Calm and Optimistic Behavior

Adults can model calm and optimistic behavior in many ways, including the following:

  • Maintain level emotions • and reactions with students to help them achieve balance
  • Take constructive actions to assure student safety, such as engaging in a safety drill to remind them of how to stay safe, or planning a project that improves the physical or social climate of the school
  • Express positive thoughts for the future, like “Recovery from this disaster may take some time, but we’ll work on improving the conditions at our school every day;” and
  • Help students to cope with day-to-day challenges by thinking aloud with them about ways they can solve their problems.

Step 5: Teach

To support and facilitate the coping process, it is important to help students understand the range of normal stress reactions. School counselors, nurses, psychologists or social workers can take on this task. They can help students become familiar with the range of normal reactions that can occur immediately after a traumatic event or disaster and teach relevant coping and problem-solving skills.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3287974/

HOPE is Here

If you’re struggling with PTSD or would like to refer a student or someone you know, we’d love to speak to you further. HOPE is here. Contact us today.

COVID-19 has changed our world. These changes can be challenging for many and in some cases can impact overall
functioning at home, school, or both for children and teens. 

Below are some questions to ask yourself about how well students in your class are adjusting to these new changes.

If you selected at least one of the items on this checklist, the student could benefit from mental health services. Make a referral by completing our online enrollment form.

Teachers aren’t immune to all of these difficult changes. HOPE is here for you too! Affordable self-pay rates are available. Call 706-279-0405 ext 149, email inquiries@gahope.org, or contact us online to learn more or get started today,

virtual learning

There’s a new urgency to explore online educational tools and best practices because of the coronavirus pandemic for virtual learning. This is a “new normal” for everyone and really there’s nothing about all of this virtual schooling during a pandemic crisis that is “normal.” We’ve put together 6 helpful tips to help engage your kids with virtual, online learning.

6 tips to help engage kids with virtual learning:

1. Setting Up a Good Routine is Key

Without the same need to get ready for a normal school day, and with everyone being home all the time (for the most part), it’s all too easy to let go what used to be normal routines. But having a routine is helpful for kids. Come up with a routine and stick to it, including a time for going to bed and getting up in the morning, breakfast, snack time and other meals, free play, outdoor activities, etc. The daily routine doesn’t have to be the same as it was during the pre-COVID school year, but it needs to be regular and you have to stick to it. This is really important for kids of all ages.

2. Setting up Devices & Space for Virtual Learning

Your child needs a computer or type of laptop / good tablet for virtual leaning. A phone isn’t the right tool for online learning. If providing a computer / good tablet is an issue for your family, contact your school because the school district is responsible for ensuring students who need equipment get it. But there is also the matter of internet access. Not every household has a reliable internet connection available. Again, if this is an issue for your household, contact your school to see what’s possible. There have been a lot of creative workarounds to these issues, so it’s likely a solution can be found.

As for the “space” where learning will take place. Put a little design effort into creating the right virtual education site in your home. Lying in bed or on the couch with a laptop or tablet is not sustainable or productive. Your child needs to sit comfortably and upright in a supportive chair with their device in front of them. We’ve seen some pretty creative ideas like the ones below of creating virtual learning “pods” in the home. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

source


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

source

3. Creating Online Safety 

Kids at home with virtual learning are spending a lot of time on the internet. This puts them at even greater risk or all kinds of online problems, including cyber bullying and harassment, sexual predation and exposure to pornography,  fraud and identity theft, or getting hacked. As parents, you should have access to all their different online accounts, meaning you have their login credentials and can go in and actively monitor who they’re connected with and what kinds of interactions they are having online. Talk to them about why this is important and how they should always immediately come to you for anything.

4. Maintaining Focus & Motivation 

Kids may be feeling “down” during this “new normal” of virtual learning. Kids miss being with other kids and their friends, school, sports, etc. It may be hard to feel motivated for online learning and to focus with all of these feelings and changes. Plus there’s even more distractions at home and online learning. 

You can help your kids maintain focus and motivation during online learning hours by once again creating a routine, monitoring cellphone and technology usage outside of online learning, and promoting positive attitudes around the house as much as possible.

5. Creating Interaction 

For creating interaction, you can set up virtual playdates or online group homework or study-buddy sessions. Set up playdates outside at the park with small groups. Peer interaction is a valuable benefit some finding ways to incorporate that weekly is important. 

6. Monitoring  Online Learning

Nothing about all of this virtual schooling during a pandemic crisis is normal for anyone. The most important thing you can do is monitor how your kids are doing with this new form of education. Observe them. See how engaged they are. Are they taking notes? Are they asking questions? Are they sad? Are they angry? Are they just zoning out? Identify the hang-ups and challenges and then think about what you can do to help them through those. It’s not normal and everyone has a little more stress right now. It’s important to be flexible and forgiving, and as always HOPE is here.

Georgia HOPE specializes in providing quality mental health services for children, adults, individuals and families in the state of Georgia. To learn more, enroll, or refer someone to us, contact us below: