What is the stigma behind suicide? Here are a few marked differences in stigmas:

-Stigma: “A Mark that denotes a shameful quality in the individual so marked, or a quality that is considered to be shameful in a certain individual”

-Social Stigma: “Prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given”

-Self Stigma: “Internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination”

(seattleu.edu)

Examples of suicide stigmas – remember that each of these are harmful:

-Asking someone about suicide may plant the idea in their minds (false)

-Suicidal people are fully intent on dying (false)

-Everyone who dies by suicide is depressed (false)

(seattleu.edu)

Stigma can come from many areas of life including family, media, teachers, peers, and more. The reasoning behind why stigma can be so damaging is that it does not promote healthy recovery, it can negatively affect treatment outcomes, and it can negatively affect the perception of self and others. Stigma can be rooted internally and externally, and if not broken or addressed, may cause harm.

How to combat suicide stigma:

-Accept differences in others

-Don’t rely on stereotypes

-Offer a safe space to talk  

Resources:

https://www.seattleu.edu/wellness/mental/stigma/

Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it’s not always easy to build or maintain them. Read below to understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture new ones.

Benefits of Friendships:

-Increase your sense of belonging and purpose

-Boost your happiness and reduce your stress

-Improve your self-confidence and self-worth

-Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or deaths

-Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

-Help put your problems in context to develop a stronger sense of meaning and direction

-Increase feelings of security and help protect against stress

-Ease the emotional impact of difficulties and offer new ideas about tackling them

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support are lower risk of many medical conditions. These include depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. However, keep in mind that although friendship can be a powerful way to support you through all the ups and downs of your life, it’s not a substitute for mental health treatment. If you have emotional experiences that affect your ability to function, consider talking to a licensed mental health professional.

Resources:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/social-support.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/psychological-benefits-of-friendship

Feeling anxious about the first day of school is natural for both children and parents. Supporting your child through this transition from summer time to school time can be tough; however, here are tips and tricks to help overcome those first day nerves and create an easier transition. 

Have a Consistent Sleep Routine in Place

-Having a consistent sleep routine can help regulate your child and help them transition into the new routine they will be in during school time. Starting this a few weeks before school starts can also help them prepare and be more comfortable when the first day of school comes. 

Comfy and Confident Clothing

-The night before that first day, help your child choose clothing that will be comfortable for them, but also helps them feel confident. Comfortable shoes, favorite t-shirts, fun accessories can all be confidence boosters to help your child feel ready for the new school year. 

Engage Your Child in Planning 

– Ask children what they might need from you in emotional support or in practical planning. They may come up with some wonderful ideas and their ideas will come back to them during the day when they are most anxious.

Talk Openly About What is Scary 

-At this age, it can seem like kids think about themselves all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re self-aware. They might not know yet what’s making them nervous. And they might have trouble expressing their feelings. Some examples may look like:

“I see you’re a little stressed about starting school. Are you worried about moving between classes on your own?”

Or, “You had a hard time finding a group of kids you liked last year. Is that something you’re worried about this year?

Talk About School Supports

– Remind your child of the awesome support system that’s already in place and of all the people to go to for help. Your child could talk to a counselor, a case manager, the school nurse, or another staff member. If your child has a “go-to” person — maybe someone who helped a lot last year — try to meet with that person before school starts.

Resources:

https://www.understood.org/en/articles/6-tips-for-calming-first-day-jitters-in-grade-school

https://www.netnanny.com/blog/how-to-ease-the-first/

By: Megan Eckles

According to NAMI (2022) LGBTQI stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex. This community of people make up a wide range of gender identification and sexual orientation. 

The Facts:

  • Those in the LGBTQI community are twice more likely to experience a mental health condition, compared to that of heterosexuals
  • According to a 2013 survey, 40% of LGBTQI adults have experienced rejection from a family member or a close friend (NAMI, 2022). 
  • A 2019 school climate survey showed that 86% of LGBTQI youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school, which can significantly impact their mental health (NAMI, 2022).
  • High school students who identify as LGBTQI are four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to peers who identify as heterosexual.
  • 40% of adults who identify as transgender have attempted suicide, compared to the 5% of the general US population.

How can you help?

  • The Trevor Project- this program offers 5 key programs to help fight against suicide in the LGBTQI community. The programs include:
    • Crisis Services 
    • Peer Support
    • Research
    • Public Education 
    • Advocacy
  • SAIGE (Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities)- is a division of the American Counseling Association, that strives to educate and help those in the LGBTQI community. They offer courses and certifications for mental health professionals. 

Hotline Numbers 

  • LGBT National Hotline- 888-843-4564 Provides confidential peer support, information, local resources and more, for all ages.
  • LGBT National Youth Talkine- 800-246-7743 Provides youth with confidential peer support, information, local resources and more, for callers though age 25. 
  • LGBT National Senior Hotline- 888-234-7243 Provides senior callers, ages 50+ confidential peer support, information, local resources and more.

Resources:

http://www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org

https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/LGBTQI

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources?s=Talking+about+Suicide

By: Taylor Pemberton

Although summer can be a time of fun and relaxation, many individuals report that summer can be difficult when dealing with mental health issues. Those who deal with anxiety and stress may find summer more overwhelming due to its “care free” nature and less structure of time and schedules. 

Some tips to help with taking care of your mental health this summer include:

  • Get active! Summer is a great time for heading outside, enjoying the sunshine, and getting those endorphins flowing. Some summer activities may include swimming, hiking, playing sports, going for a walk, rock climbing, and more. 
  • Don’t forget your goals. Goals are a great way to keep you motivated and on track towards something you want. Setting goals can also help you feel more structured during the summer where things may feel more chaotic.
  • Change of scenery. Changing up your environment can help your body take in new things and feel refreshed and recharged. This can be big, like going for a vacation, or small, like going on a walk or drive somewhere new!
  • Spend time outside. It is scientifically proven that being outside, getting fresh air, and taking in sunlight is good for you both mentally and physically. This can increase endorphins and serotonin levels leaving you feeling more happy, relaxed, and an overall increase in mood and attitude. 
  • Mindfulness and meditation. Stress and anxiety can take us out of the daily swing of things, and leave us feeling worried, nervous, and on edge. Practicing mindfulness and/or meditation can get us back in the present moment to feel more relaxed and at ease. Meditate using a cool app or practice mindfulness to your favorite music! 
  • Enjoy your time off. During the summer, it can be easy to get caught up in the things you need to do, or have been putting off; however, it is important to remember to make time for things you enjoy!
  • Create structure through scheduling. Many people, especially children, thrive on routine. Find something that keeps you or your family in routine to help promote less stress or anxiety. This can look like scheduled playdates, outings, daily chores, and more!

Resources

https://www.inspirewellness.com/post/how-to-maintain-good-mental-health-for-kids-during-summer-break

https://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blog/psychological-health/2019/07/how-take-care-your-mental-health-summer

The week of May 2nd-8th is Screen-Free Week, this means that you take a break from all technology including the TV! The purpose of a screen-free week is to reinstate the joy of life outside of technology. 

Why is screen-free time important? This is because too much screen time can have harmful effects on children’s development. Here are some negative effects screen time can have: 

  • Children are rapidly learning the language at ages 1.5 to 3 years old. Studies show that these children learn better from a person than from a television show. Statistics have shown that those children who watched more tv than adult interactions performed less on reading tests in Elementary school. 
  • For children three or young, screen time can take away a crucial part of their development by limiting their exposed experiences and observations of the real world.
  • Premature thinning of the cortex in the brain using technology seven or more hours a day. This region is essential for cognitive functioning and is not supposed to start thinning until later development. 
  • Screens also impact the circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin. This is due to the blue light screen inhibiting melatonin production, decreasing sleep. 

What parental controls can be in place for safe screen time?

  • Watch TV shows with your child and add comments along the way to add personal commentary to help enable learning
  • Choose media-appropriate apps for your child
  • Keep meal-time, family time, and bedtime a screen-free space
  • Limit your own screen time because your child will modal after you
  • Set clear boundaries with all types of technology
  • Set specific time limits 
  • Plan ahead with consequences if technology rules are broken

Start today with monitoring and limiting technology use for you and your children. Challenge your family to participate in Screen-Free week May 2nd-8th 

Resources 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Connected and content: Managing healthy technology use. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/social-media-internet/healthy-technology-use

Coping with screens: 12 tips for balancing children’s mental health and technology use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children and Screens. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.childrenandscreens.com/media/press-releases/coping-with-screens-12-tips-for-balancing-childrens-mental-health-and-technology-use-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Save this to read later. Send to email 11 Min Read •Children’s Health. (2021, November 3). What does too much screen time do to kids’ brains? NewYork-Presbyterian. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-does-too-much-screen-time-do-to-childrens-brains/

By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialist)

What is considered sexual assault?

According to the US Department of Justice, sexual assault is defined as means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center mentions that the are several forms of sexual violence, which include:

  • Rape
  • Child sexual assault and incest
  • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
  • Masturbating in public
  • Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission
  • Nonconsensual image sharing

Who is impacted by sexual assault?

Victims of sexual violence include people of all ages, races, genders, and religions — with and without disabilities.

  • Nearly one in five women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives.
  • In the United States, 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape.
  • An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 21.2% of non-Hispanic black women, 20.5% of non-Hispanic white women, and 13.6% of Hispanic women were raped during their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2022).

The Facts:

  • Victims often know the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • People who sexually abuse usually target someone they know.           
    • Nearly 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew
    • 1 out of 5 were committed by a family member (RAINN, 2022). 

How to seek help:

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

1-800-656-4673

What can be done?

  • Raising awareness
  • Supporting survivors 
  • Getting involved to help change laws and policies regarding crimes of sexual violence and how survivors are treated

Resources:

https://www.nsvrc.org

https://www.rainn.org

https://www.nsvrc.org/about-sexual-assault

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