Tag Archives: depression

smartphone teen mental health

How is your teen’s smartphone impacting their mental health?

When we were teens we would leave school and actually leave. The day’s drama, while still on our minds for a short while, was left at our lockers. That doesn’t happen anymore—not with smartphones.

Nowadays almost every teen you see has a smartphone of some kind, and they are damaging our children’s mental health. Research shows between 2009 and 2017 the number of high schoolers who contemplated suicide increased 25 percent.  The number of teens diagnosed with depression increased 37 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Our children and teens are constantly in contact with bullies and are up all hours of the night responding to texts. Where they used to be able to escape to the safety of their bedrooms, that no longer exists. Technology has enabled them to always be followed and always connected to that outside world. Even though as parents we don’t quite understand this addiction to the phone, after all it wasn’t something we dealt with as a child, there are things we can do to help our kids. 

We have to set the example. It is hard, believe me I understand, to put that phone down, sometimes, but you need to show your children the boundaries. One important rule for is no phone in the bedroom at night. Your kids, and yourself, need to sleep. That phone is a constant distraction.

Taking that a step further, no phone or device use (of any kind) should be used an hour before bedtime. The blue light of these devices can be overstimulating making it hard to fall asleep. Not enough sleep can be a major risk factor for depression. 

Additionally, try to limit your child’s overall scrolling time per day to less than two hours. This doesn’t count time spent on homework. If they need the internet for a school project, that is fine. But, when homework is done time needs to be limited. This might be especially hard on weekends but it is so important—encourage them to meet up with their friends, go for a walk, be active, get out of the house, anything but be on that phone. 

There are some apps that can help parents to monitor and control phone use:  

  • Qustodio 
  • FamiSafe
  • OurPact
  • Boomerang Parental Control
  • ScreenTime
  • Screen Time Limit KidCrono
  • ESET Parental Control
  • Norton Family Parental Control
  • Limitly
  • ScreenLimit

More information on these applications can be found here.

moms

Stay-At-Home Moms Are Working Too

There was another post that caught my eye on social media the other day. It was a hand-written comparison list titled “Should Mothers Have Careers?” I have posted the image below so you can see it for yourself. 

mom image

This list is vastly unfair and unrealistic. It is media like this that gives the stay-at-home mom so little respect. This kind of subtle messaging can do so much harm. It plants these stereotypes that just because you are home with the kids you have so much free time during the day. Oh yes, you are home so you have time to cook a gourmet meal, play all day, and nap. It is this stuff that causes husbands to come home and ask their wives that much-despised question — “what have you been doing all day?”

It is not right. These moms aren’t napping all day. They are juggling the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and meal preparation with the constant demands (and guilt) to play (or get a snack) from their children. They are the managers of households. Their to-do lists are overflowing. They are exhausted both physically and emotionally. They are working hard as hell. 

Not to mention they can be faced with ongoing feelings of loneliness, the struggle to find a place where they belong and a purpose within themselves. It is hard when you go through 90 percent of your day with only a two-year-old to talk to. 

Whether working outside or inside the home, each has its challenges and benefits. Being a mother (period) is hard work and it deserves all the respect we can give. We need to stop glorifying the stay-at-home mom as someone who is always on vacation and instead give her a helping hand, a hug, a high-five. We also need to stop putting down the working mom, the one who is doing what she needs to do for her family, the one who may be following her dreams. We all have different paths—one is not better than the other.

support partner with depression

How to support a partner with depression

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be difficult. It is hard to know what you can do to help and you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It can also be difficult to know if what you are doing is helping, causing you to get discouraged and feel helpless.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is an internal struggle, a mental illness that ebbs and flows. People who are depressed have good days and bad days just like everyone else. Those who struggle with depression need love and support from those around them. They need people with knowledge and understanding who can give them grace during bad times.

That being said, as in any relationship, you must take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to breathe, relax, decompress, and practice self-care. Supporting someone who is depressed can take a toll on you, as a partner, as well. Take the time to recognize your needs.

Here are some ways you can help a partner with depression:

1.) Learn about depression— It is hard to help someone who is struggling with their mental health if you don’t have some knowledge. People who are depressed often have angry outbursts, moments of withdrawal, days when they want to stay in bed all day, bouts of crying, and unexplained sadness. If you aren’t aware of the symptoms then you, as a partner, might get angry, take things personally, or feel hurt. Understanding and making sure you also have a support system is important.

2.) Just be there — Sometimes caring for another is as simple as sitting with them, giving them a hug, rubbing their back, checking on them, etc. You don’t have to do any huge acts of kindness. It is more about showing your support by being present. Letting them know you care about them. Say things like “we will get through this together.”

3.) Encourage treatment — Often those struggling with depression get so down on themselves that they don’t have the energy or the motivation to get help. They might not even know why they are feeling this way, or notice changes in their behavior. As a partner, you can be a voice of reason. You can encourage them to get help, maybe even schedule and take them to the first visit. Tell them what you have noticed and explain to them you want them to feel better. You can assist in the research of mental health options. Let them know you are on their team.

4.) Create a supportive home environment — It is important to recognize that depression is no one’s fault. It is not yours and it is not your partner’s fault for being depressed. Create a healing environment in your household. Make plans to exercise together. Choose a healthy diet plan to help you both feel your best. Limit access to things like alcohol or drugs. Make time for counseling appointments. Create routines and work together to limit overall stress around the home.

5.) Positive reinforcement —People who are depressed often feel the worst about themselves. Everything they do is wrong, everything is bad, they feel worthless. Noticing small improvements and mentioning them to your partner can go along way, “I think it is great you got up to workout this morning,” “I am proud of you for making that appointment,” etc.

6.) Set small goals — Depression is overwhelming and overcoming symptoms can feel like a mountain to climb. Instead of looking at the big picture, focus on the day-to-day. Set small, manageable goals. Maybe it is taking a walk a few nights a week after work, going to bed by a certain time each day, making and keeping an appointment, or even getting out of bed and doing one thing — like making a meal, taking a shower, something attainable.

7.) Know suicide warning signs —It is hard to think about but suicide is a very real result of depression for some people. You must acknowledge the risk and keep your eyes peeled for signs. Talk to your partner about how they feel, is this something they think about? Keep notice of them making plans, talking about death, giving things away, or finding a sudden calm, see other warning signs here.

Supporting someone with depression can be hard on the partner. Make sure, as mentioned above, to take care of yourself as well. You can’t be expected to carry all the burden but you can show those you love that you are there for them. Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. Don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to do this alone.

foods to battle depression

Foods To Help Battle Depression

When you are feeling depressed, you probably aren’t thinking too much about the foods you are eating. But, research shows that eating right can give your brain the tools it needs to avoid (or even treat) depression. 

Let’s get real here, when we eat right, we tend to weigh less and feel better overall. But that is not the only reason the food you eat matters:

1.) Protein-rich foods boost energy — Proteins like turkey, tuna, and chicken contain the amino acid tryptophan which can help your body produce serotonin. Eating one of these protein-packed foods several times a day can boost energy and help you to clear your mind. Other healthy proteins can be beans/peas, low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, and soy. 

2.) Vitamins help you feel better — A Spanish study showed a link between depression and the amount of vitamin B12 women got and the amount of folate men had in their diet. Eating things like legumes, nuts, fruits, and dark green vegetables can help keep folate levels high; and lean and low-fat animal products and fish can help to keep B12 levels where they need to be.

3.) Omega-3 Fatty Acids are good for your heart and your brain — Scientists have found that those who don’t consume enough Omega-3s are at greater risk for Major Depressive Disorder. Fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables are all good ways to get your Omegas in. 

4.) Antioxidants help prevent cell damage — It is important to keep our brains in tip-top shape and antioxidants can help with that. Our bodies make free radicals which can damage cells and lead to aging and other problems. Antioxidants lessen the destructive impact of these molecules. Foods like carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds all contain antioxidants. 

5.) The mineral selenium can keep your mood boosted — Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods. Foods like beans and legumes, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, seafood, and whole grains are all rich in selenium. 

Avoiding certain unhealthy foods can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression including limiting caffeine and alcohol. Remember if you treat your body right, your brain will follow. 

men symptoms depression

Men Show Depression & Anxiety Differently

Men and women have different ways of reacting to feelings of anxiety or depression. Where a woman might cry or voice feelings of nervousness or unrest, a man might react in an angry outburst, alcohol-abuse, or even muscle aches and pains.

Difficult to Diagnose

This significant difference in reactions often makes it difficult to diagnose men. Many times they choose to not seek help and those around them don’t recognize the signs.

Often we think of men as jerks when they have a big emotional reaction to something that seems insignificant, when in fact they could be reacting that way because they are nervous or anxious. Men who are depressed have more issues with controlling, violent or abusive behaviors and inappropriate anger, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men tend to turn to escapist behaviors, like spending more time at work or sporting events. They might avoid coming home or attending group events.

Many men also find it difficult to display emotions like sadness or to find a release like crying, and instead hold those feelings deep inside resulting in muscle aches or pains, headaches, and dizziness.

Unhealthy Coping

All that holding in makes it hard to process feelings, leading many men to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, or turning to risky behaviors like reckless driving. Rather than dealing with their mental illness or admitting they are struggling with some hard times, they drown their feelings turning themselves numb. It is no question that these behaviors are unhealthy and often contribute to relationship failures, job loss, and other personal problems.

Scientists don’t know the exact reasons why depression/anxiety symptoms show up differently in men than women, but it is likely due to many factors — brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and learned behaviors, to name a few.

Help is Available

Because men display symptoms differently than women, we must have conversations. Learning and recognizing the different ways men may display symptoms of mental illness, can lead to more men getting the help they need.

warning signs

Suicide Warning Signs: What should you be looking for?

With suicide rates at an all-time high, we must know and understand the signs and symptoms to look out for. Suicide is preventable and is never the answer to your problems. If for any reason you think you may be suicidal or just don’t feel like yourself, please consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. So many people want to see you continue in this life and so many resources are available to help you get through these hard times.

If you are someone who is concerned a child, relative, or friend may be at risk for suicide there are some signs to look out for:

  • Focusing on death — a person at risk of committing suicide likely doesn’t want to die, they just want a way to end their pain. It is a concern if a person focuses on death and dying, researches different ways to die, and/or seems encompassed by the idea.
  • Making plans — someone who is thinking about ending their life may start to make plans. They might make a will, talk about after-life wishes with family, giveaway important things, or start saying goodbye to loved ones.
  • Becomes withdrawn — not returning phone calls or showing up for social events can be a big sign that something is not right.
  • Shows despair — they might seem sad, distraught, severely depressed, or talk about how they are a burden to others.
  • A swing in mood or sleep — a person who is normally anxious, depressed, moody or aggressive may suddenly become calm once they have decided to commit suicide. They may also stop sleeping as much as they used to or sleep more.
  • Substance abuse — as with any mental health condition the use of substances like alcohol or drugs can contribute to feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts.
  • Acts recklessly — participating in dangerous and risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or driving drunk can be a sign that a person doesn’t appreciate their life and doesn’t care if it ends.
  • Victims — victims of trauma or abuse of any kind can be more at risk than other populations. These people have a lot of pain they are dealing with and struggle with wanting that pain to go away.

If you or anyone you know is displaying any of the above signs or symptoms, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK [8255].

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

stress low

One thing you can do to keep stress low

Stress is part of our everyday lives. It comes and goes based on the days’ events resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.  

Cortisol is our brain’s natural response to both minor moments of stress—also called good stress or eustress, which can be beneficial for our productivity, such as starting a new job or finishing a project and doing it well; and major stress —known as distress — such as finding out you are late on bills, getting in a vehicle fender bender, or suffering a traumatic event. 

Fight-or-Flight

This hormone is released by our bodies’ adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. As it states in the definition, this hormone puts your body in a state of mobilization. It is preparing you to get active and ready for action, so you can fight off whatever is stressing you. You know, just like in the caveman days when there was a predator going after a food source. 

But, these days we aren’t as active. We are getting hit left and right with more and more stressors compounding in our bodies and our cortisol levels are off the charts. All this cortisol not only leads to health problems like weight gain, high blood pressure, lower immune function, loss of learning and memory, increases in depression, anxiety, and more, but it also makes it hard for our body to find and accept alternatives to situations. It clouds our reality. 

Keeping Stress Low

So what is one thing you can do to keep stress levels low? 

Take that feeling of flight seriously. Get active. Get out there. And reduce your cortisol levels.

Regular physical activity can help to lower cortisol levels and allow your brain some clarity. Regular activity can increase your self-confidence and resilience to life’s everyday ups and downs. Coupled with interaction with friends and meditation and mindfulness practices you can lighten the load in your brain and feel lighter, less stressed, and more at peace with your life. 

Ask Mabel: I feel bad about the thoughts I have regarding my children because of my postpartum psychosis

Dear Mabel,

I have decided that I need to see a therapist about my postpartum psychosis. I have been having bad thoughts about my babies. I would never hurt them but it makes me feel like a horrible mom for having these thoughts. I know therapy is a step in the right direction but is there also a medication that could help? I don’t know what to do but I know something needs to change. 

Sincerely, Erica from Missouri

The Courage To Speak Out

Mabel: Hi Erica, I commend you for your courage to speak out. I know that many moms who suffer from postpartum psychosis feel so horrible about their thoughts that they are embarrassed to address them. But, starting the conversation with a licensed therapist can help you heal and move forward in a positive direction. 

Postpartum psychosis is caused by the hormone fluctuations that occur during and after the birth of a child. These hormone changes can be major and they mess with the chemical makeup of our brains. In addition to negative thoughts, these changes can cause depression, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations, mania, and delusions. They usually start to occur in the first two weeks after childbirth. These things you are experiencing have a lot more to do with biology than your morale as a person. 

You are NOT a bad mom. The fact that you feel like a horrible mom means that you are exactly the opposite. You are a good person and a good mom for wanting to get help and make changes so that you don’t have these thoughts. 

I am proud of you for seeking help. There are medications that you are welcome to discuss with a health professional. Therapy will also benefit you and help you to heal.  

How to live the fullest with the holiday blues

The holidays can be a time for joy, happiness, appreciation but they can also trigger sadness, depression, and remind us of things we are missing. These feelings are so common they have a name — the Holiday Blues. 

Around this time of the year, I frequently encounter clients who are struggling with loss in their family, financial issues, mental health, etc. They often ask me what they can do to get out of their funk. On top of therapy, medication, proper nutrition, and physical activity the main thing we need to do when we are struggling is to avoid isolation. When we are down and we isolate ourselves it escalates those negative feelings. 

Turn negative into positive

Doing something nice for others by giving part of yourself helps to get people out of isolation and feel good when they see the joy of others. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the way we are spending our days. 

It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile. 

If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:

National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org

Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org

Create The Good: http://createthegood.org