The End Of A Long Week

GETTY_H_030811_SadDepressedYouthTeenI recently just heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and I feel so stuck in a box right now because I am still at the high school I work at and can’t get access to television.

 

Yes I can read it and see pictures on the internet, but it is not the same.

I’ve been busy myself this week with a number of suicidal kids, one suicide attempt and now I am watching a suicidal teenager (yes while writing this) as we wait for a sheriff deputy to come so I can brief them on what’s going on and have them take him to the local psychiatric hospital.

It’s been one of those weeks.

This particular client is hearing voices, has been so for about a year, the same amount of time he has been getting headaches, so I think it’s possible his hearing voices could be medically based.

He’s also states he’s been depressed since he was 8 years old so it’s possible his depression is causing his auditory hallucinations as well.

I don’t know, all I know is that I would like for him to get a full medical evaluation and kept safe from harming himself for the moment, which aren’t things that can be done here so I have to refer him and his family to places where that can be done.

Talking this his family on the phone, they knew that he has been complaining of hearing voices, but never thought enough of it to try to get him help.

Once again, there goes the whole denial of mental illness again.

It’s torturous, almost abusive to deny help to a kid hearing voices that are irritating him, causing him not to be able to concentrate or focus, and causing him to yell out things like “shut up” in the middle of church (talking to the voices).

So on the phone when the family said, “Oh, he’s been hearing voices for awhile”, I stressed to them the immediate importance that he get evaluated if they didn’t want to find him dead over the weekend due to killing himself.

A little shock therapy? Maybe, but I can’t take the chance on this young man killing himself because he is so depressed and can’t take hearing the voices in his head any more. Sure, many people hear voices and aren’t suicidal, but this kid is.

Many times in the school I work at, parents seem to be mis-educated or plain ignorant about mental illness and suicide. They don’t want to talk about it and definitely don’t want to get help about it most of the time, unless it’s going to get them a disability check.

Even then, they will go to the therapist/psychiatrist as needed, get on the medication if needed to fulfill the disability check status, and then either don’t get the prescriptions filled or stop giving it to their kids after the first refill or two.

So many kids I work with have been prescribed medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia, but haven’t taken medication in almost a year.

Now, I am not a big proponent of psychotropic medication, only referring families for medication evaluations when I think it is absolutely necessary, but these teenagers I am talking about, when not on their medication, are out of control.

These are the kids that are attempting suicide, so depressed that they can’t function, so anxious that they can’t go a whole week without being taking off campus in an ambulance for having a severe panic attack and driving their fellow classmates and teachers crazy with their erratic behavior.

These are the kids that need medication, because no amount of counseling can correct something that is largely chemically based. Yes I can work with them and help them learn to cope better, but if they are so out of it that they can’t take in or practice what I teach them, then counseling won’t work alone.

I guess I should have been prepared for this week and next week. Unfortunately, along with all the blessings of the season, this is also the time of year when we see an increase in student suicidal ideation (thoughts) and child abuse.

My clients, your kids, your students need us to be vigilant and responsive to their signs of distress.

This is not the post I attended on writing today, but maybe I just needed to vent a little. After multiple suicidal kids and just a frantic week of tense, emotionally and mentally unstable clients, I’m looking forward to the weekend.

It’s my time to recharge myself, refill my emotional energy so that I can stay healthy myself, be there for those around me and give it all up again next week.

I Want To Have A Light-Skinned Baby: The Affects Of Colorism On Black Adolescent Females

ts-134028063-african-american-girl-school-istock-14259556-dean-mitchellToday in a small group of teenage girls that consisted of one Asian-Haitian-American female, one Haitian-American female and one African-American female,

seemingly out of nowhere, the Haitian-American (a chestnut complected girl) blurted out,

“I date White boys because I want to have a light-skinned baby.”

She didn’t say that she wants to marry a loving man and have healthy children, but that she wants to have a light-skinned baby.

Before I could comment, the African-American girl in the group (she’s about copper complected) quickly agreed with her (although her current boyfriend is deep chestnut complected), that she too wanted light-skinned babies.

I then turned the the Asian-Haitian-American girl and asked her if she too wanted to have light-skinned children. She replied with the sensible answer, that she didn’t care how her kids came out. The other two girls quickly jumped in and said, “That’s because she is already light-skinned.”

I was shocked by their statements. Not because it was the first time I had ever heard Black teens make that comment, but because just on Sunday night I had watched CNN’s Who is Black in America with Soledad O’Brien, which explored colorism and identity in the Black community.

Some of the things that stuck out to me during the show, was how some darker skinned Blacks often did not like their skin tone and wanted lighter skin and how some lighter skinned Blacks didn’t want to identify with being Black at all.

These were more the exception than the rule, but a common enough trend to cause deep contemplating for not only Black people, but other people of color and those who teach, counsel or mentor people of color.

After watching that thought provoking show, I was a bit alarmed to have two of my teenage students basically say, “I don’t like my complexion and don’t want to have kids that look like me.”

I could go into the many different theories behind this sort of thinking, including brainwashing by the media, European standards of beauty and what is called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, but those are all too extensive topics to cover here, but I will write about those if there is a desire to hear about them.

My main concern, being that this is a psychology/counseling blog, is the affects this type of thinking has on these teenage girls self-esteem, self-value and self-worth.getty_rm_photo_of_africanamerican_teen_girl_in_mirror

When Black girls make comments like, “I want to have a light-skinned baby”, they are basically consciously or unconsciously rejecting vital parts of their self and their identity.

What they are saying at the most basic level is, “I don’t like my color, it is undesirable. I don’t like my hair, it is ugly. I want to make sure that my child comes out with lighter skin so that they will be prettier and better than I am.”

There is no way that a person with this type of latent thinking, can truly feel good about herself, her family or those that look like her.

This is a form of self-hate that she probably isn’t even aware she is influenced by, yet it shows up daily in her life through automatic thoughts, the way she feels about herself and the way she interacts with her world.

I keep saying she, but Black males are also affected by this.

Many Black males, especially athletes, entertainers and rappers quickly gravitate to and praise lighter skinned Black women, White women or women of other races. This sends a message to both young Black men and women.

To young Black men it says that you have to have a light-skinned Black, Hispanic, White or other woman on your arm to truly show you are successful or have “made it”. To darker skinned Black women, it says that you are ugly and undesirable. It says to light-skinned girls that you are coveted, not for your uniqueness, personality or intelligence, but for your appearance.

It’s sickening to me because most of these people are operating unconsciously under the influences of our countries painful history of racism. They have been brainwashed and don’t even know it because it started at such a young age.

It is hard for a people to feel good about themselves collectively, succeed collectively and grow collectively when there are so many of us that don’t feel comfortable in our own skin.

I believe this causes an increase in a multitude of issues including academics, violence, substance abuse and mental illness. stock-footage-an-angry-sad-girl-shows-her-frustration-black-and-white

Colorism doesn’t only affect Black people, but most people of color around the world who are influenced by European standards.

There have been many studies on the length some Hispanic cultures have gone through to guarantee that darker genes don’t enter (contaminate) their gene pool, so much so, that some families insisted on cousins marrying cousins.

In Brazil, before the rise of a pro Afro-Brazilian movement, many Black Brazilians didn’t identify as Black, and preferred to be identified as mulatto. Brazil even went through a period of “White washing” a few decades ago where the government was afraid that Brazilians were too African/dark-skinned and aggressively urged Europeans to migrate to the country to help lighten the face of Brazil.

Being identified as Black, around the world, has a very negative connotation behind it and many people try to escape that by denying they are Black all together if possible, preferring to be called Latino, Dominican, Puerto Rican, or whatever their nationality, despite their obvious African heritage.

I am not an expert on this subject from the Latino point of view, but I would refer you to the actress Zoe Saldana, who is a Dominican-American and proudly calls herself a Black woman. And the Dominican-American author Junot Diaz who talks frequently about colorism in the Dominican community in his works.

In America, at least in the Black community, we seem to have to face and deal with colorism more often, most likely because we are only about 13% of the population and have such a long history of racism and prejudice.

I told these young girls not to date a guy because of the color of his skin or his potential to help her have lighter-skinned children with “good hair”, but to date a guy because he respects her, loves her and treats her like a queen.

This post is not about race, but it’s about how this type of thinking negatively affects many aspects of these girls lives.

These girls are all in counseling because of anger, self-esteem and depression problems. If I didn’t like my skin complexion, the texture of my hair or my self, I would feel ugly, worthless, angry and sad all the time too.

I will continue working with these girls on accepting and loving themselves and plan on showing them this video (below) during our next meeting, in hopes that it will help open up their eyes to some of the subliminal messages they have been receiving about themselves.

The video is only about ten minutes, if you have the time, take a look at it and tell me what you think. It talks about the Clark Doll Experiment, but it goes deeper with a personal touch.

Betrayal Of Trust: How To Let Go And Move On When You’ve Been Hurt

affair_istock270Trust is an essential part of every relationship (romantic, family, business, friends, etc.). Trust defines interactions in relationships by building bonds and strengthening intimacy. Without trust, no relationship can truly grow to it’s full potential.

But what happens when that trust is betrayed?

Not everyone values trust as much as they should. Because trust at times is easily given, especially at first, it at times is also easily taken for granted. When trust is loss, the relationship suffers and sometimes fails.

When the trust is loss, it can be very hard, if not impossible to earn back. Whether trust can be restored or not depends on how much damage was done. Often the betrayed person just wants to end the relationship because of the pain and that is understandable.

However, many marriages have survived affairs and many relationships have survived betrayals.

If someone wants to work on rebuilding trust in the person that betrayed them, there are some things that they can do:

  1. Let the anger out– let the person that betrayed you know that you are hurting. It’s okay to let them know how you feel and you should. Often times the betrayed person feels rejected and is afraid to show anger towards the other person, but they end up just holding it in and letting it consume them, preventing any type of healing or rebuilding of trust to truly happen.
  2. Make up your mind to let it to, and then let it go– once you have let out your anger, let it go. That doesn’t mean blind forgiveness, but forgiving the person that betrayed you will free you up and set you free. If the person that betrayed you apologizes and you forgive them, then never bring up the incident over and over again. Don’t hold it over the person. Acknowledge that it happened. Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t beat them over the head with it if you hope to move on. Forgiveness is as much for you as it is for the other person.
  3. Know that will can never go back to the way they were before the betrayal– sadly, things have changed. The betrayal has done it’s damage. Things will never go back to the way they were before. Things will get better, but never the same. You may never trust the person the same again, but you can develop a type of mature trust and maybe not the naive trust you may have had before. I once counseled a woman who’s husband had had multiple affairs with multiple women, and surprisingly (through counseling) they managed to save their marriage and are still happily married today, but she couldn’t talk about her marriage and the affairs without crying, even years later, despite forgiving her husband and moving on.
  4. Be willing to ask others for help– you will need your support system to get through this. You can’t and don’t have to do it alone. know that you can ask for help when needed, even if it’s from the person that betrayed you. Let them know what you need from them. Often times we are too embarrassed about being the betrayal to ask for help because we don’t want others to judge us for forgiving the other person. If that’s the case, talking to a counselor may be the best source of support. There you will have someone who will listen to you without judgement and give you the support needed.
  5. Practice Trusting– people can’t earn back our trust without the opportunity to do so. This doesn’t mean you give the person “tests” to pass or fail, but practice giving them opportunities to show you that they deserve your trust. Sometimes people will say, “I forgive you”, yet cling to the other person as if they are trying to control their every move and thought. This isn’t forgiveness, trust or love. It’s fear.

Part of loving and trusting includes opening yourself up to potential pain and betrayal. It doesn’t mean it has to devour you and ruin your life.

Abuse Reports And Pregnancy Scares: My Week In Review

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This week went by really fast, although it was tiresome and very busy, picking up where last week left off.

Last Friday I had to have a suicidal student Baker Acted (Florida’s statute for involuntary examination/hospitalization), with five minutes of school left, which meant I had to deal with law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for two hours afterwards.

Not the best way to start my weekend.

This week wasn’t as dramatic, but I still had to call DCF on three cases for suspected physical abuse, suspected medical neglect and suspected sexual abuse.

I don’t know why, but I am still at times amazed at the amount of damage done to our kids at the hands of those who are supposed to love, support and watch over them.

Making DCF reports or Baker Acting a client is never the easiest thing to do. Often times clients are initially angry, or scared, but many times they are relieved to finally be getting help, and more often than not, after it’s all over with, they are grateful someone cared enough to get them help.

I even had a mother come in to try to assure me that her daughter is not being abused by her husband, but I tend to believe what her daughter is telling me and will support the daughter psychologically while DCF does their own investigation.

I also had three of my female clients this week tell me that they thought they were pregnant.

I always hate hearing this because I know the affect having a child can have on these inner-city young girls who have enough to overcome already.

Most of the times these young girls think that they can get pregnant and nothing in their lives will change. I remind them that every girl that was in my program last year that got pregnant have dropped out of school.

I was saddened also that these three young girls, all good and intelligent students, weren’t using protection and are potentially pregnant by guys that aren’t even their boyfriends.

It’s one thing to be pregnant by a boy who is supposed to be committed to them, but it’s another thing for a young girl to be pregnant by a boy who has no commitment to them at all.

“Hooking up” seems to be the thing with this generation, in which teens are more likely to have no-strings-attached, physical relationships that could include anything from kissing to intercourse.

Friends with benefits definitely seems to be more popular than actual dating, at least on the campus I work at.

These girls I am referring to, of course really like these boys and want to be with them in a monogamous relationship, but are willing to accept the friends with benefit role, which gives these boys no real reason to commit and give the girl what she truly wants, a relationship with a guy that cares for only her.

These young girls, as much as they would hate to admit it, aren’t emotionally prepared for no-strings attached sex as well as they think, which is one reason many of them are so angry, depressed, emotional and unhappy.

They are clueless about the connection between the body, the heart and the mind.

Luckily, so far one out of the three girls I mentioned has found out she is not pregnant, while the other two are too afraid to take pregnancy tests or go to their family doctor, so they are practicing the wait, see, and pray method.

Two of the girls asked me if I was mad at them (I’ve counseled them numerous times about self-esteem, self-respect, abstinence and using protection if they are going to be sexually active).

I told  them that I wasn’t mad and that I never get mad at them, because it’s true. I did admit to them that I was a bit disappointed in them, because that too is true.

I still care for them and support them unconditionally, even when I don’t like the decisions they’ve made..

Hopefully in the next few days, the other two girls will find out if they are pregnant or not so I can either help them learn to prevent this from happening again anytime soon, or help them prepare to be the best teenage mothers they can be.

Is Helping Egotistic or Altruistic?

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This past weekend on my way home at past 3 a.m., I saw a car on the side of the interstate with it’s hazard lights on. As I got closer to my exit, I noticed that it was four young ladies trying to change a flat tire.

I got off on my exit thinking that someone else would stop, but I decided to get back on the interstate to check on them. That required me getting back on the interstate going in the opposite direction, just to get off at the next exit, get back on and come back in their direction.

This took me close to ten minutes and I thought for sure, by then either someone else would have stopped (the interstate was quite busy for 3 a.m.) or that they would have figured it out by then.

As I approached their car on the interstate, it was obvious that neither had happened.

I stopped and asked if they needed help, and they all said in unison “please”. So at 3 a.m. I got down and dirty and changed their tire. It only took about ten minutes and they were very grateful.

They commented that they had seen at least four police cars pass by and they couldn’t believe no one stopped to help them. They thanked me for rescuing them from being stranded and we went our separate ways.

This isn’t the first time I have been in this type of situation.

Once at a nightclub I heard a lot of commotion and saw a guy beating up a girl while dozens of people others by watching in horror. I fought my way through a crowd of people, thinking that by the time I got to that side of the club, someone else would have stepped in, but no one did.

I ended up being the one pulling the guy off the girl. I was shocked at how many others just stood by and watched.

A similar incident happened years later in a Walmart parking lot when someone was being attacked in their car by a guy. I heard the screaming, saw a crowd of people standing around and watching, and then noticed someone helpless was being assaulted.

I ran across the parking lot, thinking once again, by the time I got there someone else would have intervened, but no one did, and once again I ended up being the one pulling the attacker off of his victim while others stood around and watched (someone did call 911 but they didn’t get there for at least another ten minutes).

I am not recommending anybody should do either of the three things I mentioned above because it could have ended up badly, but it got me to thinking about why I felt the need to help in those situations and why do we in general, help others.

While most of us like to think that when we are helping others we are being purely altruistic, often times we are helping for egotistic reasons.

Egotistic helping is motivated by a desire of the person helping, to advance their interest, rather than the interest of the person being helped. The person being helped may benefit, but that wasn’t the sole purpose of the helping.

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This occurs during times such as:

  • we are just doing our jobs
  • are interested in a challenge
  • seeking power, fame, or recognition
  • want to feel like a savior, rescuer, etc.

Some theorists believe that all helping is egotistic and that even when we are helping others, we are working for our own self-interest. This is called egoistic reduction, in which all helping is in the service of self-interest.

According to this theory, I intervened in the three examples above to be Superman, to rescue stranded, helpless individuals, and not purely for altruistic reasons.

Another psychological theory called negative state relive hypothesis says that we help to reduce the feelings of guilt we may feel if we didn’t help.

In the above scenarios, I agree that this may have been the case. Maybe I helped because if I didn’t, I would have felt guilty, if only briefly for not intervening when I could have.

Both of these are forms of egotistic helping, although other people benefited from my self-serving motives.

Other factors influence rather we are likely to help others or not such as:

  • the weather
  • our mood
  • ambiant noise
  • if we are in a hurry
  • if we think other people are looking
  • the attractiveness of the person
  • the gender.of the person

We are also more likely to help those that we feel are similar to us. This is called similarity bias, a form of reflexive favoritism we usually don’t even know we are influenced by.

Lastly, according to evolutionary psychology, we help others because it’s in our DNA.

We help because we are all products of other humans who benefited from helping to ensure the continuation of our species. To understand this instinct we may call it altruism or morality, but it is ultimately instinctual.

If you look at helping this way, then all helping is egotistic as it serves to help pass on our genes as human beings to the next generation.

So why do we really help? Is it purely egotistic or biological? Chances are it is a combination of altruism, egotistic motives, situations and biological factors.

In the situation on the interstate, I know for a fact that I stopped because it was four attractive young ladies. I wanted to help because I knew it would feel good to be the savior, I was worried about their safety and would feel guilty if I kept going.

The next time you help someone, ask yourself why are you really helping? You may be surprised at the answer.

On Jovan Belcher, Murder-Suicide and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in NFL Players

67-300x210Like a lot of people, I was shocked when I first heard the tragic news that National Football League (NFL) player Jovan Belcher had shot and killed his girlfriend, 22 year old Kasandra Perkins, before killing himself in front of the stadium his team played and practiced at last week.

Shocked at first because here was a guy, 25 years old, in the the prime of his life, making millions of dollars and yet for whatever reason, got to a point where he thought the only way out was to take the life of his 22 year old girlfriend and the mother to his infant child.

I don’t have any intimate details about Jovan Belcher or his relationship with his girlfriend, but I think it’s safe to say that Belcher was not in his right mind when he committed this tragedy and that the biggest victim of this incident is the orphaned child left behind.

I also think it’s safe to say that this was an act of domestic violence, even if the couple had no history of domestic violence, because killing your spouse, even in a fit of rage, is the ultimate act of domestic violence.

In my area, there has been a rash of domestic violence situations that have lead to homicide or murder-suicides lately. Most of these men were mentally/emotionally disturbed individuals.

A lot of times this type of incident comes from the desire to control other people and situations that we cannot control.

Sometimes when someone feels like they have exhausted themselves of every rational choice, they resort to very irrational and in this case, permanent choices that are destructive.

Also, many people who commit suicide often do not plan it, but do so impulsively.This seems to be the case often, especially when it comes to men.

In a fit of anger, irrational thinking, and/or sadness, picking up a gun and pulling the trigger probably wasn’t thought out completely, put an impulsive reaction.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is seen in some people who have had multiple concussions or head injuries.

CTE and many similar conditions strike numerous NFL players, boxers, wrestlers, hockey players and soldiers, often leading to poor memory, coordination, depression and impulsive behavior.

Signs of CTE were seen in former NFL player Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest in 2012. NFL player Dave Duerson, who before committing suicide, sent a text message to his family asking that his brain be donated to the Boston University research center because he felt as if his brain was “sick”.

Other recent NFL suicides include former NFL player Ray Easterling who shot himself in April, and 25 year old NFL player O.J. Murdock who shot himself in July.

Signs of CTE were also seen in an University of Pennsylvania Football player, who abruptly committed suicide in 2010.

Signs of CTE and other degenerative brain conditions are also showing up in Afghan and Iraq war veterans, many of them have committed suicide and other tragic, impulsive acts as well.

I’m not saying that CTE or any other brain condition was the cause of this tragedy, but I think it has to be taken into consideration as well as Belcher’s mental state.

Like in the military, in the NFL and other male professional sports, it’s often not popular to talk about feelings or problems, so men don’t. They hold it in and deal with them in the best way they know how, often ending up in situations where the only way they see out is through destruction of some type (violence, alcohol, drugs, etc.).

Maybe if Belcher had someone he felt he could talk to about what was going on, this wouldn’t have happened, who knows.

I do know that our society discourages men in most cases from talking about how they really feel and that in turn often leads to angry, depressed, damaged, frustrated, and hurt men who sometimes go on to hurt themselves and/or others.

I don’t want to speculate too much on this situation, but I do want us as a society to talk more about men dealing with their feelings and breaking through the stereotypes of manhood and letting men know it’s okay to ask for help.

Six current or former football players have killed themselves in the last two years, four in the last eight months.

Maybe this goes along with the CTE and impulse control theory or with men not talking about their problems theory. In my opinion, in many circumstances it may be a combination of both.

This is disturbing. Even without looking at CTE, this gives us a quick glimpse into the state of men in general when it comes to mental/emotional health.