Mental Health Infograph of Children and Teens

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Click on the image above to magnify the information in the graphic.

 

Children & teens susceptible to experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts that intersect with various areas of their lives. Some areas of a child’s/teen’s life that are impacted by mental illness include their school (academic performance, academic attainment), family dynamics, conflicts in the home, socially (disruptions in interpersonal relationships with peers), and personally in how one relates to themselves (i.e., low self-esteem, poor body image, etc).

It is important to keep in mind that the way in which mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are exhibited in a child/teen’s behavior may differ from how an adult experiences similar symptoms. For instance, a depressed child of nine years old may demonstrate higher levels of irritability or externalized/aggressive behavior, in comparison to a depressed adult who may miss days of work due to being unable to get out of bed.

Luckily, mental illness symptoms can be identified early (in childhood or adolescents) in order to prevent long-term debilitation and struggle. There is hope.

Thank you National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for creating this informative graphic. http://www.nami.org.

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A world of transitions: a personal recollection

Transitions are moments in time where change occurs, where adaptation is required, and growth necessary.

The word “transition” definitely sums up my life these past five months. Transitions have occurred in at least three realms of my life: personally , academically, and occupationally.

Personally, these five months have been the most difficult and rewarding period of my life. The difficulty stems from witnessing my grandfather’s death in March due to pancreatic cancer. The grieving and loss my family endured, and continue to experience, have not left our hearts. The emptiness we feel will remain to be with us as we recall heartwarming memories of him, and wish for his presence as we move on to experience major life events. On the other hand, the rewarding moments center around moving from Los Angeles back to Northern California and beginning my career as a social worker. In addition to the eight hour move, I have also experienced and revisited joy in the special relationships that remain close to my heart.

I believe in order for someone to know what happiness and joy feels like, one must know sadness and grief.

Academically, I graduated with my masters. Completing my masters degree was not solely reliant upon writing 24 page papers or attend class. The achievement of earning my degree also involved developing lifelong friendships, searching for the person I wanted to become, and learning how to remove myself from negative relationships.

Occupationally, I experienced the ideal outcome of the job searching process: I accepted a job offer at an amazing non-profit agency as a wraparound social worker. The process and preparation that it took for me to receive this job offer began in November 2013. I utilized LinkedIn (professional version of Facebook), spoke with colleagues and mentors to learn how they approached and managed the job searching process, joined seven job search engines (i.e. Monster, Career Builder, and more), and made numerous versions of my resume and cover letter. I also researched organizations and agencies I was interested in working for in Northern California. As I believe, my preparation met opportunity perfectly: I received an invitation for my first, and then my second, interview. In April 2014, I happily accepted my position. Before May 2014, I was an intern who wanted to be challenged clinically in order to provide the best care possible to the adults I interacted with weekly. Now, I have the ability to continue touching lives of families and witnessing their unrelentless resiliency.

Below are my three tips for surviving the transitions in life:

1) Plan for what you can control, let go of what you can’t control.. while remaining flexible and open to change. 

This step has been a challenging one for even myself to understand sometimes.

No matter how much I may plan for or anticipate an event, reality may be something entirely different. I’ve recently realized that creating a plan typically looks like a guideline of what I want to do, in order to allow myself flexibility. The flexibility that I allow in my plan allows life to occur. For instance, we can NOT control the people in our lives, we can (sometimes) NOT control the timeline of events, and we can NOT fast forward our personal growth, regardless of how much we want something to happen immediately. While you ‘wait’, please provide yourself with the allowance to enjoy life, take a break, practice self-care, and have some fun.

I have also found that having a positive perspective about change is helpful in living through a life transition or in making a big decision. I am not saying to ignore the “negative”. What I mean is to reframe an unprefered situation into one that highlights opportunity for growth and learning. For instance, my move back to Northern California was part of my plan. However, I was anxious for the new chapter of my life. After I acknowledged feeling anxious and a bit scared, I remembered that moving back to Northern California would allow me to be closer to my family and live in a new city.

2) Remain aware of your priorities and goals.

In addition, take deep breaths… alot. Remaining mindful of your priorities (whether they be family or graduation) will provide you with motivation to continue pursuing your goals even when the transitions become overwhelming.

3) Draw upon others’ experiences and mistakes. Learn from them.

Connect or reconnect with someone you trust that has survived a similar transition and inquire about how they prepared, made decisions about their action steps. Utilizing the people in your life or even finding new mentors can assist in easing any anxiety you may experience. Also, it is wonderful to learn from others’ mistakes because then you can save yourself time and energy from making the same mistake.

All in all, life can be crazy, overwhelming, but also fun and memorable. As a mentor told me, “allow yourself to walk through the fire because after you walk through [the fire], you will be a stronger person”.

Was the suicide a nightmare or real life: a True Story

A few years ago, I woke up and was unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Since it is September and this month is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month, I thought this would be a wonderful time to share this story with you.

The story goes like this:

One night I went to bed after a long day during my undergraduate years. I woke up sleepily from my cell phone ringing.

“Hello?”, I said.

“Hi, Brittany. I am calling to say bye.” Someone I hold very close to my heart was on the other line.

“What are you talking about? What do you mean by ‘bye’? Where are you going?”, I said from disbelief.

The other person stated, “I am going to kill myself. I can’t live like this anymore. I am sorry I have let you down”.

Tears began to stream down my face uncontrollably.

“What? What are you saying? You promised me you wouldn’t. Wait… Please DON’T!”

“I have to.” The phone hung up. My mouth remained open in shock. My heart felt like it stopped beating and time stopped.

The next moment I remember is waking up drenched in sweat and hearing myself scream. What just happened? Did I cry myself back to sleep after that phone call or was that phone call only a dream? A nightmare? It had to be a nightmare!

To make sure what happened was truly a nightmare, I called the person’s cell phone. The next five seconds seemed like eternity. The phone was not being answered fast enough. It must have been…

“Hello, Brittany.”

Oh my God! I heard the person say my name!

“Hello! Is that you?”

“Yes, are you okay? Are you crying? What’s wrong?” I attempted to explain for the next ten minutes what just happened as my tears of happiness overcame me. I then heard, “That will never happen. I promised you that I wouldn’t do that. And I plan to follow through with that promise”.

I began to cry again. “You promise?”

“Yes, I promise”.

 

Luckily, that phone call I experienced was only a nightmare. Unfortunately, some people’s nightmares do really happen in real life. Talking about suicide or discussing one’s thoughts about suicide is nothing to be ashamed of. Discussing the signs and concerns about a loved one or a friend is what can be done to prevent suicide from happening in the first place. For support, for either you, a family member, or a friend, please call:

The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK
The Youth America Hotline: Counseling for Teens by Teens at 1-877-YOUTHLINE
The Trevor Project: Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth at 1-866-488-7386.

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Kevin Breel shines light on the True Relationship between Society & Depression

This movie will provide you with truth, honesty, courage, & insight into the experience of depression in our society today.

To watch, please click on the link below:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-kid-thinks-we-could-save-so-many-lives-if-only-it-was-okay-to-say-4-words

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Every 30 seconds, someone in the world takes their life because of depression”–Kevin Breel

Mental illness impacts the family system, too!

A diagnosis of a biological ailment, such as cancer or diabetes, is easier for a family to understand in comparison to a mental health diagnosis.

 

           My parent’s diagnosis of depression was not clearly explained to my sibling or me. I did not understand that it was the dark depths of my parent’s depressive episodes that kept them in bed—not that they didn’t love me. I did not understand there was no dinner some nights because the depression suppressed my parent’s appetite—not because they didn’t want to feed me. I didn’t know that when my parent had a migraine, it was because of the depressive symptoms—not because I was talking too much. I also did not realize that when my parent felt ill, and therefore missed a day or two of work, that those missed work days would enhance the financial stress my parent, and thus I, would experience once the following paycheck arrived in the mail.

 

I was not alone in these experiences.

 

          A mental illness affects 1 in four American families. This statistic makes sense once we take into consideration that 1 in 17 American adults have a mental illness diagnosis, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Many more people may be undiagnosed, for a number of reasons. These statistics include fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, and siblings.

 

These statistics do not include the very children who are both directly and indirectly impacted emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes physically within the family.

 

          As an adolescent, I associated my parent’s behavior with how much they loved me. If I had knowledge about what depression was and how it would be affecting my parent at a younger age, the information would have enhanced my understanding of the illness and increased my compassion for my parent. Being able to identify my parent’s depressive symptoms in my adolescent years would have allowed me to differentiate between the parent I truly loved from the depression I began to despise.

 

 Mental illness also impacts families on a broader scope regarding how the family interacts with systems such as employment and pharmacology, to name a few.

 

           The days my parent didn’t go to work, due to not having the energy or ability to get out of bed, prevented the paychecks from being the same amount as their fellow employee. A smaller paycheck meant less money for food, school supplies, and the requirement to decide paying the mortgage or the electric bill. Although the smaller paychecks allowed my sibling and I to spend more time with our grandparents, I soon began to rely on them for meals and laundry soap.

 

          The smaller paychecks also impacted my parent’s interactions with the pharmaceutical business. After paying the necessary bills and buying groceries, some times there was no money available to purchase their antidepressant medication. The missed days from work also increased my parent’s stress level. The consistent high stress levels my parent experienced also negatively impacted their physical health; a high release of cortisol over time decreases an individual’s immune system efficiency. Hence, my parent would also become physically sick and miss more days from work. This cycle could not last forever. 

 

          Mental illness, such as depression, also impacts the relationships within the family. As I nurtured a level of understanding and a compassion for my parent, I witnessed the dismantling of some relationships within the immediate family. The relationships suffered from a lack of knowledge in combination with combating communication styles.

 

As I attempted to demonstrate, mental illness, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, impacts the family. Even though matters within my family are not perfect, I am glad to say that they have improved over time and from an immense amount of understanding from all members involved.

 

          Mental illness affects each family differently and similarly. Each family is different because each family is its own entity. The similarity is in the process; the process in which families adapt to change and challenges by building resiliency. The ways an individual comes to accept a diagnosis (physical or psychological) does not end with the individual.

 

Rather, the process continues with the family. The individual does not progress towards recovery alone; the family moves towards recovery together, as one.

 

A diagnosis is not an end-all; it is an opportunity for the family to grow.

 

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Infographic of Mental Illness Facts

Infographic of Mental Illness Facts

This is a wonderful infographic representing the prevalence of depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia throughout the United States. Mental Ilnness affects people of all ages and all cultural backgrounds.

1 in 17 Americans live with a serious mental illness
1 in 4 families have a relative that has a mental illness

We are all in some way impacted by mental illness.

Stand together to decrease stigma.

If you’d like to read more regarding USC’s MSW program &/or about the infographic presented above, please visit this link:  http://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/facing-mental-illness-infographic/