Category Archives: Child & Family

What Would Real Mental Health Access Look Like?

In Connecticut today, the issue of mental health access, particularly for children and adolescents, is being discussed in the State House.  I hope the problem of high deductibles insurance plans will be brought up, as this is a major barrier to mental health care for the poor and middle class.

The day after a gun control hearing that lasted until nearly 3 a.m. state legislators will take up what may be an even tougher topic: addressing mental health problems in children and adolescents. – Courant.com.

Support National Children’s Mental Health Funding

An email from the Children’s Mental Health Network about an upcoming Action:

ACTION ALERT

The federal government supports many programs that benefit all Americans, including mental health and social services; public health; housing; public safety and law enforcement; medical and scientific research; and education and job training. In Washington, these programs are collectively referred to as “nondefense discretionary” or simply “NDD” programs. On January 2, 2013 these programs will face devastating, across-the-board cuts of 8.2 percent through an arcane budget tool known as “sequestration” unless Congress works together to prevent these cuts through a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

On September 20th please join us in a National NDD Community Call-in and Tweet Day and ask your member of Congress to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs, including children’s mental health.

NDD programs represent a relatively small and shrinking share of the federal budget and our overall economy—already reduced to levels not seen since President Eisenhower held office. They are not the drivers of the debt. In fact, even completely eliminating all NDD programs would still not balance the budget. Yet to date NDD programs have borne the brunt of deficit reduction efforts. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, core services upon which Americans have come to rely will be greatly curtailed or even eliminated.

Email, Call, Tweet, or Facebook your Members of Congress on September 20th to let them know that NDD programs, including children’s mental health and research, have already done their part to help reduce the deficit – it’s now time for a balanced approach! We have made links on the Network website to send an email, sample Facebook posts, Tweets, and information about how to call your Members of Congress and are also included below to help you advocate to protect public health and research from further cuts! These materials are also available on the Coalition for Health Funding’s website.

Email Your Congressman

Take approximately five minutes and send an email to your Members of Congress: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/share-your-voice. You’ll simply click the “Take Action” button, scroll to the bottom of the page, enter your name, address, and contact information. Click the blue Send Message button and you’re done!

Call Your Congressman

For those not familiar with calling the offices of your Members of Congress, you can call the Capitol Switchboard and asked to be connected to your Members’ offices. The phone number is (202) 224-3121. You can also go to http://www.Congress.org to find the office’s direct line and to look up your Members of Congress.

Suggested Facebook Posts

This January, essential jobs and services will face more deep cuts through sequestration. There is bipartisan agreement that these cuts would be devastating to the nation. Only through a balanced approach can we avoid sequestration, balance the budget and restore the nation’s economic stability. Take action!

Suggested Tweets

How to Tweet Your Members of Congress:
Use the Children’s Mental Health Network Tweet Your Legislator tool to get in touch with your member of Congress via Twitter. For those relatively new to Twitter, this is a great Twitter 101 Guide from the folks at Half in Ten/Center for American Progress.

Template
Invest in public health, mental health, medical research, & infrastructure [insert Member Twitter handle]. Support balance to stop #sequestration! #NDDUnited.

Sample
Invest in public health, mental health, medical research, & infrastructure @MaxBaucus. Support balance to stop #sequestration! #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template (links to NDD national sign-on letter)
Remember [insert Member Twitter handle] over 3000 groups want you to support a balanced approach to stop #sequestration! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

Sample
Remember @MaxBaucus, over 3000 groups want you to support a balanced approach to stop #sequestration!http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template
#Sequestration means an 8.2% cut to #mentalhealth funding in 2013. [insert Member Twitter handle] support a balanced approach! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

Sample
#Sequestration means an 8% cut to #mentalhealth funding in 2013. @MaxBaucus support a balanced approach! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template (links to The Hill editorial by American Federation of School Administrators)
#Sequestration devastates medical research, education, & infrastructure. [insert Member Twitter handle] find a balanced solution! http://bit.ly/OPmbSl #NDDUnited

Sample
#Sequestration devastates medical research, education, & infrastructure. @MaxBaucus find a balanced solution! http://bit.ly/OPmbSl #NDDUnited

———————————-

Let us know what you need from the Network! We love feedback so let us know how we can improve the website to better meet your needs. Contact us here. As always, thank you for your continued support of the Children’s Mental Health Network, and remember to take action on September 20th!

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO

http://cmhnetwork.org

Self Defense for Children

So, about a century after the rest of the cyberworld I got on Twitter, perfect for the short attention span. If the net is monkey-mind, Twitter is gerbil-mind.

I’m tweet-buddy with about 500 sites and get some really cool links from across the spectrum.

Modern Family Life posts an excellent short review of effective self-defense techniques that can be used by children to deter and defuse potential dangers.

Retreat!

Ask your kids to discontinue the journey if they feel something not right even if it’s their usual route on a bright sunny day. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Stay In Numbers

Who cares if you hop into a crowd that gives you the dumbfounded stares? That’s exactly what your kids need to deter advances from any potential attackers.

Be A Whistle Blower

Assure your child that they have every reason to alert the crowd or someone who are able to assist them if they’re pretty sure of just having escaped an attack. Shouting on top of their voice such as “HELP!” or “THIEF!” are good attention-grabbers.

These techniques work for adults as well.

One new factor in daily life is the cell phone, and while we should not over-estimate the potential of the cell phone for getting help in a bad situation, it does keep us connected and cuts down on the chances of being isolated without anyone knowing where you are.

Interviews with Parents from Achievement First New York

There are two of these.  This first one is very good.  There is some unfortunate noise in the background for the first 10 minutes or so, but you can still hear the parent, and what she has to say confirms a lot of my suspicions about the way corporate-run charter schools with extreme disciplinary policies run.  As she put it at one point, children are taught that, “All of your independent thinking is not necessary.  All of your creative thinking is not necessary.”

A Message from Snow Kitty

Snow Kitty says “Happy Valentine’s Day 2011!”

Child Protection

Rev. Anne Grant has an alarming op-ed about the failure of the child protection system to fulfill its mandate to put the welfare of the child first. From ProJo.com…

We have a new chief judge of the Rhode Island Family Court, Haiganush R. Bedrosian, so it is time we banished the ghost of Dr. Richard Gardner, whose coercive tactics in Rhode Island courtrooms have been haunting families traumatized by domestic abuse.
Victims of terror do not present well in court. They are tense, emotional and understandably outraged. On the opposing side, tyrannical controllers can be calm and charming litigants, confident in the damage they have inflicted. Their lawyers, who are often accomplished bullies in their own right, tell astounding lies calculated to trigger a full display of symptoms in the victims.

Even recognizing that there are contentious divorces and false accusations, the picture Rev.Grant paints of Family Court is a comfortable place for lawyers and judges, but a deadly one for victims of crime.

Would Raymond A. Grundy have been walking free if those responsible for justice made him accountable? Would Staria Silva be alive today if Grundy had been prosecuted for every offense he committed against women and children?

Grundy has been in and out of the Adult Correctional Institutions for a variety of offenses. The last time was in early November, when he spent a night at the ACI before making bail on the charge of assaulting Silva.

Although Grundy has the names of his two older daughters tattooed on his body, he also has a record of assaulting their mother, Gail M. Arnold.

Arnold applied for several restraining orders against Grundy in the mid-1990s, writing about his “uncontrollable” temper and her fears for herself and their daughters. But Arnold failed to appear at hearings and the orders were dismissed.

Reading Anne Grant’s account of what she witnessed in court, it’s understandable that victims lose hope of finding justice or protection.

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of crime and needs advice and support, call
Victims of Crime Helpline
1-800-494-8100
There is help.

Talking Back to Sarah Palin

I don’t watch Family Guy, because even though Seth MacFarlane is local, he seems to have been deeply affected by Garfield cartoons. I just can’t get past that. Sorry.

He’s also offensive. I watched part of one episode and it struck me as creepy-racist-misogynist and I only lasted a few minutes. Sorry– I can’t justify it in an argument, it was just an impression. Maybe I’m wrong. Just an opinion.

We don’t all think alike. Sarah Palin took a recent episode of Family Guy as a slam on people with Down Syndrome. Andrea Fay Friedman, the actress who did the voice for the cartoon character, thinks otherwise. She herself has Down Syndrome, but she is an adult and too large to carry around as a prop and old enough to speak for herself. So read what she says here.

You may agree with her or not, but it’s good to remember that people with Down Syndrome are not God’s innocent angels sent here to teach us something about life, but actual people who have their own lives to live. Trig Palin will grow up, and I hope he will have a good life. Sarah Palin better hope she doesn’t pick up the NYT some day and see a best-seller called, ‘Drafted–My Life on the Campaign Trail When Mommy Went Rogue’, or ‘Going Rough–Missed Naps and Noisy Crowds in Days that Made History’. At least it’s not ‘Vice-President, Dearest’ –not yet.

Daily Kos has the startling news that Sarah Palin’s grandson receives health care coverage from socialized medicine.

TOUGH WEEK: Palin came in third runner-up in the Conservative Popularity Awards Convention (CPAC) Pageant. It seems unfair. She has way better hair than Ron Paul, who might want to consider having a little work done– nothing drastic, just a little lift. Mitt Romney is tough competition. I think he’s encased in some kind of impermeable wrinkle-proof plastic. He’d better wear Kevlar under the suit though, because Sarah Barracuda does not forgive or forget. Except for things Rush Limbaugh says or things she needs to not recall in testimony.

Educate Yourself to Protect Your Body: Personal Care Products May Contain Toxins

Since 2004 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched Skin Deep, an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products. The aim was to fill in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they’re sold.

EWG’s scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource.  Take your shampoo or your child’s lip gloss or moisturizer and read more about the danger here: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/.  Our epidermis is the largest body organ and approximately 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbing these toxic ingredients.  Those who know me know that I am committed to researching and sharing information about potentially harmful facts.  We all are trying to attain a healthy lifestyle and yet, we daily sabotage our bodies (through hair, hygiene, and skincare products) with carcinogens so monstrous they are literally harming our future abilities to procreate, fight off cancers and the like. 

It is sickening that the Personal Care Industry is undermining our abilities to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Cancer has become a common affliction or fatality and will further continue to rise.  Science reflects that toxins sit in the fatty cells of our bodies (i.e., breasts). Water, food, air, materials and personal care products all have toxins and this is completely unacceptable when you do the math and see how a combination has violated the EPA and FDA acceptable toxin limits. 

I plan to update the blog with information to aid you in making better choices.  In doing so, I am hopeful to you will see the damage that is being done and make a lifestyle change.  For now, here are some facts to ponder.  

 
U.S. President Barack Obama started to take action and recognizing that toxic chemicals exist in most of our skin care products and are penetrating our skin and causing cancer and reproductive problems. He stated that he wants to change the current laws in order for the government to start properly assessing the chemicals that go in our products and not allow any that have risk associated with them, and he’s not meaning tweaking ~ rather, a complete overhaul.

Currently 1,100 toxic ingredients which are banned in Europe but we allow them here.  I have studied toxins for years and I am sick to death of what has only been available to my children.   

 
Cancer is amongst us, therefore you must ask yourself… can we really be sure of the toxins we have been absorbing through our skin, and that they have no inpact on our other means of ingestion such as food, air and vaccines/medicines?  Work with me and let us remove one of the straws from the camels back, and alter the equation to a lesser number.   
 
December 1, 2009 in Barrington, Rhode Island ~ 15 year old Ava Anderson teamed up with her mother, Kim Anderson and they launched a first of its kind “Ava Anderson Non-Toxic” product line (http://www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/).  Ava read this article last year (http://www.ewg.org/reports/teens) and was driven to find an answer as to the toxic potions available and make them truly “free” of such harmful ingredients.  Recently, Ava was asked to go before Congress and testify, and further plead for the Cosmetic Industry to change in support of President Obama suggested legislation in September 2009.  For now, I would just like the opportunity to inform people as I feel “Knowledge is power, and Power is Knowledge”, and our children depend on us to make wise choices.   I pledge to you that this is about a toxic message, which you need to unravel.  Please take one minute to look at some of your products.  
 
Be well, Suzanne Arena

Cady’s Cause

I was driving to a patient’s house and saw a handmade sign that said- ‘Cadyscause.blogspot.com cerebral palsy sucks’

Well, clearly there’s a story there, and since a Rhode Island mother tells it better than anyone else could, I’ll leave a link here, to Cranstononline, and recommend you read Cady’s mother’s blog.

Reactive Attachment and Closeness with Children

Over the years I have treated many children with reactive attachment issues and, while sometimes heartbreaking, there is also a great deal of joy in the work. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a cluster of behavioral and emotional issues that are believed to relate to a child’s lack of appropriate early bonding with a primary caregiver. RAD is often what is going on when a child asks if I can be his mommy during the first session, or when a child makes little or no eye contact and behaves as if he doesn’t want to interact with me. Usually with RAD, there are clear markers in the child’s history — sometimes in utero, sometimes after birth in the first three years — when there was no stable primary caregiver.

It happens a lot with foster children, naturally, if they have been moved around a lot, or if their reunification plans with bio family keeps falling through. I also think there is an argument to be made that reactive attachment can start off in utero, when a child is exposed to high levels of stress hormones. Mark Brady, PhD, has a great post in which he describes the developmental problems resulting from neglect and early stress. He quotes Dr. Bruce Perry, author of The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog, talking about how the human brain responds to childhood neglect:

“As you grow, the brain is essentially like a sponge. It’s absorbing all kinds of experiences. So if a child is not held, touched, talked to, interacted with, loved, literally neurons do not make those connections, and many of them actually will die.”

“Big, big ventricular spaces (show up in stressed out kids), which will impact sleep, regulation of anxiety, regulation of mood, whether or not you’re very happy or sad.”

“Simple things like eye contact, touch, rocking and humming can make all the difference to a baby. It makes neurons grow, it makes them make connections. Then, it makes the brain more functional.”

One of the most impactful experiences I have had working with a RAD client was working with a little boy who had been raised for his first three years in an extremely neglectful environment — to the point where when he was moved to foster care, he did not know how to play other than to lay on his belly on the floor and put his fingers in front of his face and move them around. There were very few toys in his early home, and even less of a primary person paying attention to his needs and giving him the closeness he would need to understand the world emotionally. He had come a long way by the time I was seeing him, could play and interact with others, had probably quadrupled his vocabulary in the year he had been in a stable home, but he was still a very skinny kid with rotted teeth that had to be capped and lots of ear infections and other illnesses constantly weighing him down.

Part of my message to RAD kids is the constant reminder to them (and to their brains!) that they are growing, expanding, developing, changing, become whole, becoming strong. I say these things not only because they are true but also because they are the mantra of our shared hope — that their growth will now take place, that they will be able to make up for lost time and accelerate fast enough to get the ABC’s and color identification and some decent social skills in before kindergarten starts. And most of all, because I want them to know that I see them. I see them. They are here.

The importance of this knocked my socks off one day in session with this little guy, who I’ll call James. I was giving him the message that he was growing, asking him how old he would be turning on his next birthday, reinforcing that he would soon be in kindergarten, when suddenly James said, “When I was a baby, I was invisible. Now that I’m older, I have skin and bones.”

“Indeed,” I said, to draw out the moment. “And you have your whole body. And you’re growing bigger all the time.” When I had James create himself on “Mi” on the Wii (I did the controls as he was behind most kids on video game skills) he created a person who was as tall and big-boned as possible, with a big head of black hair. He wanted to be big. And compared to how small he had been made to feel in his birth home, he was indeed a big guy now.

We all need closeness in order to know we exist. If no one knows who you are, knows you internally, knows your needs and how to fill them, you grow up feeling invisible. Anyone who has ever been in a situation where everyone around them was deliberately ignoring them knows how awful it is to feel invisible. Imagine this being the world you are born into. Imagine how devastating that would be.

The good news is that most of us are not born into such cruel environments. Even in families where there is physical and emotional abuse, there is often still a sense of attachment for the child — that their needs are still very high on the list of things that get taken care of. It was enlightening, but also frightening, working with James — realizing just how powerfully he was experiencing the arrival of his identity, and how much catching up there was to do.

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