Mental Health Resources

We are delighted to announce that our school will be participating in the School Mental Health Consulting Program this year. This innovative new program will provide our school with additional resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of all students. Please be on the lookout for helpful information about a featured mental health and well-being topic in each month’s parent newsletter and on this page. All information will be prepared by our school’s mental health consultant.






January 2018 
Managing Virtual Violence

Do some research: Find media that match your child’s age and maturity level. Keep in mind that young children should never be exposed to virtual violence including violent video games, and violence on television. Remember that exposure includes “second-hand exposure” such as watching others play violent video games and hearing violence on television from another room. See below for a link to impartial reviews of all types of media.

Set limits: Think about what your children watch in addition to setting limits on the amount of screen time. 

Watch and discuss together: Find some time to watch television or play video games you’re your child. Turn moments of on-screen violence into teachable moments and explain real life consequences of violent and aggressive behavior. Ask your children to think about how they would feel if someone was hurt in real life. Remind children that violence is not a joke.
 
Swap in the good: Expose children to media that uses non-violent ways to resolve conflicts and encourage your children resolve conflict without aggression or violence. 

Helpful Resources:

Common Sense Media: The leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world full of media and technology. Includes tips for talking with children about virtual violence, answers to frequently asked questions for children of all ages and more information about the impact of virtual violence on child behavior.

Healthy Children.org: The parent-friendly website of the American Academy of Pediatrics which is an organization of more than 66,000 pediatricians committed to the well-being of children. On this page parents will find more information about how virtual violence impacts children’s behavior and recommendations for parents.

Common Sense Media Reviews: Check out this section of the Common Sense Media website for impartial reviews of titles across all types of media (games, TV shows, movies, apps, websites etc). Includes recommendations by age and brief summaries of topics and themes that children will be exposed to for each title. Over 28,000 titles have been reviewed. 



December 2017
Understanding Depression

Signs and Symptoms of Depression:

While no two cases of depression are ever the same, if your child is experiencing several of these symptoms for an extended period of time (more than 2 weeks), and the symptoms are severe enough to disrupt his or her daily life you might want to consider reaching out for help:

Sadness, anxiety, or feeling “empty” of any mood
Feelings of hopelessness
Feelings of pessimism, expecting only bad things to occur
Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities
Neglecting care of oneself, such as not bathing, grooming, or eating
Fatigue or decreased energy level, moving or speaking slowly
Irritability
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
Restlessness or having trouble sitting still
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Difficulty following through with tasks, being unable to perform well at work, or ineffective parenting
Increase in pain sensitivity
Difficulty sleeping, waking very early in the morning, or sleeping more than usual
Increased or decreased appetite, large changes in the body weight
Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause or that do not ease even with targeted treatment
Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

General Advice:

Some activities and ways of thinking can support children in recovering from depression and even help some children from developing symptoms in the first place:
Regular physical activity
Healthy dietary choices including limiting sugary and high-fat foods
Getting enough restful sleep on  regular basis
Recognizing and being thankful for aspects of one’s life
Supportive social and family interactions
Recognizing a purpose to one’s life
Spiritual involvement
Being connected within a community
Involvement in activities that the child sees as meaningful

Treatment Options:

1. Pediatrician: It is always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your child's pediatrician if you have concerns about mental health including depression. A trusted pediatrician can help everyone understand mental health and discuss various options. Many pediatricians in Staten Island now offer integrated mental health services so children may even be able to receive treatment right in the pediatrician’s office without having to visit another location.

2. Outpatient Mental Health: Outpatient mental health services include psychotherapy (aka “talk therapy”) and medications that help restore normal chemistry in the brain. Sometimes psychotherapy and medications are used together to treat depression. Psychotherapy can be delivered in a variety of settings ranging from home-offices to larger agencies. One of the advantages of a larger agency is the availability of on-site physicians who are able to prescribe medication and work in collaboration with psychotherapy providers. The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Service (aka “The Jewish Board”) is a large mental health agency with offices in Staten Island where children can receive psychotherapy and medication together if needed. Parents can schedule an initial session by calling 844-ONE-CALL (844-663-3355).

3. NYC Well: This is a free resource available 24 hours a day 7 days a week provided by the New York City Department of Health to support the mental health of all New Yorkers. Parents can chat with a professional to get referral information for mental health services and access in-home support in the event of a crisis. Call 1-888-NYCWELL, Text “well” to 65173 or visit the NYC Well website at nyc.gov/nycwell to chat with a live representative.

4. A trusted adult at the school: Parents can always reach out to any trusted adult at the school with question about their child’s mental health and wellbeing including concerns about depression. School staff can help parents connect with treatment resources that suit the family’s unique situation and preferences.



November 2017
Social Media and Internet Safety

Helpful Resources

Common Sense Education:  The leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world full of media and technology. Parent resources include media ratings, discussion guides and a comprehensive parent toolbox with materials that can be used to help set limits on screen time and support safe online behavior.

Child Mind Institute: National nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting children with learning disabilities and mental health issues.  Parents can find answers to many common questions about technology use such as how much screen time is healthy, and when should kids get their own cell phone, along with advice for how to avoid letting technology and screen time weaken family bonds.

New York City Department of Education: Social Media information page from the NYC DOE about social media. Includes information about the definition of social media, how to post responsibly on social media, and information about cyberbullying. Includes information for students and parents.
 
General Advice

Discuss responsible online behavior: Establish rules for appropriate use across all of the technology your child uses, especially with respect to posting on social media and sharing images in social media and messing apps. Make it clear that there could be legal consequences to posting or sharing explicit photos. Children should understand that rules are for their own safety.

- Establish rules for who’s ok to talk to: Children should know that it is not ok to chat with strangers online and to never share personal information with a stranger online.

- Remain open and willing to talk: Encourage your child to speak to you or any trusted adult if anything uncomfortable happens online or with social media. One way to encourage communication is to resist the impulse to limit or restrict access to technology when your child breaks a rule or does something that may be inappropriate with technology because these consequences will encourage most children to cover their tracks in the future.

- Look for warning signs: If you child’s behavior suddenly becomes withdrawn, or emotionally distant or if your child spend endless hours online or seems to be hiding something that could indicate that they are facing challenges online.

- Limit technology use during homework: Keep in mind that smartphones and apps are designed to grab our attention and keep our eyeballs on the screen. Children need to focus their thoughts on their schoolwork during homework time in order to think deeply and get the most out of their studies.

- Resist the temptation to use technology as a reward or punishment: Even though technology might be a powerful reward for your child taking it away as a consequence or requiring him or her to earn screen time could make technology more desirable and even lead to addiction-like obsessions later in life

- Encourage other activities: One of the best ways to get children to spend less time with technology is to increase access to other activities like physical activity, playing sports, reading books, playing board games, and doing art projects.

-Be prepared for difficult conversations: Even with parental controls and smart filters children are likely to encounter all kinds of content online and this can lead to questions about things like substance use and sex.
Advice for Tweens and teens (12+)

-Keep modeling good tech behavior. It’s easy to let things slide once kids are older and have their own devices, but remember that the old rules still apply. Don’t use your phone at the table and make sure your kids don’t need to compete with a screen for your attention. Besides setting a good example, this shows them that you care and are interested, which makes them more likely to open up. Even though they’re getting older, your kids still need to talk to you, not just their friends.

– Encourage privacy. Once kids have turned 13 they are allowed to get an account on Facebook and most other social media websites and apps (some kids cheat and get them earlier). Whatever age your family decides is appropriate for social media, make sure that your child is very careful about privacy. Research privacy settings with her and make sure she understands when something is public or private — or somewhere in the middle — and how that should affect what she posts. As a general rule, she shouldn’t share anything online that she wouldn’t be comfortable with the entire world reading. Including her grandmother.

– Yes to friending, no to spying. If your child is on social media, developmental psychologist Donna Wick of Mind to Mind Parent recommends that you follow or friend him, and monitor his page. But she advises against going through text messages unless there is cause for concern: “If you have a reason to be worried then okay, but it better be a good reason,” she says. “I see parents who are just plain old spying on their kids. Parents should begin by trusting their children. To not even give your kid the benefit of the doubt is incredibly damaging to the relationship. You have to feel like your parents think you’re a good kid.”

– Make it clear that naked pictures are a bad idea (and explain why).Sometimes kids think sharing photos is a way to build trust, but it can do the opposite just as easily. Your daughter might trust her boyfriend with her photos but he, in turn, might trust a close friend, and so on. Or she might trust him to delete the photos, but later finds out that he kept them on his phone, and people found them when they were scrolling through his pictures. These are some innocent ways the pictures could get into the wrong hands — there are a lot of less innocent ways they could, too. And once the pictures are out there, they can damage future relationships and job prospects, not to mention become the talk of the school.
Also, in case your kid doesn’t know, if she is a minor, sharing naked pictures can get her and whoever she’s sending them to in a lot of trouble for child porn, which is really not something she wants to mess with. Click here for more on talking to kids about sexting.

– Texting can be tricky. Warn kids that it’s easy for people to misinterpret messages when they aren’t hearing the tone of your voice or seeing the expression on your face. Jokes, in particular, might seem mean. To guard against misunderstandings and hurt feelings, it’s always a good idea to make it clear when you’re joking.



October 2017
Substance Abuse

Adult alcohol use is one area where this fact could not be more important. For this reason we are informing parents that when children observe their parents consuming alcohol they are become more likely to consume alcohol themselves. More importantly when children consume alcohol at a young age they are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders later in life. The dangers of alcohol and substance use are extremely important to everyone at the school and for that reason we devoted an entire Professional Development session to educating our staff about youth substance use earlier this year. Please take a moment to visit the mental health corner on the school website to find additional information including signs your child may be using, tips to help communicate and links to local resources where you can learn more and get help.


Signs your child may be using:
 
Declining school work and grades
Abrupt changes in friends, groups or behavior
Sleeping habits/abnormal health issues
Deteriorating relationships with family
Less openness and honesty

Tips to help Communicate:

Clearly communicate the risks 
Express your disapproval
Use “teachable moments”
Frequently talk AND LISTEN to your kids about how things are going in their lives
Even if you used drugs or alcohol in the past, don’t be afraid to talk


Helpful Resources:

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: National, non-profit organization that supports parents deal with the challenges of youth substance use. Includes strategies for talking with your children about drugs and alcohol and a hotline where parents can speak to a trained specialist to develop an action plan for their family.

Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA): Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) is a coalition of STATEN ISLAND people and organizations who have come together with a mission to decrease youth substance misuse on Staten Island. It is a dynamic partnership of both private and non-profit organizations; city and state government agencies; philanthropists; parents, teachers and teens, many of who have been working to combat alcohol and drug misuse for years. Visit their website for more information and to get involved.

Staten Island Drug Prevention: The comprehensive substance use prevention dashboard for STATEN ISLAND. Includes current data about the opioid crisis in Staten Island, provider directories, information about current initiatives on the island and additional resources.






May 2017 
Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month! Since 1949 Mental Health America has led the country’s observance of Mental Health Month in May, this year’s theme is Risky Business. Parents are encouraged to pause for a few minutes this month to think about their own habits and behaviors that might increase their risk of developing a mental health condition. Some things to consider include alcohol and substance use, internet and TV time, financial concerns, levels of physical activity, and sleep patterns.  Parents may also take time to observe for signs that their child may be at risk for developing a mental health issue. Please visit the school website for 7 signs to look for, helpful community resources and additional information about mental health. As always, parents are welcome to reach out to a trusted adult at the school with any concerns about their child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. 

Mental Health by the Numbers:

·       Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.

·       Approximately 13% of children aged 8–15 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.

·       Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14.

·       Mood disorders, including major depression, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of youth hospitalization in the U.S.

·       Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.

·       Children who receive treatment for mental health issues are much more likely to succeed in school and beyond

Seven Child Mental Health Warning Signs:

·       Feeling sad or withdrawn for 2 weeks or more

·       Out-of-control risk taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others

·       Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing

·       Severe mood swings that cause problems with relationships

·       Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits

·       Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still

·       Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

 

Helpful Community Resources:

·       NYC Well: This is a free resource available 24 hours a day 7 days a week provided by the New York City  Department of Health to support the mental health of all New Yorkers. Parents or teens can chat with a professional to get recommendations for “self-help” techniques and referrals for mental health services. Call 1-888-NYCWELL, Text “well” to 65173 or visit the NYC Well website at nyc.gov/nycwell to chat with a live representative .

 

·       Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services:  Offers a range of mental health programs including individual and group counseling services for children as young as 5 years old. Services are designed to empower parents and children to live happier and healthier lives. Several programs are available to address a variety of mental health issues including anxiety, sensory processing, communication, anger, poor relationships, oppositional defiance and attention issues. Clinic locations throughout the city, including Staten Island, but parents have to call 1-844-ONE-CALL (844-663-2255) to get started.

 

·       Pediatrician: Your child’s pediatrician knows your child medical history and can direct you to a trusted mental health practitioner who is appropriate for your specific situation. Pediatricians receive new information about how to identify and treat mental health issues all the time, so do not hesitate to ask for assistance this month even if your child’s pediatrician has not been able to help in the past.



April 2017
Autism Awareness Month

What is autism? Technically speaking, autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across a variety of settings. Children must also display some kind of restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. Autism is a spectrum disorder which means that no two children with autism have the same symptoms. Some children with autism have strong language skills and struggle with the nuances of communication like jokes and idioms, whereas other children with autism are completely non-verbal. In the area of behavior, some children with autism have extreme sensitivity to sensory stimulation like loud noises or bright lights whereas other children with autism do not react at all to sensory stimulation. The important thing to keep in mind is that no two children with autism are alike and an approach that works great with one individual is not guaranteed to work with another individual.

More information:

About 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with autism according to estimates from Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC estimate of the number of children with autism in the United States was 1:150 as recently as 2006 making autism one of the fastest growing childhood mental health conditions.

The number of children identified with autism varies from region to region, with the estimated prevalence in the Northeast being greater than the nationwide estimate.

ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and in all countries throughout the world. 

ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

Early identification and early treatment is important for treatment to be effective, however all individuals with autism make improvements in functioning and behaviors regardless of age.

Autism awareness events (Click through for more information):

Dine Out for Autism: Special menu items and other promotions at local restaurants with proceeds going to local non-profits that support children and families with autism. 

Chuck E. Cheese Sensory Sensitive Sundays: Chuck E. Cheese offers a sensory friendly experience on the first Sunday of every month. Special features include less crowding, reduced noise, and specially trained and caring staff. 

Annual Spring Egg-Stravaganza: Easter bunny, egg patch, dancing and more, for children with autism and their families. Saturday, April 8 12:00pm-2:00pm. Hosted by Autism Warriors.

Helpful parent resources (click through for more information):

Autism Speaks: Nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people currently living with autism and their families while supporting the development of permanent, long-term solutions for the condition. Website includes searchable parent resource guide with listings for diagnosis, health services, behavioral therapy etc.

Five Tips that Helped Improve my Child’s Behavior: Simple and easy-to-follow recommendations written by a parent of two children with autism. Topics include focusing on time and using timers, how to use first/then statements, rewarding positive behavior, focusing on what you want your child to do, and how to remain calm during meltdowns.

Behavioral Health Treatment: Did you know that New York State passed a law in 2011 that requires health insurance companies to pay for autism diagnosis and treatment? This means that families can access behavioral health treatment including up to 680 hours per year of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through their health insurance. Call your insurance company to find out about your plan’s in-network providers or reach out to the school for information about Staten Island behavioral health organizations that provide treatment for autism.



March 2017
Helping your children understand and deal with stress

What is stress? When people talk about stress they are usually referring to the unpleasant feeling that comes along when the body responds to demands. When that feeling is too strong, or when the demands are too large we start to feel stressed. Scientists have identified at least 3 different types of stress:

“Routine stress” which relates to the pressure of school work, classes, relationships, and daily responsibilities

“Change stress” is stress that is brought on by a sudden or unexpected negative change like losing a job or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“Traumatic stress” is experienced in an event like a major accident, assault or natural disaster where people are in danger of being seriously hurt. 

Is stress harmful? Not all stress is bad. In fact, stress can motivate children to prepare for an exam or perform well in a challenging situation. The physiological changes associated with stress (increased blood flow, faster breathing etc) can even be life-saving in some situations. However, health problems can occur if stress goes on for too long or becomes chronic. While everyone experiences stress differently, some examples of physical symptoms associated with prolonged or chronic stress include headaches, sleeplessness, reduced energy, changes in appetite, gastrointestinal issues, irritability and emotional changes. Overtime these symptoms can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

How can children deal with stress? The good news is that scientists and mental health professionals have been studying stress for decades and several “self-help” techniques have been developed and proven over time. Here are five techniques you can try with your children:

1. Recognize the signs: The first step to deal with stress is understanding what causes stress and how stress effects the body. Just sharing the above information with your child can help.

2. Get regular exercise: Just 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, even walking, can reduce stress and increase energy levels.

3. Try a relaxing activity:  Mind-body activities like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and tai chi can help children learn to focus their attention on pleasant thoughts and reduce stressful feelings. Research has even shown that these activities when practiced properly and regularly result in changes to how the brain responds to stress.

4. Set achievable goals: With this technique, sometimes called “chunking”, children to break down large tasks into smaller units helping to relive overwhelming feelings.

5. Listen to you children: Parents should always encourage their children to talk to them when they feel stressed. Just talking about stress can improve feelings and this technique also allows parents to monitor for more severe issues.

Should I seek professional help? Parents should always call emergency services right away if children express thoughts of suicide. Other signs that it is time to seek professional support include: a constant overwhelming feeling, children using drugs or alcohol to escape from stress, or when stress interferes with daily activities like attending school, maintaining friendships or completing assignments. See below for professional resources to help children manage and deal with stress

Professional Resources:

Talk to your child’s pediatrician: In many cases a little practical advice from a trusted professional can make a big difference. Most pediatricians can refer your child to a mental health professional for additional support if needed.

NYC Well: This is a free resource provided by New York City to support the mental health of all New Yorkers. Parents or children can chat with a professional to get recommendations for additional “self-help” techniques and referrals for mental health services. Call 1-888-NYCWELL, Text “well” to 65173 or visit the NYC Well website at nyc.gov/nycwell.

Open Access Mental Health: Two agencies in Staten Island offer programs where children can walk in and see a mental health clinician after completing a simple pre-registration process. Speak to your child’s guidance counselor or any trusted adult in the school for more information.




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