Tag Archives: psychologist

Mental Health Week 2013: Meds and Kids

Canadian Mental Health Week 2013

A Kids ‘n’ Mental Health Wordle for a Rainy Day in May

Greetings, Blog Readers. I apologize for the large gap in posts. I’ve been working a lot and getting up to speed on new content, technology, travel, etc.

Mental Health Week is almost over and I feel compelled to post something on this topic as it’s so relevant to my blog.

Recently, the topic of mental health & medication has come up. I’ve read quite a few blog posts and articles by those opposed to having children take medication for “minor” mental health-related diseases and syndromes such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and Asperger Syndrome.

Beyond life-saving results for some, prescription medication can have devastating side-effects. From lethargy to increased anxiety, dry mouth, trouble sleeping and decreased appetite (I sound like an announcer on one of those pharma co. TV commercials!), the vast majority of physicians and parents of children with mental health disorders consider medication very, very carefully before introducing it to their child.

Many questions abound:

  • Do the pros out way the cons?
  • Will medication make the child’s life easier and better?
  • Does the child (if she’s old enough to understand) want to take the medication to increase quality of life?
  • Is this a “forever thing” or can he eventually be weaned off?
  • Will “talk therapy” combined with medication improve the situation even more than taking meds alone?

While meds like Adderall or Vyvanse may work for some, others might be interested in choosing an alternative to Western medicine by way of natural supplement. Here’s an informative article* that may shed light on questions about supplements: https://www.cognitune.com/best-natural-adderall-alternatives/

What are your thoughts on children and mental health medication? Do you have any experience with improvement or devastating effects? Did therapy help more than meds for your child? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Please note: *This article was shared by agreement with myself and Cognitune.

Mood River: Highs and Lows of Mood Disorders in Children

The murky waters of mood disorder

The murky waters of mood disorder

Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder.

 I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.

1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?

Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.

We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her pediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder.  At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter. 

2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?

I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:

  • severe irritability
  • night terrors
  • raging
  • oppositional behaviour
  • rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
  • sensory issues
  • carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
  • hyper-sexuality

Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.

3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.

According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.

Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.

4) What advice can you offer parents?

My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mind to provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.

At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgment, I received love and support.

My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.

5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?

When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.

6) Anything else you’d like to add?

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.

 —

 

Gluten-us Maximus: Does Gluten Affect Mental Health?

Swaying in the wheat

Swaying in the wheat

If you have a child with mental health issues no doubt you’ve heard that removing gluten from his/her diet may help improve symptoms.

Running the gamut from physical, emotional and mental health, there is evidence that a gluten-free and often times casein-free (milk protein) diet results in  significant and positive differences in both children and adults. The book Wheat Belly is a hugely popular resource on this subject.

Just type “gluten-free” into Google and you’ll get millions of hits. Last year, ABC News posted an article on giving up gluten. The doctor interviewed suggested that many people embrace it as a fad diet and only those who have a sensitivity to the protein should remove it from meals.

Me? I’m carefully considering it. Besides having family members who live with celiac disease, almost daily I hear about another friend, neighbour or relative who is ditching gluten.

Here’s an example: Over the holidays we had a group play date – four kids and two parents. While the kids were playing, the boys’ mother went into great detail outlining the increasingly positive effects she’s discovered by removing gluten from her family’s diet. From a decrease in tantrums (the smallest child) to a radical decrease in weight (the mom), they are absolutely embracing the gluten-free life.

Would you try removing gluten from your child’s diet if you thought it might help? 

SNAP to it!

Stop Now and Plan program logoWhat if, when confronted with a stressful or contentious situation, instead of instinctively fighting or fleeing, we made the decision  to SNAP – stop now and plan?

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Alas, if it were, there were be a lot less brutality and trauma in this world. SNAP was developed in the 1970s at the former Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, Toronto, Canada (now called the Child Development Institute). The program teaches children to come up with positive and proactive strategies and is aimed primarily at kids under the age of 12 who experience behaviour issues.

A more formal definition from the SNAP web site: It is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively.

More key info:

  • SNAP is available across Canada and is utilized by social workers, psychologists, parents and teachers in Australia, the U.S., Sweden and the Netherlands.
  • Its emotional regulation techniques are universal but social workers do tweak the program to accommodate clients in different regions/cultures.
  • Dr. Leena Augimeri, SNAP’s co-creator, explains that behaviour can’t be changed overnight but the techniques help clients to “slowly undo and unwind”.
  • The program is free of charge for clients who meet the SNAP criteria!

“Families are the key to success,” explains  Dr. Augimeri. However, she understands that sometimes “families are depleted and have nothing else to give...” Based on this, SNAP staff work with what/who they have in the program.

I was wowed by the awards and honours bestowed upon SNAP and its creators.

  • Just recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented SNAP with the inaugural Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. SNAP won in the category of Social Innovator in Ontario.
  • Last month, Dr. Augimeri was the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Manson Award for Community Service in Children’s Mental Health from the Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital for Sick Children.

If you know a child who fits the criteria outlined in the SNAP model, I urge you to read up on this fantastic program. If it’s not available in your area, try asking your local social services agency to adopt it or contact the CDI or Children’s Mental Health Ontario for more information.

The Mental Health Blog Conundrum

Puzzling pieces of the heart together

Puzzling pieces.

This is a blog focused on children and mental health so it would make sense to provide comment on the Connecticut school shooting.

At the same time, I feel uncomfortable with people and editorial outlets that take advantage of tragedies in order to boost readership or bring attention to their own cause.

I thought about focusing on personality disorders since it’s said that Adam Lanza was diagnosed with such a disorder.

There is also the topic of the hugely popular (now viral) I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother post written by Liza Long. Personally I think she’s brave to write so honestly about her struggles with her child’s mental illness. There has been a huge amount of discussion on her stance as well as backlash aimed at Long’s bare honesty.

What I will say is that I’m still chewing on my fingernails, mourning the loss of those children, parents and teachers. I’m still trying to figure out what to say to my own children about the tragedy. I’m still pondering why this has to happen, what drove Lanza to kill innocent people, why he had access to so many firearms and what (if any) help he could have received to improve his mental health.

While we ponder these disturbing questions I will wish you readers a very healthy and peaceful holiday. Thanks for your ongoing comments and thoughts.

Kids’ Mental Health & Family Resources

Bringing colour and light to kids with mental health challenges

In contemplating the next post for this blog, I came upon an article in the Hamilton Spectator about the possible closing of Canada House – an eight-bed home in the Burlington area for teenage boys with mental health issues.

In light of this, I decided to compile a short list of the resources, groups and education services that have recently come across my radar.

This post also provides some background on mental health experts and online resources.

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list nor do I necessary endorse any of the following.

Canada House: This residence and its operator, Woodview, provides service to children, youth and their families with social, emotional, psychological and/or psychiatric difficulties. Located in Burlington, Ontario.

Autism Speaks: North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families

Kinark: A range of treatment services including individual, family and group counselling is provided to children and their families within local communities. These services are provided to children who are living at home or youth living on their own in their communities, as well as to children who are in residential care.

Vanier Institute of the Family: Not necessarily a resource for mental health, the Vanier Institute of the Family seeks to create awareness of, and to provide leadership on, the importance and strengths of families in Canada and the challenges they face in all of their structural, demographic, economic, cultural and social diversity.

What resources are on your radar? What else should I add to this list? Feel free to contact me or leave your comment below.

Guest Post: Can Children be Hoarders?

Janine Adams

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. A fellow professional writer, Janine has a great deal of passion for organization, helping others and exploring that ghastly clutter habit that takes over so many homes and apartments. In this post Janine digs deeper into early hoarding tendencies. Ironically, I was watching Hoarders on A & E online when I received her post via email!


As a professional organizer, I’m privileged to be a member (and board member) of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, an educational group for professional organizers and other professionals who work with clients challenged with chronic disorganization. I recently took an ICD teleclass on helping children with hoarding tendencies, presented by Kim Anker-Paddon and Leslie Josel.  The content was illuminating.

The research on children who hoard is limited, but according to the research explored in the class, nearly half (44 percent) adult hoarders first started showing hoarding behavior by the time they were 15 years old.  According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation’s website, the typical age of onset of hoarding behavior is 13.  It typically progresses to becoming a moderate problem in the 20s and 30s and a severe problem later in life. Clearly, children can be display hoarding behavior.

Hoarding in children is more about difficulty letting go, rather than acquisition, since kids don’t usually have the access to money and transportation that would allow them to shop easily. They tend to anthropomorphize their objects and want to maintain control over them. Compared with adults, clutter may or may not be such a significant factor with these children. Kids with hoarding tendencies tend to be perfectionistic about their objects.

It’s important to note that many children are collectors. If your child likes to hang on to certain items, that doesn’t mean he or she is displaying hoarding tendencies. Hoarding behavior is more extreme and problematic–it can interfere with social interactions and school, and can result in intensely emotional reactions to others touching their belongings.

So what’s to be done for a child with hoarding tendencies? The class explored three case studies in which three young people were helped with varying combinations of techniques such as collaborative therapy between therapists and organizers, journaling, picture drawing/storytelling, motivational interviewing and containerizing and labeling.

The younger the hoarding patient is, the more effective treatment will be, so if your child is exhibiting hoarding behavior, seeking help may be wise. Unfortunately, information on children who display hoarding behaviors isn’t abundant. The International OCD Federation’s web page on hoarding and families is a good starting point, however.

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing LLC in St. Louis, Missouri, is a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®). She is the Marketing Director of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.