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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Jun 21, 2017 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: I was widowed last year and am now the single mum to 2 great kids. I’ve been dating for some time a man with 2 kids of his own. We have gotten our families together several times. The kids get along well but have significantly different personalities. My boyfriend and I have discussed the possibility of moving in with one another, and I am looking for advice on how to broach the subject with my children. I’m not sure they will see this as happy news. Thank you for your consideration.

Answer: I am going to start out by asking you to bear with me because the first part of my answer is not really what your question was about. I will come back to it, but there are things (and people) I want you to consider first. Importantly, you are first. You shared that you just lost a husband in the last year and are new to the single mum experience. Then there are your two children who have lost a dad and are getting used to having only one parent. Then, there is your new boyfriend to think about since this is a new relationship for you, and him. Then, there are his two kids to consider. This is not just one new relationship, it is six. To answer you, I would like to pose my own questions. How have your children expressed their grief over the death of their father? Are either of them having problems at school or any disturbance of mood or behavior since his death? This would be the same question I would ask of someone entering a new relationship following a divorce. Everyone handles these loses differently. You may be ready to move on, but your children may not. Also, after a loss, it may be difficult to trust your own emotions. What feels like love may just feel better than being alone. You have lots to consider. Moving in together is a really big step. My advice would be to consider this carefully. If your children do really like this person, but you decide it isn’t right, then they will experience another loss. Since you are already sensing that they may not see this as happy news, slow the pace down and see how things go as the relationships develop. Now, let’s look at your question on broaching the subject with your children. When you feel you have assessed and responded to the concerns above, start with a series of discussions about blending the families. Introduce it. Give the children time to process it. Talk about it again and hear their concerns. Think about and address their concerns. Then talk about it again. During this time, join the families together repeatedly and watch the dynamics and also how your boyfriend parents his children. How you handle major things in your children’s lives can impact them positively and negatively. This new blended family relationship is an important one. It may be a wonderful one. Moving carefully and lovingly around how these changes affect your children, shows the high value you put on their well being.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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How to Help Someone Who Is Thinking of Suicide

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 30, 2017 by Mary Gagnon, LMFT; Health Affiliates Maine

What do you do when someone you love is feeling down? We’ve all been down at some point, and understand when our friends or family feel the same way. Most of us try to take a little extra special care – make them tea, give them a hug, and tell them everything will be okay. 

But what happens when things aren’t okay? What happens when a down mood turns into depression? What happens when your loved one can’t see their way forward, and you are worried they might be thinking of suicide?

Cause for Concern — Most people show some warning signs that they are thinking of suicide. The most concerning sign is when someone communicates in some way that they are thinking about dying or suicide. They may do this verbally or non-verbally (such as by writing about it). Other signs include:

  • Increased substance use
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Feeling purposeless, hopeless, or trapped
  • Anger
  • Recklessness
  • Mood changes
  • Withdrawing from loved ones or activities (such as work, school, or hobbies)

The highest risk groups are males, particularly those ages 45-64 and those over 75. However, younger people (ages 15-24) have a high number of attempts, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for this age group. Although it might be hard to imagine, even younger children can feel like they want to die. Look for mood and behavior changes, including anger or sadness, impulsivity, and play that may have themes of death.

What Can You Do?
Remember, for a person considering suicide, a crisis point has been reached and their pain feels unbearable. However, ambivalence often exists, communicating their distress is common, and they often show you in some way that they are hurting – by expressing their feelings or thoughts or by their behavior. Remember, though, that they might not ask you for help directly. Many people are afraid of what will happen, or they don’t want to upset others. We might even be afraid to ask someone – because we might not know what to do, or we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, or we’re afraid of the answer. We don’t like to see our loved ones hurting, and it’s frightening to think that a loved one might be thinking of ending their lives. However, if you’re worried enough to wonder if they might be thinking about suicide, it’s time to ask. 

You can intervene, and you don’t need any special training to do it. There are three steps:
1) Show you care – tell your loved one what you’re noticing and why you’re concerned. Allow them to talk.
2) Ask the question – ask your loved one “Are you thinking about suicide?” It is hard to do, but important to know. Sometimes, you might be the only person they tell, or they might be relieved that someone finally cared enough to ask. For younger children, ask them in words they will understand – but do ask.
3) Get help – If the answer is yes, don’t leave them alone. Assure them that you will get some support for them, together. 

Getting Help
Several resources are available to you, including:
911/Police
Statewide Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112
Local Crisis Agency
Hospital emergency room staff
Physicians/health care providers
Private mental health clinicians and facilities

Your care and intervention can make a real difference. 

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 11, 2017

Question: My seven year old whines a lot….a lot…a whole lot. He whines so much that I am beginning to get resentful and lose patience easily. I feel as though I am very consistent in not giving into the whining and yet it continues. He is never rewarded for whining and I have gotten to the point where I walk out of the room when he begins to. This is usually met with stomping of feet and slamming of his bedroom door only for him to appear later sulking around. I’m losing patience and starting to wonder if more is going on than his desire for a treat or to watch television. How do I know what is normal whining and how do I deal with it without losing my cool?

Answer: It is difficult in our busy lives to divvy out attention when needed, or wanted, on demand: hence, the invention of whining. Whining is hard to take. It sounds like you have tried coping as best you can. Children are whining to get more attention, or when they are over tired and hungry. Try to assess which it is. If they are hungry ask them to help make the meal while they crunch on carrots. This way the child gets your attention and a healthy snack. Sometimes the attention they get is negative attention (like you losing your cool) but, it is attention none the less. Also, investigate where the whining is working for the child, whether it is at home, school, or daycare. Behaviors exist because they work for the child. This step, when identified, can make it much more successful in extinguishing the behavior. 

The most important thing is to not reinforce the behavior, which it sounds like you have been trying to do. At a time when it is calm with no whining going on, explain that there is a new rule…NO WHINING. Explain that if whining happens, it will be ignored. Only when requests are made without whining will attention be paid to them. This can be turned into a fun family discussion, introducing stickers for specific rewards especially for the young ones, and opportunities for special attention when the stickers show consistent behavior (Ex. “Mom and me”, or “Dad and me” time, to play catch or go for ice cream. In my house, it was a special shopping trip for a new GI Joe!). In fact, initially try to respond to in a positive and happy way when your child’s behaviors are the opposite of whining. Like when he/she asks politely or uses big boy/girl words. 

Here are some tips for eliminating whining for shopping in stores. Talk about the ground rules for purchases (and whining) before the trip. An important lesson to follow, takes time, but is well worth it. If your child tries to manipulate you by whining in a store, take the child by hand and walk out of the store putting purchases back in their places and promptly leave. Make sure that the child knows that it is because of the whining and not following the new rule. You usually will only have to do that only once. However, you must be consistent in not responding to whining. Your child needs to know that you are in charge, that the rules are important and that you will enforce them. I have been in stores and have witnessed a child who is whining about wanting an item, the parent says ‘no’… the child continues whining, cajoling, and pleading… the parent threatens loss of TV, or straight to bed once home…the child continues to whine…now everyone is watching the drama…at wits end, the parent buys the child the item. The whole affair leaves the parent stressed, angry and embarrassed. The whining and bad behavior was reinforced and the 7 year old is in charge. The best scenario would be to take the child out of the store as soon as the whining starts. Establish that whining will not be tolerated and no purchases will be made for the child. 

The second part of my reply is about what you questioned was “normal whining.” That’s always a good question for a parent to ask. Children need different things at different phases of their young lives. Sometimes they are uncertain of themselves and just need reassurance that they are loved. They are trying to grow up, but they are still a child. Spend some time one-on-one for ‘hug and talk time’ (away from other siblings) to explore what else might be going on. If your senses tell you there is something more going on, and special attention is not helping, there are many ways counselors can help children learn skills and cope with emotions. Counselors who work with children have toys, sandboxes, games, drums and other cool kid stuff which helps make it a positive experience. Counselors can also identify when your child appears to be developing just fine!

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Apr 12, 2017

Do you have a question for our experts? Email kaytd@macaronikid.com with “Ask the Experts“ in the subject line. (Please note: If we select your question for inclusion in Macaroni Kid, your name or any identifying characteristics will not be included.)

Question: My 10 year old has developed breasts before any other girl in her class. She is getting teased about it (kids saying she stuffs her bra). She is very self-conscious and has started wearing baggy shirts and sweatshirts. How can I help her feel better about herself and not feel self-conscious?

Answer: While we are delighted to see our children hit the milestones toward adulthood, it is difficult to watch them be challenged, especially by their own bodies. Puberty is awkward. Some girls develop breasts early, some quite late (and they get teased also). The best you can do is to allow her freedom to be comfortable as she changes and to choose the clothes she wants to wear. Soon all the other girls will catch up and she won’t feel all alone. Sharing your own experiences during this time of life might also help to normalize her feelings. Remind her that everyone in her class has something about themselves that makes them uncomfortable. Some may feel too tall, too short, too fat, too thin…sometimes it is something that can’t be seen; she is not alone in her discomfort. The point is that this situation will pass. Your job is to help her grow to love her healthy body (breasts and all); she is going to need it going forward! There is a helpful book for girls called My Body Myself by Lynda Madaras. There is one written for boys as well.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Mar 9, 2017

Do you have a question for our experts? Email kaytd@macaronikid.com with “Ask the Experts“ in the subject line. (Please note: If we select your question for inclusion in Macaroni Kid, your name or any identifying characteristics will not be included.)

Question: My son is angry all the time. He has friends, makes good grades and doesn’t seem to have a worry in the world but he is always angry. He has been raising his voice a lot and recently was sent home from school for pushing another boy. We have tried grounding him, taking away screens and deducting his allowance as consequences. It doesn’t seem to help. How can we help him better cope with his emotions?

Answer: Sometimes being a kid is tough. It is important to remember that anger is one of our primary emotions. Everyone experiences anger. Learning to express it in healthy ways is better for all of us. This is a great opportunity to help your son learn a skill that will serve him all his life. Explore with him the emotions that are underlying his expression of anger. A question you may ask him after he has calmed down is, “I noticed you were really angry today. Is something happening at home or at school that is upsetting you?” Remind him that he can always talk with you about things that trouble him. Perhaps he is experiencing being bullied or ridiculed at school, causing him to lash out. Maybe he feels he is not being listened to, or is being treated unfairly. His perceptions may even be wrong, but his need to talk about them is real. You can help your son learn to express his anger by saying, “I feel angry when you….” This can diffuse a situation. Seeing our kid’s anger is tough for parents. Sometimes we yell back, sometimes we give in, and sometimes we don’t do anything. The most important thing to do is to not let it go. Even if you wait until the dust settles, go back and talk about it. As parents, we have to remember that we model how anger is expressed, or not expressed. Kids learn from how we cope. You must model that it is never okay to physically attack another in anger, and to always to apologize when we hurt another’s feelings with our anger. Counseling could be helpful if the outbursts continue. You son could learn some coping skills and how to speak up for himself.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Three clinicians from Health Affiliates Maine (HAM) have responded to a request from the American Red Cross of Maine in providing relief efforts within areas of West Virginia. We are deeply grateful for the volunteer efforts of Echo Dixon-LCSW, Karen Hardy-LCPC and Shannon Morris-LCPC who are providing mental health support to individuals who have been impacted by devastating floods.

The partnership between HAM and the Red Cross of Maine illustrates our focus, passion and mission to ‘Share a Journey to Wellness’.  

We share our expertise. We share our resources. We share our hearts. 

Andrea Krebs, Executive Director of Health Affiliates Maine confirmed three mental health clinicians have deployed to West Virginia and a few others are waiting their call to deploy as well.  “It is truly amazing how professionals in our field come together in times of crisis, and willingly give of their expertise as volunteers.” says Krebs. 

Jan Frost, Disaster Mental Health Manager with American Red Cross of Maine, reached out to Luanne Rhoades, Outpatient Therapy Program Director with Health Affiliates Maine for volunteers. “The support of Health Affiliates has made a great deal of difference on this operation,” Frost said. “Your efforts got qualified mental health providers to an area of great need. Your ongoing support and valued partnership are much appreciated.”

Preliminary reports indicate upwards of 2,000 homes could have been damaged or destroyed.  Many areas are still not accessible and the number of affected homes is likely to change. Since the flooding began, there have been more than 1,900 overnight stays in emergency shelters. The Red Cross, in coordination partner agencies, has served more than 113,800 meals and snacks, and distributed more than 103,600 relief supplies including cleaning supplies and comfort items. This is a difficult time for many families unexpectedly forced from their homes – and Red Cross disaster mental health workers and their partners are helping people cope.

HOW TO HELP: This is a large relief response and the Red Cross needs the public’s support.  Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like flooding and countless other crises can make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief.  People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

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Have you ever had that haunting feeling that you’ve become your mother, or that you sound just like dad?  That’s because you probably studied them as you were growing up.  You studied their mannerisms, their behavior, the way they spoke and what they did.  You may find you even use the same favorite saying, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” 

Some of those old sayings are not good rules for parenting.

It is important to remember that your children are studying you all the time, even when you’re relaxed and having fun on holidays like the 4th of July.  Cold drinks and summer fun go together.  Alcohol is often in that mix as family and friends gather for a good time. 

As parents, we can often be challenged as we try to model the behavior we wish to see in our children. As a parent you are role-model-number-one; the big cheese, and what your child longs to be.  This is why it is especially important for you to be mindful of your own behavior.   

If you want to make sure your kids learn to have fun without alcohol, then, show them that you can too!

If you want your kids to learn NOT to drink and drive, by all means DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!

Not even when you think you are fine and able to drive. 

Some parents wonder if letting their underage kids drink with them is safer.  Step back and think again! Here is the message you are sending:  drinking is okay and breaking the law is okay (legal drinking age in Maine is 21).  You are putting yourself in legal jeopardy by providing alcohol to your child or their friends   NEVER provide alcohol to someone else’s child!  

Here’s 5 tips for modeling healthy behavior:    

  1. Be moderate in your consumption of alcohol.  You might choose to drink, but not choose to be drunk.   
  2. Don’t approve of adults who are drinking too much, by laughing at their behaviors. 
  3. Talk to your kids about healthy social behaviors you want to see in them — regularly and often, including you feelings about underage drinking.
  4. Don’t drink and drive.
  5. Don’t provide alcohol to anyone underage.

This article was brought to you by Health Affiliates Maine.  Call 1-877-888-4304 for help with parenting, substance use and mental health problems, and other issues which effect families.

Author:  Luanne Rhoades LCPC, LADC, CCS – Outpatient Therapy Director

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Play Ball!  Join us for the Inaugural #StrikeOuttheStigma Co-Ed Softball Tournament.

We are pleased to accounce Health Affiliates Maine is partnering with NAMI Mainein support of raising behavioral health awareness in our community.   Let’s #StrikeOuttheStigma together!

This day will be filled with some friendly team competition and family fun! Bring your family and friends and cheer the softball teams. 

100% of all proceeds from the sale of food, beverage, baked goods and raffles will be presented to NAMI Maine. 

 Support your community.  Support #StrikeOuttheStigma

Join Us!

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Hi again! I am back with another blog. I was re-reading my first one “Shame: Managing Stormy Days” the other day and thought it was, “to my surprise” not bad.

I say this not with an ego. I say it as “An Adult Child Of An Alcoholic” who can still slip back to that spot of low self-esteem. Not for long and for sure not as often BUT the feelings don’t change. In that spot, I was quite nervous about my first writings here.

The thought or the fear was…..

“Will I write something worth reading? A thought not new to me. I shared those same feelings with my wife Linda when she first asked me to write our book “Weathering Shame”. Remember when I talked in that first blog about the Lack Of Awareness Around How I Grew Up? I also noted that Growing awareness during the beginning of my “Journey Toward Wellness” helped build successes and to make better choices. All true!

However the biggest change along the way is a growing confidence in myself and that has helped me feel more positive about ME!

I got there by being very aware of both my Strengths & Weaknesses and accepting both. 

 

  • Re-reading my first blog has me feeling that I made several good points that I am really proud of.
  • I have heard and taken in positive feedback from you the public and the folks at “Health Affiliates Maine”.
  • A new habit, replacing the old habit of discounting kind words. That was around how I felt about myself.
  • I am  growing and learning of being able to acknowledge small successes.
  • Being less concerned about what other people think of me including not going to a negative place with it.

The most important change happening is a True Feeling of Self-Worth!

Not being in such a rush to finish tasks. Being a better listener and offering support not solutions and the most important realization..“DON’T BE INVESTED IN THE OUTCOME!” If you have read our book “Weathering Shame” you know how much of a problem I had around these issues. Has it gone away completely? Of course not! But I do feel a strong shift in feelings and my behavior.

So at this point in my journey, I do believe that what I am saying around the issues of Shame and stigma is helping those who hear or read my words to maybe begin sharing their own stories and struggles with someone they trust.

In closing, MY THANKS to those who have thanked me for my role in Health affiliates Maine TV and Radio campaign. The recovery stories being shared by others are amazing and powerful.

ACCEPTANCE IS ONE IMPORTANT STEP ON THE JOURNEY TOWARDS WELLNESS

AuthorKevin Mannix, Weather Forecaster,WCSH 6, NEWS CENTERS and co-author of “Weathering Shame”

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If you’ve read my blog on What Is Mental Health Anyway? then you will know that everyone has mental health concerns at time’s throughout their life.  Truly this includes every person, every family, relatives, everyone in school or college, at work and in their home. Everyone! 

Mental Health issues could be due to:

  • a life change
  • losing a job, a home, or not having enough money
  • a death in the family
  • a pet dying
  • being abused
  • having some kind of trauma – including physical injury
  • being diagnosed with a physical illness or mental illness
  • genetics
  • or a host of other reasons.

Why is there a stigma attached to mental health issues and seeking mental health treatment? 

What we learned and incorporated into our “social thinking” from history.

Historical accounts and treatment of mental health, show that people labeled as mentally disturbed were locked up, treated poorly and many even died as a result.

How we were brought up and what our parents or relatives thoughts were on mental health.

Did your family demonstrate understanding, saying “she/he is going through a rough time in their life” or did they use negative labels like “crazy”, “dangerous”, someone to stay away from?

What the community, church or others felt and acted when mental health issues were discussed.

Did people talk about how they were getting help and hoped they would be back soon or was there a silent disapproval, with a “don’t talk about it or that person” implied?

How television, movies and other media portray those with mental illness.

Do the actors portray people with mental health as strong and working through “tough times” or experiencing a “bump in life’s rocky road”? Or does the script show them as sad, someone to feel pity for, angry and abusive, or showing no emotion and doing terrible or horrifying things to others?

Do talk-shows discuss and help those that they interview or do they play “media circus”, putting people with mental health difficulties on stage to entertain the viewers?

The notoriety that is focused on for those, that while a small part of society, do horrific acts.

For instance, school shootings, the “made-famous” psychopaths (ie. Hannibal Lector), mothers who kill their children. Reality is, the vast majority of people with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

How do we end the Stigma?  How do we change our thoughts about mental illness?

  • Be aware and share positive and helpful stories that counter the negative. Luckily, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others) has allowed people who are struggling, recovered, or have gotten support to share their information with others. 
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) advocates for changes to be made that assist rather that stigmatize mental health. Get more information or get involved.  
  • Be a friend. If you know of someone who is experiencing a mental health concern, check in with them, say “hi”, compliment them on something they said or how they look. If possible, be sociable, invite that person out, share a meal, or have a conversation with them.
  • Counter negative comments that you hear. Substitute words or phrases like “we all go through tough times now and then”, “anyone would have a difficult time if …”, “he/she is still a wonderful…” or “I hope I am that strong if ever I get into a similar situation.”
  • Consider writing an editorial with the local paper urging others to be aware of their neighbors needs and help each other during tough times.
  • Overcome your fears and anxieties, know when you need additional help, and make an appointment with a mental health therapist.

Here at Health Affiliates Maine, we truly are concerned for your welfare and the welfare of your family.  We are knowledgeable, highly trained, and really do know a lot about how to help you and your loved ones cope with your emotions and to get the skills to help yourself!

Everyone needs help now and then…Don’t wait. Call today for services. 

 

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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