Why Teens Are More Susceptible to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Though addiction can occur at any age, many adults with a substance use disorder began using drugs or alcohol before the age of 18. Because substance use and experimentation are prevalent among American teens, it’s important to understand the risks of drugs and alcohol at an early age. Though the use of certain substances is decreasing, a 2018 survey of high school students shows that many still misuse drugs and alcohol. For example, 30.2% of 12th-graders reported using alcohol within the previous month, and 5.8% reported using marijuana daily.

Regardless of which substances teens use, it begs the question of why they seek drugs in the first place. In today’s world, the answer lies in a mixture of teenage brain behavior, genetics and external factors like peer pressure, social media and stress arising from current social and cultural events.

The Influence of the Teenage Brain
Perhaps the most significant factor in teen drug use is the teenager’s brain itself, which is still developing throughout adolescence. The prefrontal cortex, which controls decision-making, emotions and impulses, isn’t fully developed until a person reaches their mid-20s. However, the reward centers that can lead to drug addiction are among the first parts of the brain to complete development. When you take a brain that has inherently higher risk-taking behaviors and combine it with the pleasurable effects of substances, it can easily lead to drug misuse and addiction.

Other brain-related factors include a teen’s genetics and the presence of mental health issues. A parent can pass down traits such as risk-taking behaviors and poor impulse control to their child. Children can also inherit a parent’s mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Mental health disorders play a large role in addiction: In 2014, there were 20.2 million U.S. adults with a substance use disorder, and 7.9 million adults also had a co-occurring mental health disorder.

External Factors That Cause Teen Substance Use
In addition to these internal factors, external forces can make teens more likely to use drugs or alcohol. Teens can be influenced by what they see at home, such as a family member who uses substances. Peer pressure is prevalent in schools, and teens may feel obligated to experiment with substances in order to fit in with certain groups of peers. Teens are also discovering their own self-identity, and many struggle with low self-esteem. This is worsened by the prevalence of social media, which is linked to lower self-esteem and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

On top of the self-discovery aspect of a teen’s identity, many young people struggle to cope with recent and recurring events in American society. Teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 are experiencing higher levels of stress. In fact, 91% have experienced negative physical or emotional symptoms due to stress, and 27% report having fair or poor mental health. Many respondents attributed these effects to the nation’s political climate and the constant barrage of news reports on mass shootings, immigrant deportation and sexual assaults.

How to Help 
Teens today are dealing with a perfect storm of factors that predispose them to drug use and addiction. As mental health issues contribute greatly to the likelihood of substance use, it’s important that recovery and prevention programs address both substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.

The Recovery Village approaches healing from addiction from all angles, helping clients find a lifelong path to sobriety as well as diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. If you or your teen is living with a substance use disorder or co-occurring problem, contact The Recovery Village to learn more about treatment programs that can help provide tools and resources for lasting recovery.

Sources:
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-
Based Guide.” January 2018. Accessed September 16, 2019.

Pantic, Igor. “Online Social Networking and Mental Health.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior
and Social Networking, October 1, 2014. Accessed September 16, 2019.
Bethune, Sophie. “Gen Z more likely to report mental health concerns.” American
Psychological Association, January 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Substance Use and Mental Health.” May 2016.
Accessed September 16, 2019.
Get Smart About Drugs. “Risk Factors.” June 26, 2019. Accessed September 16, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth

Trends.” December 2018. Accessed September 16, 2019.

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by The Recovery Village Palm Beach

Parenting Is Not Just About Your Child

It’s not. It’s about you, the parent, and the ‘stuff’ that you carried into this gig. You and I both know that parenting did not come with a manual with a colorful cover, an appendix with chapters that range from infancy to adulthood, and we certainly didn’t have to take an exam or gain a license to become a parent.  If you ask me, before we decide to start a family, we should be required to take a course and gain a certificate that says, “You’ve Been Warned. You’re about to get on the bumpiest roller coaster ride of your life. You will learn and teach, you will watch and be watched, you will guide and be guided.”

When I became a parent, I had a vision of who my child was going to be. I often was lost in my daydreams of a blue-eyed little boy who would eat, sleep and follow my every instruction, who was athletic, confident and social. Well, I did have a beautiful blue-eyed boy but the rest didn’t work out like just like that.

Part of becoming a parent means that we need to understand and recover from the parenthood that we received. It means that we need to understand and become aware of the messages that were given to us, the wounds we continue to carry, the messages we continue to give ourselves that started off as our parent’s judgments, criticisms, and conditions and then became our own words that we speak to ourselves, with or without awareness.

Our Children are Not Here to Satisfy our Needs
Our children are not our narcissistic extensions. They are not here to fit into our visions and expectations of who they will and should become. Our children are born with clean slates and they have the potential to do everything, anything. But it is through our criticisms, expectations and our conditional love that creates judgments and deflates motivation and potential. We have been given by our parents, and their parents and their parents, a checklist of who we “should” become as parents and who our children “should” become. But that checklist may not be in sync with who your child is, who they want to be, and therein lies the problem. Instead, we live a life where we are “should-ing” all over ourselves.

Do the Dance
When two people dance, one person moves forward and the other responds by stepping back; one moves to the side, and the other follows. The dancers listen to the body language, feel the direction in which the pair is being pulled. Dancing is an art because there are no clear-cut rules about the exact steps. Yes, we can take dance lessons and have an idea of the type of movement, the beat, the general idea.
Parenting is a dance. A dance with no instruction on how your child will respond, what to say, how often to say it. It requires timing and awareness of what is needed, how much and when to stop. When to say something and when not to; when to guide and when to step away; when to intervene and when to let your child work it out, or not.

I know, it’s exhausting, but being in tune with your child will make your parenting more productive in that you are moving in the same direction. When you move out of sync, you, the parent, and your child become frustrated and the interaction is no longer enjoyable.

Image by: Thrive Global

by Dr. Liz Matheis

Parenting From Our Childhood Wounds: How to avoid parenting from a triggered place.

Parenting is a dance. Each party involved brings their own energy—and between our energy and our child’s energy, there will be times when the energies will undoubtedly collide.

When you think about it, our children only live in our homes for a short period of time. Granted, the individual days may feel long, but the years are flying by. In most cases, we have our children for 18 short years; this is the most powerful time in their emotional development, and one that will shape the rest of their adult life.

When I first made that realization (while listening to one of Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s presentations), I panicked. In fact, I cried. This is the time when our children build their internal messages—when they build their sense of self as separate from us, as well as when they build their emotional and relationship foundations. This is when they develop their friendships and their sense of self-love. Our parental voice becomes internalized as their own. This voice will guide their decisions, relationships, friendships, and work habits for years to come. No pressure, right?

For me, the hardest part of parenting has been re-living and re-visiting my childhood “issues,” the ones I thought were behind me. I didn’t think “those” experiences had an effect on me any longer because I was “older” and done with them. Well, as it turns out, not so much.

You Will Be Triggered
Something your child says or does—or how they say it—will trigger you. And when you are triggered, your response will be intense, and likely scary to you and your child. In fact, your response will likely not be commensurate with your child’s actual behavior.

When I made this connection—with Dr. Shefali’s help—and discovered that I was parenting from my own childhood wounds, I was taken aback. But I also realized that many of the times when my children asked me why I became so loud or angry, it was because I was responding to a pretty benign situation with a strong sense of hurt and disappointed that had to do with my own unresolved childhood demons.

Image by: Pexels 

by Dr. Liz Matheis

#YouWillBeFound: The Teen’s Pursuit to Fit in and Stand Out

Teens. We love our own dearly. They were once our babies who sat in our arms, fit on our chest, and fell asleep in our arms. When I look at my son, I hear his deep voice but all I see is that little boy who loved to play “mommy-saurus” with me and whose giggles made me giggle in return.

For his upcoming 13th birthday, my son asked to see the Broadway Show, “Dear Evan Hansen.” I didn’t know how hard this play was going to hit me. How much the battles of the characters were relevant to me, my son, and the teens that I work with professionally. With almost every scene, the tears just streamed down my face. Each character’s struggles were so real, so relevant, so raw, so honest!

The confusion and the overwhelm that comes with being a teen, trying to figure out who you are, fit in and stand out is real. It’s intense. It’s scary. Our children are practically born with a phone, iPod, IPad in hand and the amount of information they have available is immense, mind-blowing. Whether it’s access to political news, natural disasters, or school shootings, we, as their parents, don’t always have the choice of whether to share or not with our kids because it is all right there. And social media, oh, social media. Our kids know where their peers are, who they are with and what they were not a part of in almost the same minute that social gatherings and events are happening. FOMO (fear of missing out) is also real.

Do you remember how we found out when other kids made plans or had a party? We may have heard about it by chance Monday morning when others were talking about it. We found out about worldly or local events if we read them in the paper or happened to watch the news on TV (with a remote that was connected by a wire, and a TV screen that was not flat!)

Our kids also have access to so much information all the time. About everything, about anything. They don’t really have to seek it out; it’s all right there on social media, on apps on the phone. Let me share another one of my pet peeves. Remember when TV shows were on the television? Remember how we had to turn the TV on to watch the show? Well, my son is watching shows on his phone and IPAD and I’m finding out AFTER he’s seen them. Ugh…

During our kids’ pre-teen and teen years, there are some major changes that we are going to see and feel, as their parents. Let’s shed some light on these impending (or already here) changes, and how we can, as their parents, help out with sympathy, positivity and expressed love for them, even when they are not very loveable!

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by Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D and Psychology Today

Cyber Bullying: What You Need to Know

Once again, our local Girl Scout, Hannah T from Parsippany, has prepared another blog for us about cyberbullying as she continues to work towards the completion of her Girl Scout Gold Award. The goal of her project is to bring awareness to the issue of social media, internet safety and cyberbullying by creating and presenting on the topic, creating posters, and writing blogs and articles.  Her hope is to educate adolescents and their parents about the subtle hazards of social media by also providing strategies when social media gets ugly.

What Is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is a term that’s been around for a long time. Parents understand bullying to be physical harm caused by one child to another, for some or no reason at all. The intent is to cause harm, fear, or intimidation. Well, let’s fast forward to our present day with Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else that’s here or about to be here. Cyber-bullying is here. What is that exactly? It’s when a child/adolescent is being targeted and harmed by interactions over social media/the internet. However, past this definition, it can make teens feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interest in things they normally love to do. With that said, if your child shares with you that she is the recipient of a rude or hurtful message on social media, you need to know how to mediate these situations.

In the past, before the internet and social media, when someone was bullied in school, when they went home, they were able to gain a break from the bullying. Presently, that barrier doesn’t exist anymore. The bullying persists because of one tap on their phone screen and it’s right there. There is no break of respite from this type of bullying, and it is vital for parents to step in.

What Should Your Child Do?
If your child comes to you with an instance of cyberbullying, whether it be a conflict they had with a friend through text messages, a post directed at him on Instagram, or someone posting pictures of him on Snapchat without permission, the very first thing to do is make sure your child takes a screenshot (picture) of the text, photo, and comments. If the other child chooses to delete her texts or conversations, you still have a copy of the content.

Even more importantly, make sure that your child does not reply to the messages in any way since this will just give the bully the reaction he or she would like. If your child has already replied, still screenshot the conversation, but your child will also then be partaking in cyberbullying, even if they did not act first.

Next, you’ll want to have your child block the person the cyberbullying is coming from, so this doesn’t continue to happen. Also, don’t just have your child block them on the site where the bullying is taking place, have your child block them on all social media platforms where they can possibly be contacted. This will truly ensure the bully won’t be able to contact your child any longer.

What Should I Do?
You should probably keep a close eye on your child’s phone and social media accounts, just in case the bully finds another way to contact your child. If you feel as though the situation is not handled, bring the screenshots/pictures of the cyberbullying to your child’s school principal, and they have to act on the messages they see. Finally, make sure to be comforting and uplifting to your child.

Being cyberbullied makes kids feel helpless, inferior, alone, dissatisfied with themselves, and many other awful feelings. Instead of making your child feel punished by taking her phone, just establish that if anything else happens, she needs to come to you first. Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, your child may also need to be comforted as well. If your child is highly distressed, you may want to seek counseling.

Remind your child that people only bully others when they aren’t happy with themselves and that the bully’s messages are meant to create fear, panic, and hurt self-esteem. Additionally, try to spend more time with your child, or set limits on phone use. When teens are off their phones and having fun with their friends and family, problems over social media seem less impactful to them, which is what your goal to be as a parent in this situation; help your child realize that the bully is insignificant and shouldn’t be allowed to take over their mood and happiness.

Overall, teens who are being cyberbullied need guidance and support during this time. Bond with your child, listen, offer advice, and sympathize. Seek private counseling if the impact of the cyberbullying is pervasive and begins to negatively impact the ability to attend school, maintain friendships, engage with family members, complete homework, and study for tests. The ultimate goal is to not become punitive but rather to sympathize and problem solve together while maintaining general life activities and family time. ​

Photo from: Pexels

by Hannah T

How I’m Growing Resilient Children

As a mom of four, I am always on the go, and I make mistakes. Some days run smoothly and others, I am barely making it to the finish line. I also realize that as a therapist, we have a running dialogue in our head. We judge ourselves as parents, we judge our decisions, we judge our outcomes. I am trying to become more aware of the messages that I feed my heart and body each day and transform them into more positive messages, which will ultimately flow into my children’s daily lives.

I am a flawed mama. We are all flawed mamas, and that’s more than okay! Unfortunately, we live in a time of rabid social media where moms everywhere are posting their wonderful motherhood moments, with, what looks like, perfect children in a perfect marriage, an organized home, educational field trips, and three organic meals per day. Social media is a wonderful medium of communication, but I think we may have lost our focus here. Instead, let’s focus on how to plant the seeds of resilience in our everyday interactions with our children

Close The Circle
I lose my temper but when I do, after I have cooled down, I apologize to my kids. My hope is to close the circle and show them how I am using my words to repair and improve our communication. Sometimes, I lose my mind over Fortnight and that is okay too. I want my children to see that there will be conflicts and disagreements in life, but it is how we handle them that will make us stronger people as well as build a relationship. I want my children to know that it’s okay to lose your temper, but it is also important to turn around and apologize. It’s okay to be humble and to admit to a moment (or two) of bad judgment. I hope that this also lets them know that when they make mistakes in their adolescence and young adulthood (and they will!), it’s important for them to close the circle and attempt to make it right. I hope that my kids will internalize these conversations into their own internal ‘scripts” to use when problem solving in their own head.

Use Positive Self Talk
As parents, we have flaws. I own my flaws and I work on them – some days better than others. With that said, I realized that by reacting to my mistakes (oops! Sorry, honey, I forgot to pack your lunch last night!) with kindness towards myself, or by making a joke, my kids will see that I am not using negative language towards my mistakes and I am embracing that I am a human who makes errors (lots of them!).

Another classic positive self-talk phrase I like to use is, “I can do this!” I want my kids to see that I am afraid too, but that I’m going to use my fear to drive me towards my goal. Although certain tasks, academic or athletic skills may look like they come easily to some, sometimes it’s trying again and again (perseverance) is needed to ‘figure it out’ along the way. Learn from our errors, pick ourselves back up and come up with plan B when plan A doesn’t work. That’s true resilience right there. The grit that makes us resourceful and tough teenagers, young adults and ultimately adults.

Get Back Up
I have a blackboard hanging in my kitchen with the phrase, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up” (credited to Vince Lombardi). This mantra has set the stage for my family to focus not on life’s struggles but how you cope with them. In today’s society (and I am guilty of it too at times), helicopter parents hover over their children which prevents them from that when they fall, that they are capable of getting back up. Although it feels like I am keeping my child safe, I am robbing them of an opportunity to build resiliency.

Caroline Bologna, wrote “You Need To Teach Your Kids How To Fail: Here’s How” (see full article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teaching-kids-failure-resilience_l_5c882690e4b038892f485ba9) in which she describes hovering parents who do not allow their child to fail for fear of disappointment as not only the helicopter parent, but the ‘snow plow parent,’ the ‘lawn mower parent’ or even ‘curling parents’.

All of these parents have the same goal – don’t let my child fail. The long-term detriment that this type of parenting style creates far outweighs the benefits gained in the short-term. I urge you to not only to stop being a ‘lawn mower; but to encourage your kids to mow the lawn too, both figuratively and for real!

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by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed. S.

What Do I Do When My Adolescent Wants to get on Instagram and SnapChat?

​We are blessed to be able to support a local Girl Scout, Hannah T from Parsippany. She is currently working towards the completion of her Girl Scout Gold Award and has chosen to prepare a blog about Cyber Bullying. The goal of her project is to bring awareness to the issue of social media safety and cyberbullying by creating and presenting on the topic, creating posters, and writing blogs and articles.  Her hope is to educate adolescents and their parents about the subtle (and not so subtle) hazards of social media by also providing strategies when social media gets ugly (and it will).

When Do Most Adolescents Access Social Media?
Social media is everywhere. Even if you or your child don’t have it, everyone around you and them does. So, even if your child doesn’t have Snapchat or Instagram, the people they talk to and hang out with most likely do,  making your child part of the new social media era.

​Social media is, in theory, a great thing, made to quickly connect with and contact friends, and share experiences,  pictures and thoughts easily and quickly. However, the age at which kids are permitted to use social media sites is 13 years old. This makes it about the time kids are in middle school, finding new friends and seeing where they fit in. Just during this time period in a child’s life, conflicts among their peers arise very easily. From a child sitting with a new group of friends during lunch, or not being invited to someone’s birthday party, these non-essential conflicts can quickly spill onto social media sites. From my own perspective, as a high school student, unnecessary conflicts definitely peak in middle school, which is why kids that age are so susceptible to being cyber bullied, and being cyber bullies.

Start Talking About Social Media, Sooner than Later
If you have a child going into or is already in middle school, between the ages of 12-15, now is the time to discuss their social media use. You can tell them not to use social media at all until a certain age, but they may have already downloaded social media apps without your knowledge or permission. The key message you want to communicate is that having access to social media is a big responsibility.
At 13 years old, most kids don’t realize that what they put online stays there forever, even after it is deleted from their profile. Most importantly, they don’t realize that once something is posted to Instagram or Snapchat, it is completely out of their control in terms of who sees it and where the post is sent, even though they are the one who posted it. Other kids can screenshot the post, send it to other people, and can physically take their phone and show other people. I feel that kids fail to realize this because they don’t see the possibilities of that happening. When they download Instagram, they may not be using it with the intent to post things about other people, but instead, they wanted to find out what other friends are doing.Advice To Give Your Adolescent
In my opinion, the best thing to do for your child is simply have a discussion with them, making sure they understand these four major points:

1-Later in life, everyone will still be able to see the things you posted

Later in life, when your child is applying to college or for a job, a standard part of the screening process is to google the name of the potential applicant and see what comes up. Potential employers may and will most likely look through social media outlets, and will be able see what has been posted. And I’m talking about those ‘silly 14 year old pics’ or those ‘silly phrases we made up.’ It’s all there for all to see. Forever.

2-Never say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say directly to another person directly.
Many teens feel that they can say anything since they are behind a screen. What they don’t realize is those words can be hurtful and cutting. They can end friendships or even result in a police investigation or other legal repercussions. Just because your child is behind the screen doesn’t mean her words can’t be seen. In fact, they are seen and heard in an even bigger way than if they had been spoken face to face.

3- Never reply to someone if they are cyber bullying you
If your teen shares with you that he is receiving hurtful or threatening messages, make sure you insist he do not respond. Instead, the best option is to screenshot (or take a picture of) the conversation, and then block the account or number the messages are coming from. It is extremely tempting for teens to respond with something equally as hurtful, but that will just make the problem continue and give the bully a reason to continue texting/messaging your child. From experience, I know that if your child never responds to the messages and simply blocks the number/account, the bullying will most likely stop. 

However, if the bullying continues on another social media site or in school, that is when it is okay to encourage your child to should say something along the lines of “Can you please stop?”. By now, the bully won’t be getting the reaction they want out of your child, but if they still continue trying to contact your teen, that is when you should bring the issue to their school’s guidance counselor or principal.

This is another reason why it is vital for your teen not to respond. If the problem escalates to the point where it needs to be brought to the attention of the school, they will see if your child responded. Even if the bully initiated the conversation, the fact that your teen responded will also, in the school’s eyes, warrant a punishment. But, I know from experience that by far, the easiest way to stop a cyber bully is to block the account.

4-Make yourself available to your child
Make a pact with your teen. If anything goes bad, wrong, ugly on social media, they can reach out to you with little judgment and no fault finding. Instead, agree that you will problem solving together. The last thing you want is for your child to go through a tough situation related to social media alone.

As a parent, you can’t keep your kids from the reality of society today, that social media plays a big role in how people meet, communicate, and handle confrontation, but you can help them know how to handle social media correctly as well as the situations it presents.

Photo from: Pexels

Internet Safety

The internet can be a wonderful resource for many different things. The convenience of online shopping, research for your son’s science project, and the ability to connect with people from your past through social media accounts…what’s not to love?! Though there are many benefits to the internet and having such easy access to these things, there are also some significant safety risks that come along with its usage. This is especially important for parents with sons or daughters who use the internet. Here are a few tips for ensuring that you and your family are using the internet safely.


Keep An Open Line of Communication


Engage your kids in a conversation about the internet on a regular basis. Review what the right steps are if they were to ever see anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. By creating an open dialogue such as this, you are showing them that you are there to help them if they ever come across anything inappropriate. Also, engage them in a conversation about cyber bullying and how they should speak up if they see anything like that happening on the internet. 


Make Your Expectations Clear


Tell your kids that they are not to give out any personal information online. Tell them they are not to send pictures to others and absolutely are not to make plans to meet up with anyone they speak to on the internet. It is also helpful to have computers in a common area of the house, instead of in children’s bedrooms, where you can more closely monitor their online activity. With smartphones and other devices, use your judgement on whether or not to allow your children to use their devices by themselves. 


​Model Appropriate Internet Behavior

Be sure you are not saying one thing to your kids and then doing the opposite. Take time to go on the internet together with your children and show them appropriate internet safety practices. Use this time to show them how you would not download anything without first knowing what it was. Show them how you are mindful about what you may chose to post on your social media accounts, since once things are posted there is no taking them back. 

By following these tips, you will be proactively taking the approach of safe and productive internet use. The internet can be an extremely useful asset in many ways, but it has to be used appropriately. Keep an open dialogue and tell your children that it is okay for them to speak up if they come across anything concerning.

Photo from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW

Suicidality and Our Children

Today’s youths are immersed in a world that is technological, fast paced, and sometimes, just cruel. A so-called culture of violence is portrayed in video games and echoed in today’s media. Most youth are exposed to music and television which promote the use of drugs and alcohol and present suicide as a solution to problems. Some suggest that 15 years ago there was not as much hostility in the world which exists today.


No age left behind

What we do know is suicide is affecting our youth much more than generations before. Suicide among teens and young adults has nearly tripled since the 1940’s. In two days this month, June 5th and June 6th, 2018, two successful and well-established humans, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both committed suicide. We often think of suicidality affecting our children and teens, but it affects people of all ages. It affects people who are so anxious or so depressed that they feel that the only way out is to bring their life to an end.
According to the CDC, Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, and results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.  Remember Mallory Grossman, a young 12-year-old middle school student who was bullied and brought her life to an end on June 14, 2017? Suicidality knows no age.
Suicide does not discriminate, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Boys are more likely to go through with suicide. Girls, however, are more likely to report attempting suicide and expressing suicidal ideation than boys.
A nationwide survey of high school students in the U.S. found Hispanic youth were more likely to report attempting suicide than their black and white, non-Hispanic peers. Moreover, The Office of HIV/AIDS Policy on Bullying and Teen Suicide reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual teens are seven times more likely to have reported attempting suicide than their peers (2010).

The Teen Years

The teenage years can be a tumultuous time for many young people and their caregivers. Teens are balancing peer relationships, academics, body image, emotional instability, bullying, and not to mention developmental and hormonal changes. All issues that can prove to be confusing and unsettling for many teens.
As parents and caretakers, there are certain behaviors that are red flag warnings that our children are struggling.

  • Agitated mood
  • Unusual anger
  • Recklessness
  • Cutting
  • Sleeping more or sleeping less
  • Eating more or eating less
  • Using substances to self medicate
  • High anxiety
  • Feeling trapped
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Talking about “what if” they no longer existed or if their life came to an end

Among younger children, suicide attempts are often impulsive. They may be associated with feelings of sadness, confusion, anger, or problems with attention and hyperactivity.
Among teenagers, suicide attempts may be associated with feelings of stress, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment, and loss. For some teens, suicide may appear to be a solution to their problems.

“13 Reasons Why”

With the release of Netflix’s drama 13 Reasons Why, researchers found a significant spike in internet searches using terms such as “how to commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” for 19 days following the release of season 1 of “13 Reasons Why.”
Many experts warn that the show is doing more harm than good, and many families who have recently lost their son/daughter to suicide say the show triggered them. On the other hand, many people who support the show and say it raises awareness about the epidemic and loosely portrays the struggles that today’s youth experience. This community believes the show highlights the many layers that influence suicide in young teens, such as: bullying, cyberbullying, underage drinking/drug use, sexual assault, and guns in the home.
If your child has not yet watched this series, it is advisable to co-view the show with them. Co-viewing the show with your child can help you intervene and point out cyberbullying or sexual assault and ask your child if they have experienced this. If your child has already watched the show, take the time to discuss what he/she took away from the show. Discuss reality vs. fiction and how the show gives an unrealistic view of the help available for teens.

​How To Talk To Your Child About Suicidality

Despite what was portrayed in 13 Reasons Why, there is always help. Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable issues. In order for help to start, a parent or loved one will need to take notice of the warning signs and inform your child that resources are available. Suicide and depression are difficult topics to have with your young one, but it is imperative that you address the topic often and early on.
Ask your child,

  • “Are you feeling sad or depressed?”
  • “Have you ever thought about hurting or killing yourself?”
  • Do you have a plan, or Do you know how you would hurt yourself?

Many youth who experience depression and suicidal thoughts feel isolated in their feelings and disconnected from those around them. Often times they feel misunderstood by adults, and therefore, rarely reach out for help.
As a parent, if you are open and honest about your feelings, it signals to your child that they feel understood and connected. Be available to have this discussion if it comes up, and try not to use judgment. 

  • Listen but don’t judge
  • Validate your child’s struggles
  • Ask your child if he/she would like to speak to a therapist


Reach Out To Your Child’s School Counselor and Teachers

If your child is pulling away from peers and family, involve your child’s school. Inform your child’s school counselor or teacher that you are concerned and ask that they monitor them as well and report any unusual behavior. Sometimes if a child feels disconnected from family they may turn to a school counselor who is an unbiased support. As a parent, you may want to recommend counseling services at your child’s school. In addition, if your school counselor believes your son or daughter may need more help than their scope of practice they may refer your child for more comprehensive services. 

By knowing the signs, you increase your ability to open a dialogue that can prevent your teen from acting on his or her thoughts.

Resources:
Gomez, M. (2010). AIDS.gov. The HHS Office of HIV/AIDS Policy on Bullying and Teen Suicide
Suicide in Children and Teens: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents: The American Academy of Pediatrics
by Miranda Dekker, LCSW
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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