Q&A: How Digital Mental Health Tools Made a Difference for Hazard Independent Schools

From Ed Tech Magazine

Vivian Carter, the innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Kentucky, explains how and why her rural district adopted a digital health tool for troubled students.

Digital health technology isn’t just for grown-ups. New tools can help connect children with the private and personalized resources they need to better understand their mental health and keep it in check.

For one school district, adopting an online mental and behavioral health system has been an effective tool to better help students in a rural community overcome barriers to learning, says Vivian Carter, innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2014, the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), which includes Hazard Independent Schools, received a Project Prevent grant from the Education Department that included funding to deploy and use the Ripple Effects online tool. Ripple Effects is a “Social Emotional Learning technology-based software system” that teachers can use to deliver behavior interventions and students can use to access personalized guidance and emotional resources. The technology is now being used in 70 of the 140 KVEC schools as a way to fill the gaps in mental health care for students and already has seen success in dropping the number of mental health and behavioral referrals.

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One Sheridan school increased teacher retention and decreased students ‘falling through the cracks’ by adding mental health professionals

From Chalkbeat

At one school in the tiny district of Sheridan south of Denver, two social workers roam the hallways with handheld radios, responding to crisis after crisis.

It might be a student crying in class for unknown reasons, a disruptive student, or a fight. Less urgent requests, such as a check-in for a student who just seems to be having a rough day, usually come through email.

“It’s very much boots on the ground,” said Maggie Okoniewski, one of the social workers at Fort Logan Northgate.

The school has just under 600 students in grades third through eighth. The demographics are typical of the Sheridan school district. About one in four are identified as homeless — the highest rate for any school district in the state — and about 15 percent qualify as having special needs.

In between those calls, Okoniewski and her fellow social worker Danielle Watry check in on students they’ve identified as a priority. Every week the list includes about 60 students. In the last year, the list includes students from the heavily Hispanic population who have especially struggled with deportations or fears of separations, they said.

“And if I’m in the classroom, it’s almost certain that another student will flag us down,” Watry said.

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The Thrive Guide to Healing From Burnout

From Thrive

Four people who burned out share their strategies for moving forward and thriving again.

As talk of burnout — its signs and symptoms, its prevalence within different professionsgenerations, and walks of life — reaches a critical mass, a widening hole in media coverage is becoming impossible to ignore. We are gravely lacking in good examples of what thriving after burnout actually looks like.

Most people who burn out can’t just quit and move to a tropical island — they have to continue working and living their lives. But how? Even Buzzfeed‘s Anne Helen Petersen, the author of a recent viral essay on millennial burnout, concluded that after her own bout of burnout, “I don’t have a plan of action, other than to be more honest with myself about what I am and am not doing and why, and to try to disentangle myself from the idea that everything good is bad and everything bad is good,” she writes.

Two-thirds of the full-time American workforce suffers from burnout, the three main symptoms of which are exhaustion (mental and physical fatigue), a sense of being ineffective no matter how hard you’re working, and cynicism, according to experts. We at Thrive talk a lot about the importance of going upstream and making the changes (both individual and systemic) that will help prevent burnout in the first place. 

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Shocking Rate Of Untreated PTSD Among British Teens

From IFLS

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might be seen as an occupational hazard from serving in combat, but almost 8 percent of people in the UK have it by the time they turn 18. Yet most are not getting treatment, despite the shockingly high risk of suicide.

Trauma in young people, and the long-term effects on their mental health is a relatively under-researched area. Studies of the frequency of childhood PTSD in the US and Europe used diagnostic criteria now considered out of date. To address this, Professor Andrea Danese of King’s College London led interviews with more than 2,000 adolescents born in England and Wales when they were 18.

In The Lancet Psychiatry, Danese reports that 31 percent of those in his sample had experienced a traumatic event in their childhood, such as witnessing deaths or experiencing severe injury or sexual violation. Many of those involved suffered from “network trauma”, where they were affected by something they didn’t personally witness that happened to someone they were close to.

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Feeling Stuck? 4 Ways to Overcome Roadblocks in Your Life

From Psychology Today

We’ve all been there—feeling stuck in a dead-end job, unfulfilling relationship, or stale routine. Or we begin a new project and lose momentum. Feeling exhausted and defeated, we lack the energy to move forward.

At times like these, even the best intentions and willpower are not enough. But research has revealed four effective ways to break through roadblocks.

1. Expand your perspective. Most people in Western cultures develop a linear mindset, expecting current conditions to continue (Alter & Kwan, 2009). This mindset reinforces the stories we believe about ourselves. If we grew up in poverty or a dysfunctional family, we expect more of the same. With the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, we attract more of what we know. If we had a narcissistic parent, we attract narcissistic relationships. If we grew up in poverty, we continue to see ourselves as poor and make poor choices—until we change our mindset.

To break free, we need to refocus our attention. This means taking a wider perspective rather than hiding from the truth or ignoring our problems.

Remarkably, a study at New York University found that people developed a more dynamic mindset after seeing the familiar yin/yang symbol on a researcher’s T-shirt. Instead of expecting current conditions to continue, they began seeing the world differently, becoming aware of new possibilities (Alter & Kwan, 2009).

As this study reveals, the natural wisdom of the Tao Te Ching expands our perspective, affirming nature’s dynamic cycles of yin and yang, sunlight and shadow, day and night, and the changing seasons. We then develop what psychologist Carol Dweck (2009) calls a “growth mindset.” You can expand your own mindset by exploring the wisdom of the East, studying the Tao Te Ching or spending time in nature, observing its cycles of growth and change.

2. Move. Moving our bodies affects our minds and emotions. Research has shown that exercise helps relieve depression (Babyak et al, 2000). Increasing the circulation to our brains, it also enables us to think more creatively (Steinberg et al, 1997). You can build your energy to move forward in your life by adding move movement to your days. There are many ways to do this: going for a brisk walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator, taking an exercise class, working out at the gym, dancing, swimming, or riding your bike. Find a way to move that you enjoy and feel your energies rise.

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Proven Ways to Optimize Your Sleep

From Thrive Global

A sleep expert’s absolute best strategies for falling and staying asleep.

What should I do if I can’t sleep? 

Relaxation techniques are easy, effective practices that may help facilitate sleep. On a restless night, deep breathing exercises can help soothe the mind and body to sleep. Inhale completely and slowly, hold at the top for a few seconds, and release audibly and with control. The longer the breath, the better. Trouble falling asleep is sometimes caused by a mind full of the day’s worries. If we are too busy and don’t have time to resolve our concerns during the day, they may surface when it’s time to rest. In this case, keeping a worry list may be an effective relaxation technique. This list should be kept current, and time should be allotted during the day, not at night to review it. During this time, planning and problem solving can calmly take place.

How much sleep do we really need?

The recommendation for adults is typically seven to eight hours a night, though sleep needs vary individually. It is important to remember that children have longer sleep needs that actually increase during adolescence. As we age, we become less efficient at sleeping, and sleep periods often become more fragmented.

How can I determine if I am getting enough sleep?

Most adults in the U.S. carry a sleep debt, which means that their sleep patterns are insufficient to the needs of their body. Sleep debt is clinically irrelevant at small levels. However, an accumulation of sleep debt over weeks can affect mental and physical performance, including hormonal regulation and immune function. Observe your own sleeping pattern and note whether you wake up frequently during the night, are feeling well-rested throughout the day, and how many hours of sleep you’re getting.

Can a daytime nap compensate lacking sleep at night?

Daytime naps can be used to offset acute sleep loss and compensate for missed hours. Naps are also used to compensate for a scheduled short sleep. The best nap duration is around 20-30 minutes, as longer naps may involve periods of deep dream sleep. This is referred to as “sleep inertia,” the “tired” feeling after a long mid-day rest. Napping is a culturally acceptable behavior in many countries and there is no evidence that a short nap is problematic.

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Most U.S. Teens See Anxiety and Depression as a Major Problem Among Their Peers

From Pew Social Trends

For boys and girls, day-to-day experiences and future aspirations vary in key ways

Anxiety and depression are on the rise among America’s youth and, whether they personally suffer from these conditions or not, seven-in-ten teens today see them as major problems among their peers. Concern about mental health cuts across gender, racial and socio-economic lines, with roughly equal shares of teens across demographic groups saying it is a significant issue in their community.

Fewer teens, though still substantial shares, voice concern over bullying, drug addiction and alcohol consumption. More than four-in-ten say these are major problems affecting people their age in the area where they live, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17.

When it comes to the pressures teens face, academics tops the list: 61% of teens say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades. By comparison, about three-in-ten say they feel a lot of pressure to look good (29%) and to fit in socially (28%), while roughly one-in-five feel similarly pressured to be involved in extracurricular activities and to be good at sports (21% each). And while about half of teens see drug addiction and alcohol consumption as major problems among people their age, fewer than one-in-ten say they personally feel a lot of pressure to use drugs (4%) or to drink alcohol (6%).

The pressure teens feel to do well in school is tied at least in part to their post-graduation goals. About six-in-ten teens (59%) say they plan to attend a four-year college after they finish high school, and these teens are more likely than those who have other plans to say they face a lot of pressure to get good grades.

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Be Kind, Retrain Your Mind: 3 Tips to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

From Tiny Buddha

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

In 1990, in an early encounter between the Dalai Lama, the foremost Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, and Western students, the Dalia Lama was asked a question about how to deal with self-hatred. He was confused and didn’t understand the question. The translator translated the question again and still the Dalai Lama was confused.

Finally, the Dalai Lama understood that the question was about how to manage negative feelings about the self. This was a new concept to him: he knew that people had negative feelings about others, but he had not encountered the challenge of self-hatred.

I wish I could say that I had never encountered the problem of self-hatred, but I’d be lying. Like so many people, even if I didn’t necessarily recognize my self-talk as such, I was inundated with internal negative self-talk.

My process of coming first to recognize what that voice was up to, then to listen to it with more compassion, and finally, once and for all, to ask it to grow up and step out of the room has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and ultimately, freedom.

Here are three steps to deal with your own inner negative self-talk:

The first step is to become aware of the negativity of your internal voice. 

For the first twenty-eight years of my life, I was so familiar with my negative voice that I didn’t even recognize it.

I’ve been told that people with Tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in the ears, grow used to it and learn to live with it so successfully that they’re no longer really even aware the ringing’s there. That was the case with my negative voice: it was a kind of background hum.

If I did pay attention to it, I was tricked into thinking that its particular message mattered.

At sixteen it might have been the enormous, overly sweet corn muffin I’d eaten on the way home from school that was a sign of my failure.

At twenty-six it might have been that an essay I wrote hadn’t been accepted for publication; this was a sign, I was sure, that nothing I’d ever write would ever be fully understood.

It wasn’t until I’d been in therapy for a while and had a real mindfulness practice that I even began to notice the daily hum of background voices and to notice that the particulars of the negative voice I did hear were less important, actually, than the larger pattern it was a part of.

Any mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of the negative self-talk in your head. You can try guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking, or simply spend time tuning into your senses. When you become conscious of the present moment, it’s easier to recognize what’s going on internally.

The second step is to listen a little more deeply.

What was important was not so much what the voice was saying as what was under the voice. Often the negativity was there to distract me from something else.

Was the corn muffin or the publication rejection really the problem?

Read more here…

How To Make Your Brain Stop Worrying, According to Science

From Power of Positivity

Did you know that we have ‘two’ brains?

Well, structurally we may have one; but cognitively we have two. You see, there’s the “thinking” brain and the “non-thinking” brain.

Our brains are wired to worry first and think second.

New York University (NYU) brain scientist, Joseph LeDoux, sums it’s up nicely: “connections from the emotional systems to the cognitive (thinking) systems are stronger than connections from the cognitive systems to the emotional systems.”

The system that Dr. LeDoux is talking about is the limbic system, which is a set of structures deep within the breath that evokes the emotional response. The limbic system, which includes the hippocampus and amygdala, is the oldest within the brain.

The thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the newest. This helps explain why, though we’re intelligent creatures, we sometimes make dumb decisions. Maybe we’ll buy something on “sale” out of fear the sale will expire, or we’ll reach for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s though we need to “weigh in” the morning after.

The worrying brain will overrule the thinking brain every time if we don’t know to override it.

And make no mistake, it is essential to know how to overrule the worrying brain.

Read more here…

 

10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today

From Psychology Today

We’ve created an environment that fosters anxiety rather than resilience.

The New York Times recently published an article called, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?” The author chronicled several teens’ battle with anxiety over the course of a few years.

The article questioned why we’re seeing such a rise in anxiety among today’s youth. As a psychotherapist, college lecturer, and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, I agree that anxiety is a widespread issue among adolescents. It’s the most common reason people of all ages enter my therapy office.

Some young people are overachieving perfectionists with a crippling fear of failure. Others worry so much about what their peers think of them that they’re unable to function.

Some have endured rough circumstances throughout their young lives. But others have stable families, supportive parents, and plenty of resources.

I suspect the rise in anxiety reflects several societal changes and cultural shifts we’ve seen over the past couple of decades. Here are the top 10 reasons:

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