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How To Talk To Your Teen About Suicide

To most parents, the idea of talking with their teens about suicide provokes a great deal of anxiety.  If you are the parent of a teenager, you may feel awkward about broaching the subject or wonder why you should even bring it up.

The reality is that such a discussion can be literally life-saving.  Suicide among adolescents has tripled over the last 25 years and is currently the third leading cause of death for this age group. And for every completed suicide, there are approximately 60 unsuccessful adolescent suicide attempts.

Whether your teenager shows signs of suicidal risk or not, it’s worthwhile to have a conversation about the issue.  A natural opportunity for such dialogue can occur with the suicide death of an acquaintance or public figure.  You can begin a discussion about how young people particularly find it difficult to make the best decisions when they are under stress, as their sense of perspective is still developing. Tell your teenager that you know that he or she will suffer a difficult loss someday or make what seems to be a horrible mistake. Let your loved one know that, when that day comes, you will be there for them, and that they will get over the pain.  You can even brainstorm about positive alternatives to suicide.

But what if you are worried than your own teen may be considering suicide? First, be aware of the common signs, such as:

  • Recent talk about death, suicide or “going away;”
  • Expressing thoughts of guilt, hopelessness, or extreme sadness;
  • Giving away possessions;
  • Avoiding friends, family, and favorite activities;
  • Having difficulty concentrating or thinking logically;
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits;
  • Being self-destructive; e.g., cutting, abusing alcohol or drugs.

If you are concerned that your teen may be at risk, don’t be afraid to raise the subject immediately.  It’s absolutely untrue that discussing suicide increases one’s risk – keeping silent is the greater danger. Start with a comment or two about your concern, such as: “You have seemed really sad to me lately – can you tell me what’s going on?”

If your teen doesn’t open up, you can probe further and take a more direct approach; e.g., “I’m concerned about how you’re feeling.  Do you ever feel like you just don’t want to go on?” Or: “You seem really depressed.  Are you having any thoughts of hurting yourself?”

Following are a few “DOs” and “DON’Ts” to consider when talking to your teen:

DO:

  • Encourage your teen to talk about his or her feelings.
  • Let your teen do most of the talking – be a good listener. Let them vent, cry, or emotionally unload however they need to.  No matter how negative the emotions, communicating them is a positive step.
  • Provide reassurance and hope; e.g., “We’re in this together; I know you can get through this and will help in any way I can.” Remind them of your love and support, and reassure them that help is available and they won’t always have to feel this way.
  • Develop an action plan. Try to get your teen to agree to a constructive course of action, such as seeking professional help, obtaining further information on coping with depression, etc. Ask your teen to try to hold off for just one more day or hour when they feel like they want to give up.
  • Praise your teen for opening up and having the courage to talk about their problems.

DON’T:

  • Make judgments about your teen’s feelings or thoughts; e.g., “What do you have to be sad about? You’ve got it made.”
  • Use unkind words or criticisms; e.g., “I always have to worry about you” or: “Why can’t you get your act together?” Avoid arguments, lectures, or moral judgments.
  • Minimize your teenager’s concerns; e.g., “You’re just overreacting. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
  • Be afraid of silence. Wait calmly and patiently for your teen to reply to your questions.
  • Offer pointless advice.  Your job at this point is not to “fix” your loved one’s problem but to provide support and a listening ear.

If your teen is in an immediate crisis, try to assess the situation. Find out if your teen has an actual suicidal plan or the means of committing suicide. If so, seek immediate help through your local crisis center, mental health center, or emergency room.  Make sure that any dangerous objects such as guns or knives are not in the vicinity, and do not leave your loved one alone under any circumstances until they are in professional hands.

Just as it sometimes takes courage to live when ending one’s life might seem less painful, it is an act of emotional courage for a parent to open up the difficult subject of suicide with their teenager. By starting the discussion, you may provide valuable support and information that will help your teen with future life choices.

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Understanding Your Teenager’s Depression

If you are the parent of a teenager, dealing with moodiness may seem like a fact of life.  But for many teens, something more serious than moodiness is affecting their behavior. Today, at least one in eight teenagers may experience depression. Severe depression in teens can even lead to suicide, the second leading cause of death among adolescents.

As a parent, you may wonder what you can do to determine if your own teenager has problems with depression.  Learn more about the nature of depression and how to respond if your teen exhibits warning signs, and you may make a difference in the life of someone you love.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression can affect people of any age, and it often first strikes individuals in adolescence.  The disorder crosses all gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines.  Depression in young people is of particular concern because of the increased impulsivity adolescents often display, as well as the lack of a mature, grounded sense of self.

While most people tend to associate depression with sadness and tearfulness, teenagers often exhibit different symptoms than adults or express feelings in different ways. For example, depressed teens often:

  • Demonstrate rebellious behavior, such as skipping school, sexually acting out, or shoplifting. Rather than showing sadness, teens tend to demonstrate anger, frustration, and irritability.
  • Have many somatic or physical complaints, such as frequent stomachaches, headaches, or fatigue. Other physical changes can include sleep problems, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping, as well as changes in eating habits, often associated with sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Engage in underage drinking or abuse drugs. While teens may use alcohol or drugs to dull their negative feelings, their effects often have the opposite effect.
  • Spend increased time alone, behind closed doors. Teens normally enjoy time with peers and busy schedules, so loss of interest in friends and activities should be of concern.

In addition to the above behaviors, watch for any of the following in your teen:

  • Sudden drops in school grades
  • Restlessness or difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or excessive guilt
  • Frequent sadness, crying, or anxiety
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism

While any symptoms of depression or other sudden behavior changes should be taken seriously, parents should be particularly alert to warning signs of suicide, such as:

  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Giving away possessions to others
  • Talking as if no one cares about them
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness about the future
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts or threats

How Parents Can Help

The most critical way a parent can help a depressed teen is by recognizing the above symptoms.  By knowing signs and symptoms and by maintaining regular communication with your teen, you can potentially identify depression in its early stages.

If your teenager displays any of the symptoms of depression for an extended period, or if symptoms seem severe, don’t be afraid to intervene.  Begin by talking with your teen. Don’t let depression be the elephant in the room. Explain what you have observed, acknowledge that you are concerned, and explain why.  Make sure you talk in a non-judgmental and caring way.  Encourage your teen to open up to you or another respected adult about his or her feelings.

If your teen is reluctant to talk to you, it may be time to consider professional help. The experience may be less threatening if you begin with a visit to the pediatrician or family physician.  Your doctor can conduct a depression screening, which may include a physical examination and an interview with your teen.  You may then be referred to a mental health professional for follow-up.  Include your teen in the decision-making process so that greater buy-in will be achieved. Treatment may include psychotherapy and/or medication.

While depression can be a confusing and frightening experience for both teens and their parents, prompt treatment is generally successful. A depressed teenager today can go on to live a normal adult life and learn to cope more successfully with both his or her own moods and life’s challenges.

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Mental Health Treatment Necessary for Moms with Postpartum Depression

Bringing a baby into the world is usually a joyous occasion for all involved. It is typically a time of excitement and celebration for family, friends and everyone associated with the new parents. But for some new moms, the post-childbirth period is not so pleasant. In fact, roughly 10 to 15 percent of women struggle with severe depression after giving birth.

Beyond the “Baby Blues”

Most women experience emotional swings and intervals of moodiness, irritability, sadness and anxiety after having a baby. These periods are commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” and usually run their course within a week or two before the new mother adjusts her lifestyle and resumes a healthy outlook.

But if these and other symptoms such as tearfulness, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, constant worrying and depression persist for longer than several weeks, a more serious condition known as “postpartum depression” may exist. Postpartum depression falls into the mood disorders category and can be caused by a variety of physical, emotional and environmental factors. Genetics may also play a role.

Postpartum depression treatment is administered according to each patient’s specific needs and the severity of their case. Generally, treatment begins with psychotherapy in an attempt to uncover the underlying issues surrounding the patient’s condition. Psychotherapy is also conducted to assist patients in getting in touch with what they are feeling, to readjust negative thought patterns and to help them develop effective coping skills.

Antidepressant medications are also part of a postpartum depression treatment plan. But if the newborn is to be breast-fed, this area must be carefully considered and thoroughly discussed between the patient and their doctor to ensure the baby’s health and safety.

Postpartum depression can develop at any time during the first few months after childbirth. If a new mother’s depressive symptoms reach a point where it might be felt that help is needed, a mental health professional should be contacted immediately for guidance.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Eating Disorders and the Psychology Behind Them

Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders in various forms. Although eating disorders overwhelmingly affect girls and women, males are certainly not immune to these potentially deadly mental health conditions.

The three major types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia is basically an obsession with thinness where the sufferer will severely limit their food intake. Bulimia is characterized by eating large quantities of food, then afterwards attempting to offset the effects of mass caloric consumption through actions such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise and the taking of laxatives. Binge eating is compulsive overeating with an inability to gain control during periods of consumption, which vary in duration.

What’s Beneath the Surface?

A variety of circumstances can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Studies have indicated that genetics may play a role in many cases. But aside from pre-existing anxiety or mood disorders, cultural and other psychological factors are often at the heart of abnormal eating habits and full-blown eating disorders.

In a society that conveys a thin-is-attractive message, many girls and women feel pressured to lose weight or remain slim. In order to accomplish this, they will often cultivate unhealthy eating habits that can eventually lead to serious health problems, or worse.

A distorted body image is one major psychological issue that many who develop eating disorders struggle with. This is a situation where an individual — despite their actual physique — will see themselves as much larger than they truly are.

Efforts to Heal

The first order of business in anorexia cases is to restore the patient’s weight to a healthy level. But in all eating disorders cases, the chief goals of therapy are to help patients adjust their habits and belief systems as well as establish a healthier view of themselves and a more realistic overall outlook.

Anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and the treatment of binge eating disorders usually begins with some form of psychotherapy or “talk” therapy. This is often done in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapies. For more severe cases, eating disorders treatment centers are located throughout the country where a patient can be monitored, receive proper nutrition and nutritional counseling as well as have medications administered to them, if deemed necessary.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Mood Disorders Can Be Treated Through a Variety of Therapies

The term “mood disorders” encompasses a relatively wide array of conditions, ranging from mild depression to bipolar disorders.  While the severity levels, symptoms and characteristics may differ between the many ailments that reside within the mood disorders category, most of these conditions can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medications and often a combination of both.

As varied as mood disorders are, the therapeutic methods used to treat these illnesses are equally as diverse. Once a patient is evaluated and a mental health professional determines a mood disorder exists, a very specific approach will be designed to address their particular circumstances.

Effective Therapies for Mood Disorders

Of the variety of psychotherapeutic methods used to treat mood disorders, these two have proven to be especially effective:

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This approach examines the patient’s personal relationships, how they respond to issues, communications and actions within those relationships and how their moods can be associated with those experiences. The origins of feelings and emotions triggered within the patient from interactions with the people in their lives are analyzed, helping the patient gain a better understanding of why they react the way they do. This leads them to develop the ability to process their experiences and exchanges with others in a healthier way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT consists of several different therapeutic approaches, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Rational Behavior Therapy (RBT). Generally, CBT is based on the philosophy that our thoughts determine our outlook, feelings and how we behave. When a patient is able to readjust their beliefs and thinking patterns, they will eventually develop the ability to process stimuli in a more logical, objective way and not perceive and judge situations according to past negative or misguided rationale.

In addition to these and other types of therapy, including group and family-focused therapies, various antidepressant medications are prescribed to help stabilize the moods of depressed or bipolar patients. Different dosages or combinations of medications may be tried before a patient responds positively and begins to show improvement. But once this is accomplished and an appropriate therapeutic method is decided upon, there is a good chance the patient will eventually emerge from their former state with a more favorable outlook and a new lease on life.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Depression: When Feelings go beyond “Normal” Sadness

Sadness is a normal emotion that can be caused by negative or painful circumstances. Occasional periods of unhappiness are a part of life, and most people are able to eventually process their feelings of melancholy and forge ahead. But when sadness lingers or becomes a state in which there seems to be no escape, it is very likely that some type of depression exists.

The Symptoms of Depression

Depression can come in many forms, from relatively mild to severe. Some of the causes can be biological, environmental or genetic in nature. Grief, illness and addictions can be other factors.

On the mild side, symptoms can range from irritability, a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, disrupted sleep patterns and difficulty focusing and concentrating. More severe symptoms include hopelessness, despair, extreme fatigue and suicidal thoughts. Some depression symptoms are rather complex and can be a part of other mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse problems or some other mental health issue.

Depression Treatment

Everyone responds differently to various treatment methods. But treatment for clinical depression usually begins with some form of “talk therapy” with a mental health professional. From there, the best course of action may involve medications and additional levels of therapy such as cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapies.

In some cases of major depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT therapy) or transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS therapy) are used where all other approaches to treatment have failed. Although depression treatment techniques continue to evolve, many of the methods in place today have proven to be successful in helping those suffering with this illness get back on their feet and live productive and satisfying lives.

 

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Mental Health Treatment Tailored to Fit Individual Needs

Millions of Americans suffer with mental illness. These come in various forms; from mood disorders and severe addictions to eating disorders. Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure or “silver bullet” for most of these illnesses. However, mental health professionals now have a better understanding than ever before regarding the treatment of mental disorders. As a result, increasingly effective methods of psychotherapy are continually being developed.

Case-by-Case Treatment Plans

When an individual reaches a point where they feel the need to seek help, the realization that there is a problem is a positive first step in the healing process. The next step is for that individual to be thoroughly evaluated and diagnosed by a therapist.

The circumstances surrounding an individual’s mental health issues are as diverse as fingerprints. Each patient is very different and influenced socially by distinct environments and effected biologically by genetic makeup.

Although many therapeutic techniques may fit into categories such as “talk” therapy, behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy, treatments for depression, bipolar disorder treatment, ADHD treatment and addiction treatment are all approached differently. Treatment plans for these and other conditions are constructed in a way that best suit a particular patient.

Unfortunately, many individuals who struggle with mental health problems never pursue treatment. Reasons for this often include a fear of being stigmatized or a lack of convenient access to care. But in this country, numerous mental health centers are located in close proximity to every major city. These facilities offer experienced mental health professionals to patients who require expert care in order to begin their journey toward productive and fulfilling lives.

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Mood Disorders and Personality Disorders among the Most Common Mental Illnesses

 Mental health problems are the leading cause of disability in the U.S., costing our society countless hours of productivity each year.

The types of mental illnesses are wide-ranging and are classified according to symptoms and characteristics.  It is not always easy to pinpoint a specific mental disorder. This is in part due to similarities between some of the symptoms of various illnesses. Although many established treatment methods have proven to be effective, approaches to treatment are continuously evolving and depend upon circumstances and contributing factors that are unique to each individual.

The Most Prevalent Types of Mental Disorders

Nearly nine percent of Americans suffer from some form of depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Depression falls into the “mood disorders” category and can range from relatively mild depression to potentially debilitating “major depression.”

Other mood disorders include manias and manic disorders — which are indicated by abnormally elevated moods and elation — and bipolar disorders, which carry symptoms such as fluctuations between mania and depression or “mood swings.”

Personality disorders are another common category of mental illness. These are indicated by unstable and socially abnormal behavior patterns and include disorders such as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental illnesses such as OCD and various phobias are often also categorized as anxiety disorders.

The statistics on mental illness in our society are sobering. But the good news is that expertise in the areas of OCD treatment, depression treatment and overall mental health treatment continues to advance. Innovations in research, medications, psychotherapy, behavior modification techniques and the advent of technology such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS treatment) are resulting in increasingly positive results in the treatment of a wide spectrum of mental disorders.

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Eating Disorder Treatment Involves Changing Behavior Patterns

Although there are differences between the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, they do share some of the same characteristics. Among other similarities, individuals who suffer with these disorders generally have an unfavorable view of their own bodies.

The fear of becoming overweight or the perception that one is overweight — even if they are not — are major psychological factors behind the development of these and other eating disorders. Individuals with these disorders are driven to engage in one or more of the following practices: self-induced vomiting after eating, purging, excessive exercise, disproportionate use of laxatives and periods of not eating.

It has been well documented that the major demographic of those with eating disorders are teenage girls. However, it is now common knowledge that these disorders do not discriminate. Adult men and women as well as males in their late teens also struggle with eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Treatment: Emphasis on Behavioral Adjustments

In addition to the deep-seeded psychological aspects of eating disorders that can lead to depression and other mood disorders, the physical ramifications can be devastating and even deadly. The bones and teeth may suffer due to the body not absorbing or maintaining a healthy amount of nutrients. A host of other issues such as a loss of muscle, anemia and organ damage may result from the unhealthy habits that those with eating disorders have developed.

Anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and the treatment of eating disorders often requires a multifaceted approach. Not only must a patient be nurtured back to physical health, but the psychological aspect of these disorders must be addressed through intensive psychotherapy.

One of the most effective modes of psychotherapeutic treatment for eating disorders has proven to be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  In those with eating disorders, CBT focuses on areas such as improving self-esteem and developing a more realistic body image. This therapy works to redirect the “rules” these individuals have established in regard to eating habits.

Some of the nation’s leading eating disorder treatment centers such as Lindner Center of Hope’s Sibcy House near Cincinnati, Ohio incorporate CBT into their treatment plan. It is part of a well-rounded program that has helped many eating disorders patients change destructive habits and develop a healthier outlook on life.

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Adolescent Depression: Important to Detect and Treat Early

The teen years can be challenging and confusing times. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is not an easy one for many young people as they try to establish their place in the world. Pressures to perform well academically, fickle relationships and living up to parental and peer expectations are just some of the issues that can weigh heavily on the mind of a teenager.

Occasional moodiness and angst are normal for most teens as they navigate their way through adolescence. These are often typical responses to circumstances that young people have not yet developed the skills or maturity to process. As time moves forward, the healthy adolescent will gain the experience and perspective necessary to handle many of the situations that once confounded them.

Symptoms of Adolescent Depression

For some teens however, moodiness, sadness and irritability are not so fleeting. Prolonged bouts with these and other symptoms including withdrawal from friends and family; hostility and extreme sensitivity; expressing feelings of worthlessness; and loss of interest in activities may indicate problems at a deeper level.

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting approximately 10-15 percent of the nation’s teens. If symptoms such as those described above persist for more than a period of a few weeks, it would be wise to seek help as soon as possible.

Depression Treatment: The Sooner the Better

The earlier that mood disorders such as depression are detected and treated, the better. If left unaddressed, the chances of depression leading to substance abuse and other destructive behaviors — and even suicide — are greatly increased.

After initial screening, treatment for teen depression will often include a combination of medication and talk therapy. Teens that are prescribed antidepressant medications are carefully monitored for side effects. Talk therapy and cognitive therapies help young patients replace negative thought patterns with positive ones by providing them with a better understanding of the causes for their thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Detecting depression early and beginning treatment right away will enhance the chances of a faster and smoother recovery. A complete “cure” for depression is never guaranteed. However, proper treatment can set an adolescent on the path toward living a good and productive life.