Yearly Archives: 2018

Mental Health & School Shootings…

I thought I’d revisit this blog from my May Newsletter and post for my readers…  May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  No doubt it’s a time to give some attention to those suffering with this horrible affliction, sometimes in silence and other times screaming out loudly. I believe we all have an opportunity to try to garner more knowledge and get a bigger grasp on mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that, “one in five youth ages 13 to 18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.”   Alarmingly, in the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15-24.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, “US and international to date (June 2016) research suggests that individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are responsible for approximately 10% of all homicides in the United States. For mass killings, the percentage is approximately 33%.”

With the recent Santa Fe, Texas school shooting, during these sad and unimaginable times for families, we hear the words, “Overwhelming grief…  “This horrific event.”  “The killer wanted his story told…”  Then, there are multitudes of analysis and debate about red flags, mental health and guns, albeit momentarily.

Yes, as is repeatedly stated in times like these, there is a necessity for a larger conversation.  But who should be having that conversation?  I watched a talk show where someone commented that there should be extreme punishment for these kids.  This person stated that these kids who commit mass murders come from bad families and that the death penalty should be automatically assigned to  them.  The person stated that ought to be law.

I thought of my son who suffers from mental illness.. whose anguish is real and debilitating.  His fear of crowds so enormous that going into the lunch line at school was simply unbearable so he opted not to each lunch for months.  His misery and distress, overwhelming.  His feelings of rejection due to being abandoned… His opinion of himself; self esteem, so low… his view of the world so wretched and dark, that he is absolutely convinced death is his best and only option.  The way his brain receives and processes some information is different from the rest of us… He only knows and believes what he perceives. Yet in a more rational and lucid moment, I see the shame in his eyes when he realizes how his actions are perceived by others and how outside “the norm” he sometimes operate.

All along the way getting support for my son, I would hear individuals with good intentions rationalizing what he does.  One of the most common statement is “lots of kids/teenagers do that,” when addressing a singular issue. What I know with absolute certainty is that we all view mental health illnesses through our unique lenses.

A challenge in having that larger conversation is helping society see the birds eye view exclusive to us, as parents or caregivers.  The question is how can we go about adding our exclusive point of view to those who research; make medical and legal policies?  Having our point of view inclusive in these conversations is vital, I believe.

Oftentimes the diagnosis our children carry is not singular.  There sometimes are co-occurring illnesses such examples as autism with ADHD, depression, bi-polar disorder, social anxiety, schizophrenia… just to name a few.  In some instances there can be one co-occurring condition with a diagnosis and other times a few.  With all this conflicting activities taking place in the brain of our loved ones afflicted with several mental health disorders, there can be tremendous “cross-messaging.”  The messages the brain send to those afflicted is so compelling, they simply override any form of logic. However, to these individuals suffering with mental health illnesses, what they are hearing in their head and feel compelled to do in the moment, makes perfect sense.  Sometimes it is a relief…

Next, is the stigma… With my son, I see how very hard he works to show the rest of the world that he is “A-OK!”  He is as normal as the next kid and there absolutely nothing “wrong” with him.  It almost appears that the stigma is a built-in part of mental illness for the patients.  A theory I have is that individuals with mental illness are more perceptive or “tuned in” to others and feel the shun, the surprise, the dismissal or rejection, subtle as it may be, that is projected on to them very early in life.  They work at finding ways to combat the feelings of judgement, rejection and ridicule they feel from others and the overwhelming shame they feel inside.

Additionally the fact that behavior is not an exact science, it takes years, sometimes a lifetime for individuals with mental health illness to be properly diagnosed and treated.  When kids/teens are developing it is almost impossible for them to articulate their feelings and what is going on inside their brain. A lot to consider for this national conversation, which is an imperative.

There is absolutely no justification for committing murder. None.  And yes, the time has come for that larger conversation.  My call to action to you, natural parents,  foster-adopt parents and caregivers is to please make yourselves included in this conversation!  The discourse is vital and ALL parents of children with mental health disorders must invite themselves to take a seat at the table. Our insight will prove invaluable.  We have children who are vulnerable… teethering… can be susceptible… who may need more support than we can sometimes provide.

Let’s start speaking up!


How You Can Help a Family Supporting a Mental Health Patient

Ways You Can Help A Family Struggling With A Mental Health Illness

 
by: Nellie Valentine
LISTEN
Families are overwhelmed when supporting a loved-one with mental illness.  Dealing with the erratic behavior, which sometimes lead to unsafe situations for their loved-one is just the beginning of the worry and stress they endure.  If their loved-one is suicidal, or threatening to harm others; processing that reality brings unimaginable overwhelm.  When these families reach out to you it is oftentimes simply to share their fear and anxiety.  Lending an ear and providing emotional support can go a long way.
PROVIDE RESOURCES
The entire process is one of learning for families and their loved-one.  Each person experiences mental health illness differently.  If you are able to, research and get information about the diagnosed illness and pass it to your family member or friend.  Remember that supporting your family member or friend is simply that.  Supporting. Please do not try to control what they do with your information.  They will know when to use it, or if necessary pass it on to their loved-one suffering with mental health illness.  Please do not make them feel judged if they are not following your advice.
TELL THEM YOU CARE
Nothing prepares someone for absorbing or processing the fact that their loved one has a severe mental illness.  Let alone attempting to end their life or threaten the lives of others.  When someone is supporting a loved-one with mental illness, they feel the stigma and isolation that is perpetuated with the illness.  They feel the judgement and unasked questions. Simply tell them you care and are thinking about them and praying for them and their loved-one.  Hearing caring and encouraging words can be a healing balm.  

Hitting Hurts Others – Books with Behavior Strategies

A Social Story Book that offers behavior strategies…  by Nellie Valentine

Many parents struggle with their children when they are exhibiting maladaptive behavior.  Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) often have a difficult time coping with rules regarding socialization and behavior.  We learn social rules, guidelines, etiquette, laws and even taboos from childhood through adulthood.  We are taught these rules by parents, teachers, peers and others in various ways, in order to shape the way we interact with others.  Over time we learn to intuitively access these rules in any particular situation to successfully engage with others.

“Many of our social rules make no sense to individuals with ASD and our behaviors in certain situations may seem perplexing or sometimes frightening to them.  In addition, we work out our social problems quickly and intuitively while individuals with ASD do this through logic and deduction, which involves a different part of the brain.”  – Sharyn Kerr – PhD

Social Stories are a wonderful way of relaying a message to all children!  Swanky Brain Social Story Books give children with Autism, ADHD & other neurodevelopmental disorders a new perspective on a behavior, action or event.  Our books help change behavior patterns and reinforce social skills. As the Author, I  believe our language resonates with readers, who find the books engaging.  They have simple suggestions and perspective shifting dialogue to which our readers can relate.  Having four children on the Spectrum has helped me create language and communication that is effective with my kiddos and I transfer them to my books!

In our Social Stories Book series, we encapsulate events; situations with words and vivid illustrations, while infusing behavior strategies. This is a concrete way to shape perspective, bolster appropriate behavior, reinforce social skills, planning and organizing. Throughout the years, I have found that using Social Stories independently or as a part of a behavior plan; has been tremendously impactful and effective for my children!  Additionally, I believe that Social Stories make a profound difference as repeated reading increases comprehension and allows for sustainability of a changed or new behavior or habit.


Can You Make A Picture? Hand-washing…

I was reminding my eight year with ASD to please lather his hands with soap before putting them under the water pouring from the sink-faucet.  I was reminding him that lathering with soap and warm water is what actually cleans his hands and if he simply lets the water pour off his hands, they are not clean.

My son stated:  “Mom, can you make a picture and put it on the wall?  That way I can see it and remember the rule?  Sometimes I forget all these rules I have to follow.  There are so many of them!”

Can’t say he is not a Problem Solver!


The Eject Button!

My daughter takes the bus to college – she is not yet ready to drive – and each day can be colorful with the many passengers she encounters.  On day a couple weeks ago she came home and said to me:

“Mom, there is this passenger who keeps arguing with the bus driver.  Every time she gets on the bus, Mom.  He picks her up at the same stop and takes the same route every day.  Yet she argues with him to make this turn and go that way and if he went that way he would get to her house faster.  She argues from the time she gets on the bus until she reaches home.  I’ve heard the bus driver try to explain to her that he takes that route because it is easiest with traffic at that time of day but she does not listen.  That is when I use my imaginary eject button.”

“For what?”  I asked her.  She said, “I visualize her propelling out the bus!”

“Where does she go?” I asked.  I was secretly very concerned about this poor woman.  My daughter replied… “She lands at her dining table eating dinner.  That way she cannot talk and chew at the same time.  I am sure she talks at her family the same way she does the bus driver.  They need some peace too, Mom.”

I wanted to suggest earbuds to my daughter but thought better of it at the time… 🙂