Categories
Bullying Self-Harm

How Bullying Increases Risk for Self-Harm in Teens

We all learn from a pretty young age that bullying is bad. Yet, that doesn’t stop bullying from happening. While the reasons for bullying are aplenty, most bullies know that bullying can have consequences for the bullied person. However, they might not realize just how significant and long-lasting these consequences can be. There’s more to bullying than just hurting someone’s feelings for a quick rush – a bully can do severe and long-term damage to a person’s self-esteem and mental health, feed existing or create new insecurities, and encourage them to do horrible things to themselves out of self-loathing, ranging from self-harm to suicide.

Coincidentally, children are most likely to remember cases of bullying from when they were between the ages of 11 to 13, marking the early teen years as the most formative for these kinds of memories. In fact, current estimates say that about one in five children between the ages of 10 and 18 engage in self-harm. Regardless of whether you’re being bullied in person or through a screen, a person’s hurtful words and actions – even when it’s a stranger – can feel worse than a punch to the face. The feeling some people are left with after being bullied doesn’t go away nearly as quickly as a bruise does, either. Memories of bullying can persist for decades, and the damage they deal can accumulate and show itself later in life through depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even suicidal ideation.

Why Bullying Is a Bigger Deal at a Younger Age

Children and teens are not equipped with the experience and coping knowledge that might come with age. Self-harm, while obviously self-destructive, is a dangerous coping mechanism in its own right. Pain can relieve and release stress, partially through the resulting release of endorphins and because of the catharsis of self-punishment. This also creates a dangerous feedback loop where someone will return to self-harming behavior when feeling bad as a way to feel better, only to realize what they’ve done, resulting in feelings of shame and embarrassment that can result in more harm.

Additionally, bullies breed bullies. Being a victim of bullying can, in turn, lead to victimization further down the social hierarchy, from middle siblings to younger siblings, classmates to younger schoolmates, or from senior coworkers to new hires. Sometimes, bullying becomes a learned behavior from home, a way of getting what you want, either because you’re used to seeing it being used by others or because you had a history of using it that way.

Bullying may also be brought about through feelings of envy, anger, perceived power imbalances, severe insecurities, or to gain something. Not all bullies are sociopaths, though some bully out of a sense of satisfaction or because they feel no remorse nor empathy for those they hurt. Does that mean we should stop worrying about bullying? Absolutely not. Just because something is widespread or even normalized does not mean it should not be challenged.

Bullying, the Internet, and Self-Harm

We’d be remiss to talk about bullying and not mention the elephant in any teenager’s room: the Internet. Cyberbullying is just as harmful as face-to-face bullying, if not more so due to its ubiquity, the heinousness of some of the messages and bullying that occurs online, and the sheer volume of it. Examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Forum mobbing
  • Cyberstalking
  • Doxing (revealing personal information about someone online, including their name and address)
  • Trolling
  • Swatting
  • Revenge porn
  • Impostor accounts
  • Harassment (private and public)
  • And more

A person being bullied through the internet may not just be targeted by their classmates, but by total strangers from throughout the school, community, city, country, and world. Furthermore, by hiding behind anonymity and a virtual distance, bullies receive little to no direct feedback from their victims through which they might feel remorse. They aren’t watching someone react in front of them when they send hateful messages or spread hurtful content online. Cyberbullying that is perceived as public (i.e., publicly posted rumors or callouts, posts that can be shared and seen by anyone, etc.) is perceived as much worse than private messages. Even with the ephemeral nature of the Internet – where the content appears and sinks amid an endless ocean – the emotional scarring never completely goes away.

Some Teens Face More Bullying

There are risk factors associated with bullying, aside from the aforementioned parenting styles. These include being a minority among your peers (skin color, country of origin, culture, nonbinary gender identity, sexual orientation, being over/underweight, disabilities, other special characteristics), trouble socializing with others, struggling with anxiety or depression, and being perceived as less popular than average. Bullying does and will continue to do emotional and physical harm to children and adults alike and can lead to dangerous physical and mental consequences such as self-harm. Victimization is particularly harsh among overweight children and children or teens who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Furthermore, these children also possess a higher risk of developing problems with self-harm and self-esteem and signs of severe depression or anxiety disorders later in life. Whether you’re a friend, a victim, a bully, a parent, or all of the above at some point in time, we all owe it to ourselves and each other to practice and preach a little more empathy – and help children who are victims of bullying find ways to assert themselves, and practice ways to protect themselves from bullying through self-esteem boosting activities.

Parents with children who might be out of the ordinary in a way can help their kids prepare for bullying by helping them strengthen their sense of self, foster stronger self-esteem by encouraging their emotional growth, and helping them learn how to be positively assertive towards others. There is also a perceived link between parenting styles and a child’s likelihood of being bullied and being a bully, with children from authoritarian households (where rules are absolute, and children are punished for expressing themselves) being more likely to find themselves on either end of the spectrum.

Categories
Addiction Family Recovery

Role of Parenting Styles in Teen Drug Abuse

It’s difficult to treat teen drug abuse, especially when a drug has its hooks firmly in a teen’s head. Just like everybody else, they need support – and it’s often the parents, not the peers or the therapists or the doctors, who help their kids stay sober the most. How a parent interacts with their child is important, as is their parenting style

What Are Parenting Styles?

Parenting styles are archetypes of parental philosophies characterized by certain behavior and viewpoints that parents share. For example, an authoritarian parent might overtly control their teen’s behavior and activities, emphasizing obedience above other qualities in their relationship with their child. An authoritarian parent will punish their child for talking back and refuse to engage in a conversation with them when questioned. Children are to take orders and comply unquestioningly until they’re old enough to stand on their own. In other words: kids should be seen, not heard. While psychologists and experts have identified several different parenting styles over the years, most of them can be split between the following four

  • Authoritarian: As explained previously, authoritarian parents command their children. They are restrictive and enforce their rules with punishment. 
  • Authoritative: Authoritarian parents provide limits and rules for their children but take the time to explain those restrictions when asked. They also work hard to foster a positive relationship with their children by taking an interest in what they do and what they like and encouraging their growth. 
  • Permissive: Permissive parents have a “kids will be kids” attitude towards misbehavior and generally do not enforce their rules or may not even provide clear boundaries for their children. 
  • Uninvolved: Uninvolved parents are neglectful and show neither care nor particular disdain for their children. Some are simply severely overworked or don’t really know how to take care of their child’s emotional needs. 

Note that these archetypes describe a general parenting style and are not necessarily rulebooks. An authoritarian parent may be relaxed at times, and an authoritative parent may resort to more punishment than necessary out of frustration. In contrast, a permissive parent may occasionally be adamant about certain rules. Parenting styles help us interpret how certain qualities and relationships between parents and children affect the children’s choices and behaviors both now and later in life and their choice in peers and partners or their choices regarding substance use. 

Why Parenting Styles Matter

Drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin are inherently addictive, so it’s usually the circumstances that lead to initial use that play the greatest role in a teen’s potential substance use problem. While no substance use disorder starts with hit number one, or the first drink, most drugs prime the brain for another session because they contain substances that very closely mimic – and even overpower – ones our own brain produces to incentivize and promote certain behavior, from eating to procreation. 

In that sense, half of the battle against addiction keeps kids from using drugs to begin with. The resilience against addiction seems to increase with age, as young people using drugs are more likely to form a lasting substance use issue than if they had the first contact with a drug well into their mid-20s. Peer pressure is often blamed on why and how kids begin experimenting with drugs at home – but research shows that parents play an even greater part.

Parenting styles affect the kind of relationship a child has with their parents – and in turn, with others around them. A poor relationship can lead to trust issues, early self-reliance, an unbalanced mental state, and isolation. Parents who are too uninvolved or enforce rules too rigidly may cause their children to seek out unhealthy attachments or struggle massively with social interaction, especially anger management, adaptation, verbal expression, and healthy coping.

Addictive drugs cause addiction of their very own accord. Still, emotional and social factors make substance use disorder more or less likely, even after a teen was exposed to drugs. A healthy relationship – an authoritative one – with one’s parent more often translates into better relationships with other people, improved social skills, better coping skills, higher self-esteem, and a lower risk of getting addicted. Addiction usually affects the vulnerable the most, after all.

But just as parents can have a significant impact on their children’s behavior, even well into their rebellious teen phase, so too do they play a crucial role in preventing teen drug abuse. Parents with a positive, strong bond to their children will have an easier time helping them through their addiction than a parent who is too harsh or too distant. Punishing or neglecting a child for their choices and experiences will only reinforce negative behavior and make it that much harder to recover from a substance use problem.

What About Peer Pressure?

Despite a drop in numbers for most illicit drugs among adolescent users during the pandemic, COVID-19 saw alcohol and cannabis use rise among teens as millions of young people struggling with social isolation. About half of surveyed teens reported using these drugs alone, without digital nor face-to-face contact with peers. Peer pressure has always played some part in teen drug abuse, but it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse in many cases. Peer choices are often driven by a teen’s general attitude and relationship with their parents, as are drug choices.

Peers with a positive relationship with their parents are also far more resilient to peer pressure. While wanting to be popular can be seen as a valid motivation for drug use and experimentation, it usually does not weigh as heavily into a teen’s relationship with their parents. This does not change significantly until after the teen years, around the age most kids move away or are beginning to form long-term bonds of their own. 

The Importance of Protective Factors

Addiction risk factors are a common point of discussion when discussing teen drug abuse – but it’s just as important to highlight protective factors. These can also play a role in substance use cessation and long-term recovery. Alongside a healthy relationship with their parents, other protective factors for teens include:

  • Healthy social interaction with other teens.
  • Having a strong attachment to the neighborhood, feeling safe and comfortable at home.
  • Having parents that are involved in a child’s interests and activities.
  • Enforced anti-drug use policies at school.
  • And more.

A parent’s love might not be enough to rout addiction, but it is an important component for many teens.

Categories
Smoking

The Sobering Truth About Teen Vaping

You’ve probably heard of vapes and vaping at this point – sometimes also known as a reusable electronic cigarette, a vape is a separately marketed and produced reusable electronic device that heats so-called e-liquids to produce an inhalable flavored vapor, often infused with nicotine or THC (the active chemical component in cannabis).  The main feature of a vape is that a large variety of e-liquids can be used in one. Some manufacturers specially design their vapes to limit usage to proprietary liquids in so-called vape pods or liquid pods. In other cases, the composition of the fluid will restrict what devices can properly heat it.

Since the industry’s inception in the early 2010s, vaping has grown dramatically. While vape companies are all over the market, the frontrunner and main culprit behind the massive growth is Juul, a brand that has also been notorious for specifically targeting teen and underage customers. But why is vaping dangerous? Well, let’s start by taking a closer look at vapes themselves, how the act of vaping affects teens, and whether vaping is detrimental or not.

What Is and Isn’t Vaping?

First off, vaping is the act of using an electronic cigarette or device that produces a plant-based vapor rather than smoke. Vapes can look like pens, cigarettes, thumb (flash) drives, or any other small, hand-held device with a mouthpiece. They can be modded (modified) with extra electronic components to increase the voltage and heating efficiency of the unit or provide longer battery life.

Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other smoking products rely on pulling smoke through a filter into the lungs to achieve a nicotine hit. The burned tobacco and additives can significantly damage the body, producing plaque and tar buildup in the lungs, massively increasing the risk of lung disease and heart disease, and affecting bone health, not to mention the effects of nicotine itself.

Vaping first started marketing itself as a smoking alternative because it doesn’t involve any actual smoke inhalation. But since its popularity has soared, enough data has been gathered to begin making inquiries into whether that statement is true. So far, the information we have shows that vaping isn’t without its risks. The e-liquids used in vapes are, according to marketing material, wouldn’t cause the same health problems.

All e-liquids are composed of up to about 95 percent of two base ingredients: propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Both of these compounds are plant-derived chemicals. According to avid vapers, these two compounds are used to produce a much more voluminous vapor than water, closer to a cigarette’s smoke without the tar. The higher the ratio of PG to VG, the heavier the “hit” on the back of the throat. The higher the percentage of VG to PG, the more vapor is produced.

Aside from the mechanics, the safety of these chemicals isn’t necessarily contested. What is contested is the safety of many additives found in vapes – mostly colorants and flavorings, used to make e-liquids smell and taste like anything from butterscotch to cola. Furthermore, many e-liquids (including those sold to teens illegally) contain active ingredients like nicotine or THC. While the nicotine levels are always advertised on the packaging, any level of nicotine is addictive (and physically harmful, especially to an underdeveloped body).

Smoking Down, Vaping Up

As vaping continues to rise in popularity, smoking cigarettes has taken a hard dip over the last few years. Many vaping proponents argue that vapes are especially useful for people who struggle with quitting smoking, as it allows them to try a less dangerous and less harmful alternative. While the science is inconclusive on whether vaping is truly less dangerous than smoking in the long term, it is clear that vaping’s most significant controversies don’t center around adults trying to quit a smoking habit but around the popularity and growth in use among children and young adults.

Do All Vapes Contain Nicotine?

E-liquids are sold both with and without nicotine, and the nicotine-containing products are labeled to inform the user how much they’d be inhaling. However, that doesn’t mean nicotine-less vaping is automatically safe – it’s just safer than vaping with nicotine. Why? For one, nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It is also a hazardous one. Long-term nicotine use can change the way the brain interprets dopamine-related signals, and causes problems with a person’s inner reward system while triggering irritability, mood swings, issues with concentration, severe withdrawal symptoms (if without nicotine for too long), and more.

Furthermore, substance use disorder at a young age (including nicotine) tends to correlate with other substances and concurrent mental health issues later in life and a tougher time getting treatment. Correlation isn’t causation – there may be other related factors that carry greater blame – but it’s a risk factor, nonetheless. Long-term nicotine use also affects the other organs, especially the heart. Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the developed world, and nicotine products like tobacco are the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Is Vaping Itself Harmful?

While the full dangers aren’t yet clear, we do know that several minors have been diagnosed with so-called electronic cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI), as per the CDC. Some 3.6 million underage high school students reported vaping in 2018, a huge jump from the previous year despite age restrictions. It seems that these age groups, in particular, were vulnerable to EVALI, as most cases occurred in teens and young adults.

It’s still unknown what caused this wave of illnesses and whether vaping has any other long-term risks to consider. While there were originally many concerns regarding heavy metal inhalation, it seems now that the primary cause for EVALI among teens might be a chemical reaction or allergic reaction to specific additives in some e-liquids. Aside from lung-related symptoms, another negative effect of long-term vaping is cottonmouth, from the glycol in the vapor.

It’s also come to the attention of researchers that some flavors seem to be more dangerous than others. In general, it’s best to assume that no form of vaping is completely safe. While it’s legal, and any adult may feel free to try it, it’s both illegal and ill-advised for underage teens (and just plain ill-advised for younger adults).

Is All Vaping Addictive?

The only addictive component in some e-liquids is nicotine. While THC has a psychoactive effect, it is not addictive in the same way. It can, however, still be a dangerous compound, especially because it affects the user’s cognition and awareness and can have consequences for a user’s executive function and problem-solving with long-term use. Vaping THC also produces a more intense high than smoking marijuana. Technically, e-liquids with neither of these compounds in them are not addictive. But again, that doesn’t make them safe.

What Parents Can Do

If you suspect that your teen is vaping, it might be a good idea to sit down and talk to them. Don’t immediately reprimand them for their behavior. Maybe they picked it up from a friend and didn’t know it would be harmful. Maybe they heard it was healthier than cigarettes and figured it’d be a harmless way to look cool. Perhaps they haven’t tried e-liquids with nicotine yet, or have only recently started using nicotine. In many cases, teens become the victims of trendy marketing and slick ads.

Trying to blame them for it is underestimating the manipulative nature of vape marketing and overestimating the long-term risk assessment skills of the average teen. Continue to set a good example by not vaping or smoking yourself. If your teen has been vaping, talk to them about the negative impact and dangers of vapes, and back your statements up with facts from sources like the CDC. And if their behavior persists – to the point that they can’t quit by themselves – consider getting help together.

Categories
Body Image

Teen Male Body Image Issues Are a Thing

There have been many efforts to raise awareness for body image issues and eating disorders, especially among girls, who try to strive towards an unattainable or unrealistic body and torture themselves physically (and mentally) in the process. These health conditions, especially eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, are deathly serious. But they aren’t solely unique to girls. Teen boys can and do worry about their body image, often to a similar level of detriment. Male anorexia does exist, may be underdiagnosed, and does carry a significant death toll – but many teens with male body image issues are worried about being too small rather than not thin enough.

As with other body image issues, the core of the matter isn’t your teen’s actual body. While we should take care of ourselves, many physical elements are relatively set in stone when we’re born – from potential height to facial features and bone structure. Even the level of muscle we can put on is dependent on our genes, and not everyone can hit a genetic lottery. Teen male body image issues are born from an intense self-loathing and a feeling that – no matter how one looks – it isn’t good enough.

Understanding Teen Male Body Image Issues

While some boys do struggle with an obsession with thinness, our focus today will be on a different kind of body dysmorphic disorder, commonly called muscle dysmorphia. Teens with muscle dysmorphia generally perceive themselves as less muscular than they are or feel that they need to be much more muscular.

This can lead to unhealthy eating habits, exercise regimens, and even anabolic steroid abuse. It’s important to separate a healthy and positive relationship with sports and progressive physical goals to a disordered perspective, where self-destructive habits are a symptom of underlying self-loathing and depression.

Teens with body image issues aren’t training to reach a certain goal, nor are they training solely because they enjoy it. Their eating and exercise habits are an unhealthy coping mechanism and consequence of a mental health issue that stems from a disordered self-image. Even professional bodybuilders, who win awards for their dedication to size and symmetry, have confessed to looking in the mirror and seeing nothing but flaws.

How Do Teen Male Body Image Issues Develop?

As with other mental health issues, there are several factors at play. One might appear more prevalent than others – such as being bullied for one’s looks, pressure from coaches or peers to perform and get bigger, or an obsession with online fitness content. But it’s usually multiple factors coming together that lead to the development of body image issues. These include:

    • Genetics
    • Home environment and stress
    • Pressure to perform
    • Peer influence
    • Media
    • Depression and anxiety

Advertisements and Social Media

It’s become something of a staple to blame social media for our societal problems, especially mental health. Still, the evidence for social media’s impact on self-esteem and male body image is quite strong. The very nature of social media as a reflection of society’s pop interests and a medium that plays an active daily role in shaping a teen’s worldview means that teens are strongly influenced by what they see online.

When it comes to masculinity and male attractiveness, teens are regularly bombarded with images of incredibly muscular athletes, actors, and influencers, not all of which attained their bodies through “natural” or healthy means. It’s no secret that the average Hollywood star has been steadily trending towards a more muscular body in the last few decades, and male influencers – especially in the fitness industry – are all chiseled out of the same marble.

The average teen or adult male can pack on some muscle in a year of training and make about half of the same gains in their second year, diminishing returns over time. Some are luckier than others, and some take longer to develop. Most fitness transformations – especially in industries where these are meant to make a sale, from movie tickets to diet programs – go “above and beyond” regular exercise and healthy eating, to the point that they may often use some supplemental help.

We aren’t talking about protein shakes, either. For impressionable teens, these unrealistic transformations and training goals can be actively harmful – especially when they realize they aren’t making anywhere near the same amount of progress. These influences aren’t black or white. There is certainly an argument to be made for the positive impact of a social media feed revolving around health and wellness.

And teens with interest in physical fitness and sports are just pursuing their hobby, as any other teen might. But as with anything else, the dose makes the poison, and to an insecure teen, overexposure to the “ideal male body” can greatly warp their sense of what is normal and healthy. Where that line should be drawn depends entirely on the person.

Body Image Issues and Mental Health

Low self-esteem and body image issues correlate heavily with existing mental health issues. This means that boys struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions are more likely to feel inadequate about how they look, regardless of what pressure they’re exposed to (or lack thereof). Sometimes, it’s enough to look around and realize that you look different from your peers to begin feeling down about that difference, especially if you perceive it to be negative.

Conversely, a burgeoning body image problem can lead to other mental health issues later down the road. What might begin as a hobby, but has since turned into an obsession, can fuel feelings of depression and anxiety, especially concerning one’s appearance and physical fitness. You can look conventionally attractive, perform above average in sports, and be stronger and fitter than your other classmates, but still be deeply unhappy with your body. Maybe you think your quads are too small.

Maybe you feel weak because you only bench more than your peers but haven’t claimed the state record. Meanwhile, a teen with a healthy body image might not be the strongest, tallest, or fittest in their group, but don’t feel worried about it either. When struggling with body image issues, how you currently look never matters – your goals will always shift towards the unattainable and will become a source of constant misery rather than a form of motivation. The problem doesn’t start with your body. It’s always a matter of mental health.

How Are Teen Body Image Issues Treated?

If your teen is showing signs of body dysmorphia, such as being deeply unhappy about how they look, being overly critical of their body at all times, and going to unhealthy lengths to try and change themselves, it’s a good idea to contact a professional first. It takes time to address and confront disordered thinking, especially when it’s rooted in strong self-loathing. Teen male body issues require learning to accept oneself, tackling low mood and anxious thoughts, and developing a healthier way to cope with negative thinking through therapy and medication.

Categories
Alcoholism

Recognizing the Signs of Teenage Alcoholism

Many people enjoy getting drunk, but no one wants to be drunk. Excessive alcohol use can have a lasting effect on the brain, damage the liver and heart, and extensively impact a person’s social life and relationships. Sadly, some teens struggle with alcoholism – in fact, teenagers are more susceptible to it than adults, as research hints. Part of why teenage drinking is a health hazard is because of alcohol use on the developing body. As we reach physical maturity, certain habits become harder to imprint – teenage brains are still in development and more likely to be affected by the addictiveness of alcohol and other substances.

How Common Is Teen Alcohol Use?

While teenage drug use has been (mostly) in decline for years, many teens still find themselves using and struggling with the misuse of both legal and illegal addictive substances. Marijuana use and vaping have both been on the rise among school children throughout the US. High school to college teens continue to deal with high levels of binge drinking to the point that it continues to be identified as a public health problem. The CDC goes so far as the say that underage drinking is common, and alcohol remains the most used addictive substance among young people in the United States.

Why Do Teens Drink?

There are many reasons teenagers might want to try drinking, ranging from never having done it before to drinking as a learned coping mechanism from other adults, as well as peer pressure. Perhaps the most comprehensive answer is because of alcohol’s sheer ubiquity and because alcohol itself is addictive – more so for some than for others. Teens with a history of alcoholism in the family would be more likely to drink more often than their peers. They may have a harder time recognizing the deleterious nature of their drinking (and a harder time stopping once they do).

Banning alcohol outright obviously isn’t the answer. It’s been tried before, with mixed results, to say the least – and it isn’t as though underage drinking isn’t already illegal and regulated. In most cases, the problem can’t just be attributed to any single cause or factor. It’s almost always a series of conflating events and circumstances that lead to teenage drinking – some of which contribute to an alcohol use disorder over time. Just as teens drink, there are also so-called protective factors that reduce the likelihood of teenage drug use and addiction. These include:

  • Positive family bonds.
  • Parental involvement in a child’s life.
  • Strong bonds within the community.

Risk factors and protective factors help us identify pieces of the puzzle – but they’re not always squarely to blame. Emotional trauma can negate a happy childhood and lead a teen down a path towards substance use and other maladaptive coping mechanisms. Similarly, a child can have a neglected past and can still lead a life without addiction.

Recognizing Teenage Alcoholism

Most adults know how to recognize drunk behavior. Slurred speech, difficulty with coordination, slowed cognition, slow reflexes, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. If matched with difficulty breathing and an increased heart rate, these symptoms can also be signs of alcohol poisoning. But how do you recognize a long-term teen addiction?

Even teens who try to hide their drinking from friends and family can and do slip up, showing up drunk to meets, or even drinking at school, having trouble with memory gaps, getting blackout drunk multiple times, hiding drinks, lying about drinking, or spending most of their time (and money) drinking or recovering from drinking. Drinking can also have an impact on a teen’s physical and mental health.

They might be gaining weight rapidly, struggling with their extracurriculars, may appear moody and irritable, are having trouble with their friends or partner, and maybe avoiding people around them. Some signs are undeniable, like empty bottles hidden away in their room. Others, like struggling at school, are less obvious and not always related to drinking.

What Are the Risks of Teenage Alcoholism?

Long-term drug use, especially alcohol, can have a serious impact on a teen’s overall health. The risks of teenage alcoholism include:

  • Long-term organ damage.
  • Heart disease.
  • Increased risk of stroke.
  • Decreased cognitive function.
  • Legal issues (DUIs, hit and run, property damage).
  • Unsafe sex.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, liver, colon, breast, or rectum.
  • Increased risk of firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence, and drowning.
  • Mental comorbidities (anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder).

How Is Teenage Alcoholism Treated?

Treatments for alcoholism center around a long-term plan that incorporates sobriety habits, healthier coping mechanisms, and therapy. Most teens are treated either through outpatient or inpatient programs in specialized clinics and residential treatment centers designed to help parents pick a program that best suits their teen’s needs and circumstances.

Alcoholism and Comorbid Conditions

Treatment for teenage alcoholism always requires a holistic approach. Many teens who struggle with addiction have mental comorbidity and often have physical healthcare considerations that need to be attended to throughout treatment. Mental comorbidities, or a dual diagnosis, require addiction treatment that also attends to the symptoms present in a teen due to or exacerbated by their drinking behavior.

These can range from irritability and aggressive mood changes to episodes of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and thoughts of worthlessness. For many teens, the road to recovery requires long-term mental support from both medical professionals and loved ones, in the form of talk therapy and psychiatric pharmacology, and a strong support network. Comorbidities commonly diagnosed alongside alcohol use disorder include:

Residential and Outpatient Treatments

Inpatient (residential) and outpatient treatment programs are the two most common ways to address substance use disorder and dual diagnoses. An inpatient treatment program involves having a teen live alongside other teens in a residential treatment setting, surrounded by professional medical staff, and guided through the first few weeks of treatment, from initial detox to the transition into extended care, outpatient care, or regular living.

Teen residential treatment plans often include a personalized curriculum to ensure that teen tenants keep up with their peers academically and group and individual treatment sessions, daily activities, and more. Meanwhile, outpatient treatment programs allow teens to continue living at home and going to school while making recurring visits to a treatment clinic. Teens who have a structured environment to live in can benefit from the professional help of an outpatient clinic without signing into a residential program.

Categories
Mental Health

Loudly, Proudly Supporting LGBTQIA+ Teens

Pride Month has highlighted the dangers of being part of the LGBTQIA+ in the United States, the importance of teaching empathy to teens as they find themselves confused about LGBTQIA+ peers, and the necessity to highlight and uplift those who continue to stand proud as LGBTQIA+ in a toxic climate. This Pride Month, let’s examine how parents and other adults can contribute to helping LGBTQIA+ teens embrace their identities and help other teens be more accepting of their peers. As with most behaviors and habits, it all starts in the home.

What Does Your Teen Think?

A habit that can help parents and adults connect with teens and better understand how they currently see the world is to ask them questions. For example, when watching a TV show together, or when your teen shows you a video or meme, ask them what they think about it. Avoid immediately shutting them down for their opinion or declaring your own in contrast. Instead, please take a moment to think about what they’ve said and try to continue an honest conversation about why your teen feels the way they do.

Sometimes, teenagers share and laugh at offensive content or so-called “edgy” jokes. They might also share and laugh at homophobic content, sexist content, or so-called “non-PC” content. On the surface, we’ve all been exposed to offensive humor, and it’s generally accepted that nothing is taboo when it comes to jokes and satire. But even jokes can have an immediate impact on the people they’re centered on. For example, rape jokes leave women feeling more anxious and vulnerable and lead men to take rape less seriously.

Teens are potentially drawn to this kind of humor because it’s usually new to them for a time. But taking the time to have an honest conversation with your teen about this kind of content might help you make them think about the deeper implications of sharing it with others, especially those it seeks to make fun of. Of course, the goal isn’t to police how your teen thinks or what they should watch.

It is to help them develop a resistance to hateful rhetoric and recognize where they might want to draw a line when making fun of someone else personally. There are differences between offensive humor that help highlight the ridiculousness and poor rhetoric of certain racist or stereotypical sentiments and humor that makes the offense itself its only punchline. Instead of reprimanding your teen for their opinions, try to understand them and think about how you might be able to convince them to have an open mind about other people.

Be Open to Learn More

Parents continue to be a central influence on their teens, even if it doesn’t feel like that sometimes. While it is true that teens pay a lot of attention to what their peers think and like, parental influence is an overarching factor that even plays a role in what peers a teen will associate with. In other words, sometimes, a teen’s choices in peers serve to reinforce what they’ve learned at home.

To that end, being a good role model for your children continues to be important even later in their life, as they approach adulthood. If you want to leave a legacy of acceptance and empathy in your children, consider how your own actions and behaviors can be interpreted, and what you’ve done to contribute to decreasing victimization at school, home, or in the community, or confronting bigotry and hateful speech.

An Inclusive Environment

Regardless of whether your teen identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ or wishes to be an ally, a big part of helping shape an inclusive mindset is to practice empathy and inclusion at home. Teens from all backgrounds are in the process of asking themselves who they are and developing an identity. They will worry, one way or the other, about being acceptable to others, about how they will be received by their friends and family, and about tailoring themselves to avoid victimization.

Make sure your children understand that they have the right to be themselves and that you’re here to foster a healthy environment for them to grow up in, rather than dictate who they should be as they age. Ask yourself if you’re trying to mold your child into what you perceive to be the right way to be, or if you’re open to raising someone you might personally disagree with but still want to love and support. If you aren’t sure that your home environment is helping your teen truly be themselves, you might want to try and find ways to connect with your child and ensure that they aren’t afraid of being themselves in front of you.

It’s Okay to Take Your Time

Parents may have a harder time adjusting to new information and taking in new ideas than their teens. But, on the other hand, they benefit from the wisdom that age, experience, and hindsight bring. Sometimes, parents feel tempted to polarize their positions because of how their teens might act when faced with a disagreeing opinion. Still, we want to encourage you to take your time to go through these topics at your own pace, inform yourself, and be open to new information.

Resources for Parents of LGBTQIA+ Teens

If you want to hear from other parents with LGBTQIA+ teens, or want to learn more about how LGBTQIA+ youth can be uplifted in the United States, here are a couple of key organizations and resources to get you started:

Building a better attitude towards other people is something you can start doing today – but it takes time for any single person’s efforts to result in real change. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can help to think about how your actions and habits play a role in impacting the life of your teen – whether to help them develop greater empathy skills, teach them to broaden their horizons or help them feel empowered to be themselves and embrace what they were born with.

Teens who identify as LGBTQIA+ face more vitriol and hate today than ten years ago. This Pride Month, let us celebrate and embolden them to embrace who they are, speak out against victimization and bigotry, and help our teens and friends learn to be more accepting of one another.

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Recovery Wellness

Teens’ Guide to Nutritional Healing in Recovery

Addiction treatment centers around the idea of recovery – both in a physical and mental sense. Patients are given the necessary resources and tools to counteract the long-term effects of substance use and are encouraged to continue using these resources and tools in the future to try and deal with cravings, cope with stressors, and avoid relapses. Nutritional healing plays an important role in this process because many teens suffering from addiction tend to neglect their physical needs while high or withdrawn. Good food also helps provide an important foundation for other treatments, alongside social support, regular exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms.

The Role of Nutritional Healing During Recovery

Addiction recovery is always about more than sitting in a circle and talking. Group therapy is one of many modalities used to prepare teens for drug-free living in the real world by helping them empathize with others, learn from their experiences, mistakes, and breakthroughs, and learn how certain lessons taught during recovery might be applied in practice throughout the recovery journey.

But drug recovery needs a strong foundation to work. Teens aren’t pulled out of their drug habit and stuck right into a seminar about avoid maladaptive coping mechanisms and recognizing the signs of a substance use disorder. Regular drug use, particularly over months and years, takes a huge toll on the body.

Its effects are especially pronounced in teens, no matter what drug is being taken. This is because teens are younger, still growing, and more susceptible to the long-term effects of continued substance abuse. Reversing that damage – and helping teens learn to deal with their cravings – requires addressing many of the fundamental ways in which drugs can change a person’s body and mind.

People consider detox to be the first step towards recovering physically from addiction. Yet, the body needs much more time to really recover. Therefore, a solid nutritional healing plan is central to helping teens reconstitute themselves over the course of their treatment and continue to bring the benefits of a balanced diet into their long-term recovery journey.

Nutritional healing plans help address deficiencies that can contribute to the physical effects and mental health consequences of substance abuse, help improve and stabilize mood in the long-term, and provide an outlet for teens to learn self-sufficiency, learn new skills, and even apply therapeutic concepts such as mindfulness through the step-by-step cooking process of a healthy meal.

How Substance Use Disorder Can Affect Eating Habits

Nutrition doesn’t just play a role in recovery – the addiction itself plays a role in developing poor eating habits. So reinforcing a better diet can be an important step towards breaking those habits and their association with drug use. Addictive drugs affect the brain by manipulating the neurotransmitters our body relies on for communication and coordination, particularly ones like dopamine, which are heavily associated with reinforced behaviors and reward-seeking.

Many addictive drugs can also affect the way the body regulates satiety and hunger, increasing or reducing appetite and negatively impacting our body’s natural mechanisms for triggering food intake. This can lead to rapid weight gain or weight loss in teens with substance use issues, particularly for drugs like Adderall or methamphetamine (which can drastically reduce appetite) and marijuana or alcohol (which increase appetite or cause weight gain through excessive calorie consumption).

It is also noted that excessive drug use correlates with poor nutrient absorption and malnutrition. However, drugs alone – or at least, how they affect our appetite – aren’t always to blame. Other factors, including mood and mental health and eating disorders that may have begun before or after drug use.

The Link Between Substance Use and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are an understudied yet perilous mental health issue, causing more deaths per case than any other set of mental health conditions. Therefore, teaching good nutritional healing habits is crucial when treating a case of substance use disorder rooted or related to the diagnosis of eating disorders, such as:

These are complex mental health conditions that require both medical and psychological attention to treat. Addiction can complicate things further, and a team of specialists is usually needed to develop a patient-specific treatment plan that helps address their patient’s physical and mental needs, help introduce healthier eating and behavioral habits, and ensure the development of a strong support network around the patient to build on their long-term health.

Even so, nutrition is often just one part of a much bigger treatment plan. In such cases, nutritional healing advice takes time to introduce and internalize. Thus, overwhelming a teen patient with food advice can be counterproductive, especially when they are mentally susceptible to taking certain guidelines too far or misinterpreting flexible dietary suggestions as hardline rules.

What Constitutes Proper Nutrition?

One of the hardest things about introducing and teaching teens good nutritional healing habits is that everybody has different needs when it comes to food. In addition, there are genetic differences in how we process and react to certain foods. So, while it is helpful to understand concepts such as calories in and calories out for healthy weight management, there is much more to having a complete understanding of good nutrition.

In general, teens will be given healthy, balanced meals to help them recover strength, both physically and mentally, throughout the treatment process. In addition, many recovery programs will also cover nutrition to help give teens an idea of the importance of food in their overall well-being. Most nutritional lessons won’t focus on the pros and cons of a vegan diet versus a paleo diet or whether you should go low-carb to lose weight.

Instead, some of the basics in helping teens achieve good nutritional healing habits throughout and after recovery include consistent mealtimes, learning to choose healthier ingredients, cooking basics, and even cooking healthy on a budget. Most teens aren’t financially independent and will likely rely on their parents or siblings to help put food on the table – so, sometimes, it’s important to involve the family in nutritional healing lessons.

This can mean prioritizing filling foods (high in protein or fiber) and nutrition-dense foods (so-called “superfoods,” which provide a variety of minerals and vitamins per portion), cutting down on snacking, substituting high-calorie snack options for cheap and healthy alternatives, learning about (and internalizing) healthy portion sizes, and more.

Teens with special nutritional healing needs might need to work with a nutritionist to figure out what foods to avoid for better overall health and incorporate nutritious alternatives that don’t break the bank. After all, we are what we eat – and good nutritional habits are a cornerstone of physical and mental health during addiction recovery.

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Mental Health

Beyond Pride Month: Fostering Values of Inclusion & Unbiased Attitudes in Teens

Teens who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ are statistically more likely to struggle with depression, victimization, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts (as well as actions) than their heterosexual, cisgender (i.e., same gender and sex) peers. Of course, being different from the rest of society has its distinct downsides, especially for kids trying to figure out what their place in the world might be and realize that that place comes with a lot of judgment, victimization, and abuse. Nevertheless, as adults, we have a role to play in society as behavioral models for our kids and their peers.

For example, one of the most basic rules of proper etiquette in society is to respect other people’s boundaries and do unto them only as you’d want done unto yourself. But in many cases, just not hurting others might not be enough. We can sometimes take a more proactive role in being allies to kids and teens who find themselves victimized by others and welcome kids and teens who might identify with different gender identities or expressions than the rest of society into our friend and family circles.

What Does Being an Ally Mean?

By being allies, we also teach our kids that it’s important to call out oppressive or victimizing behavior, educate and inform ourselves on what it means to be a productive and helpful ally, and be empathic towards others, regardless of race or gender. So being an ally is about more than just tolerating or being indifferent towards LGBTQIA+ teens.

It’s about providing support and advocacy as well, by standing up for them, giving them the space to speak up when that space is taken away, and putting our own voices behind our LGBTQIA+ peers as they fight for better healthcare, equal rights, the same job opportunities, an equal education, and less discrimination in public.

Your Role as an Ally Parent

Raising a teen ally means modeling ally behavior – by fostering the values of inclusion, empathy, and unbiased attitudes. Encourage questions, help your kids seek out information, educate yourself alongside your children, and actively take part in helping your child learn more about different cultures, ethnicities, religions, traditions, and practices. Teach your children that they can and should stand up for what’s fair and what’s right.

Empathy and compassion are not weaknesses but strengths – abilities that require putting others before oneself, recognizing the importance of selfless actions, and how we all have a responsibility to make this world a little bit easier to live in as a people. You can help encourage your teen to be more empathic by modeling empathic behavior yourself. Donate more time to neighborhood causes. Extend a helping hand more often. Become a volunteer. Hand out resources. Start honest conversations with your teen about how people are treated and how they treat others.

Take Advantage of the Power of Books

Research shows that when we begin to immerse ourselves in the viewpoints and experiences of others, we start to expand our empathic horizons – we see things from a different perspective and begin to build a worldview of inclusion. Human stories are compelling and help us learn more about how other people have lived and continue to live, whether right here at home in halfway across the globe.

Tap into the power of books and encourage reading stories from different cultures from a young age. After reading a book with your child, ask them questions that might help them further put themselves into someone else’s shoes. You can even explore different cultures together without the luxury of travel (especially in these difficult times) by trying out recipes and traditions from different parts of the world. Foster your child’s curiosity through an expanded view of the world.

People worldwide live in different ways, under different conditions, and prize different things – yet there are many ways in which we’re fundamentally the same, from our love of food and dance to the value of mutual respect, cultural heritage, and family. Reading a variety of books can also help your teen understand that there is no such thing as an ideal family. Every family can be a good family, and family diversity is an increasingly important topic as more and more families in the US become blended. In addition, the nuclear family becomes increasingly less common.

Focus on Empathy

Above all else, this Pride Month, becoming allies (or helping our teens become allies) centers around realizing the power and strength behind true empathy and compassion. Unfortunately, some teens seem to misunderstand taking other people’s feelings into account as a sign of weakness. But it takes immense strength to consider someone else’s pain and try to help them despite not being in their shoes.

It takes intelligence and a strong will to reject stereotypes and think for oneself. Being an ally is just about making sure that those around us who are least likely to be treated like normal human beings get the treatment they deserve – to feel normal and be accepted as people, just as they are, without being forced to sanitize their identity or make themselves more palatable to avoid bigotry.

Never Underestimate Parental Influence

Sure, peer influence is powerful – but kids, including teens, still base much of themselves on their parents, whether they like it or not. Your role as a parent should never be diminished – you have incredible influence over how your child acts and thinks, as well as over how they see the world, for better and for worse. The first step to helping your child become more compassionate is to look in the mirror.

That being said, it also doesn’t hurt to recognize and accept that change comes from within and takes time, even in teens. Teenagers are still developing both emotionally and mentally. They may not have the necessary tools to fully understand their place and role in the world and the value and importance of considering others. Some teens might be more predisposed towards such thoughts and feelings than others. Be patient and be a good role model.

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Treatment

When Does Teenage Rehabilitation Become Necessary?

Teen substance use is a serious issue affecting a significant portion of the adolescent population. An estimated 15 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders, and 36 percent of 12th graders have tried an illicit drug in the past year alone. Although there are no statistics for teen substance abuse, it is known that teens are more likely to try drugs and are much more likely to struggle with repeated drug use over time. One of the biggest risk factors for lifelong addiction is the age of onset – the younger a person starts, the earlier their brain is affected by drug use.

But there is still a significant difference between having used a drug once and being addicted. There is no such thing as hooked on the first toke, and although our insights into brain chemistry do confirm that drugs affect us in a way that makes us more likely to give them another try each time, addiction takes time to develop. Sadly, it’s not always easy to draw the line between drug use and addiction. It’s a slippery slope and a hazardous one for teens especially.

What Exactly Is Teenage Rehabilitation?

What do you do when you’ve found out that your teen is struggling to control a drug habit? First, you make sure they get all the support they need – especially from you. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complicated brain disorder that affects how teens think, feel, and behave. It can cause irritability, co-exist with severe depression and anxiety, and bring with it an incredibly powerful societal stigma. The last thing your teen needs is judgment for an addiction they cannot control alone.

However, they can overcome it with help. Teenage rehabilitation programs help adolescents equip themselves with the therapeutic tools, experiences, coping skills, the resources needed to fight their cravings, and the ability to seek out help in their darkest days. Most teenage rehabilitation programs are split into two types:

    1. Outpatient programs (OP) or intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
    2. Residential treatment programs (RTP)

In a residential treatment program, teens spend time living in a residential setting with other affected teens, surrounded by attentive and experienced therapeutic staff. Doctors, therapists, and nurses help teens adjust to a life without drugs and slowly transition into a life they want to live. Residential programs include:

    • Detox and physical care.
    • Day school and skills training.
    • Group and one-on-one therapy.
    • And a transitory period.

Inpatient programs differentiate themselves from partial hospitalization programs (PHP) or internment in a medical setting by focusing on life skills and a drug-free but comfortable environment.

Is Teenage Rehabilitation Necessary?

For some teens, yes. These programs are intensive and help monitor teens as they make their transition into a sober life. Addiction is invasive and can be exceptionally difficult to fight back against. Teens in these programs are there because they need interventive help to heal and find a better, healthier, and more fulfilling life path.

These programs also have a proven track record of efficacy. Addiction therapies take time, structure, and repetition to work – and an inpatient program helps teens set themselves up for continuing their sobriety at home and elsewhere through the help of family and friends, as well as the skills they picked up and internalized during their treatment.

Of course, not all adolescents need teenage rehabilitation. There are various flexible programs designed to help teens while giving them and their parents the choice to seek treatment from home while visiting therapists and doctors on an appointment basis. These outpatient treatments still require teens to come in on a strict schedule, but rather than live and get treated in a residential treatment area, teens can continue to live at home.

Outpatient treatment programs are not usually recommended when addiction is severe enough that a teen struggles to stay sober even during treatment due to the cravings and constant reminders triggered by their environment. Sometimes, just walking down a certain street in your neighborhood or talking to an old friend can trigger the urge to use again.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

When does a parent know that their teen needs professional help? Most of the time, your gut feeling is a good metric to go by. Parents know when something is wrong with their kids. But some specific signs and symptoms can help parents identify a potential addiction, accompanying mental health issues (often known as a dual diagnosis).

    • Drastic weight change.
    • Increased irritability.
    • Lying about drug use.
    • Drug paraphernalia.
    • Sudden loss of interest in old hobbies (without finding new ones).
    • Stealing money or drugs.
    • Self-loathing, repeatedly talking about suicide.
    • Signs of self-harm.

A dual diagnosis is often harder to treat than the addiction itself. Still, most who struggle with substance use disorder either already have a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or a stress disorder or developed one as they started using. Therefore, a multimodal approach tailored to each teen’s situation and circumstances is needed to treat a dual diagnosis effectively.

“Aging Out” of Addiction

The risk of becoming addicted again remains in everyone, just as the risk of becoming addicted, to begin with, is in us all. Long-term management of addiction and the possibility of a true relapse involves identifying the risk factors that lead us into using drugs excessively again (such as extreme stressors, availability, and exposure, certain genetic traits) and the protective factors that help keep us from overdoing it or using drugs again (from regular exercise and a good diet to a strong support system). Addiction is a temporary state that can reoccur, especially without adequate physical and mental healthcare and plenty of social support. By focusing on those protective factors, you can help your teen (or yourself) lead a long and fulfilling life.

Aftercare and Support Are Key for Sustainable Recovery

Regardless of what kind of treatment you find for your teen, most treatment programs are only the beginning of a much longer road centered on trust, support, patience, and time. Unfortunately, addiction can be an exceedingly difficult thing to beat, and there is no real surefire cure for it.

All we can do is help each and every teen struggling with substance use issues get themselves into the best possible circumstances to foster long-lived sobriety and a better relationship with their mental, physical, and social health. If you or someone you love struggles with addiction and other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek help.

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Mental Health

Honoring LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2021 With Rainbows, Glitter Galore & Reflection

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month every year, honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a milestone in the gay liberation movement, and LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States. Yet despite advances in LGBTQIA+ rights, LGBTQIA+ youth and adults continue to face harassment and discrimination for their gender identity and sexuality. In fact, the statistics for hate crimes against trans individuals have actually gone up significantly in recent years. Despite the legalization of same-sex marriages and acknowledging the gay community in establishment politics, the anti-LGBTQIA+ bias persists in the job market, medicine, schools, and society.

Part of the impact of widespread victimization towards LGBTQIA+ teens includes an increased risk for mental health issues and a greater risk for substance use. LGBTQIA+ youth – trans youth in particular – have higher suicide rates than the general population and lack access to adequate mental health resources. This year, we need to find ways to do better – and empower our children to become the adults they want to be while ensuring that the world around them begins to treat them just as well as any heterosexual and cisgender adult.

LGBTQIA+ and the Importance of Mental Health Advocacy

Mental health resources are more critical than ever, particularly to older teens, who are most at risk of developing mental health issues due to the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers have identified that because older teens are less reliant on their parents than younger children and lack the established and lifelong social bonds that older adults have had before the start of the pandemic, the impact of long-term loneliness and a lack of human contact during the coronavirus pandemic is often much more severe for them. A strained healthcare system also means fewer Americans have had access to the mental healthcare resources they need.

Research from the Trevor Project has also brought to light that LGBTQIA+ youth continue to have a harder time getting access to the resources they need. Of the 35,000 teens and young adults aged 13 to 24 that the organization surveyed, a dire 42 percent reported contemplating suicide in December 2020. The number was higher among trans and nonbinary teens, at 52 percent. By recognizing the need for better and easier access to mental healthcare, as well by addressing discrimination in the healthcare industry, we can ensure that our teens and future generations can benefit from advances in psychiatric medicine and treatment and get the help they need to enjoy a better quality of life, even when faced with severe mood disorders or substance use disorder.

Participating in Pride Month 2021

While the world is still far from having recovered from the pandemic, there are organized Pride events in the US this year. There are many ways to safely attend these events, either virtually or by attending small gatherings and staying socially distant. You can find a Pride event near you online and inform yourself of the requirements and restrictions around the event nearest to you. Or you can join in virtually.

Helping LGBTQIA+ Youth Find Local Resources

This Pride Month, take the time to find and share local and national resources for the mental healthcare of at-risk LGBTQIA+ youth through the following links, as well as state resources.

Take Time for Yourself

This year should also be a time for reflection. Many of us have raced from week to week to survive, make ends meet, or figure out our next steps. Let’s take this Pride Month to consider the impact of the last year and reevaluate our own needs – whether as teens and students, as young working adults, or as parents. Each of us has had to make compromises due to COVID-19, and we have all felt the effects of the pandemic in one way or another – whether through the death of a loved one, the strain on society, the economy, or through healthcare. Statistics show that mental health issues are slated to grow across the board due to the pandemic and that the effects of the ensuing “mental health epidemic” will be felt for years to come. Take the time to address or figure out your needs – and take preventative steps or talk with a professional.

More Than Homophobia

Most people would agree that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this statement: heterosexuality is the norm in society. However, the impact of assigning a “norm” to gender and sexuality can be harmful to some, especially young teens, who are in the middle of trying to fit into the world and are quickly learning that their existence is “not normal” and is considered uncomfortable to some people. One of the elements of Pride is attempting to help those who feel self-conscious about their identity learn to embrace it, accept it, and feel proud despite some people’s reactions. We need to be conscious of how young people whose identities are seen as uncomfortable or “not normal” can harm them.

Because we live in a heteronormative world, much of society is structured around differentiating between heterosexuality and everything else. Until recently, non-heterosexual representation was tough to come by, and to this day, there is serious stress associated with coming out and making one’s relationships public. Being non-heterosexual and non-cisgender often singles one out. There’s nothing wrong or problematic with acknowledging that heterosexuality is more common than other sexual identities. But that shouldn’t stop heterosexual and cisgender parents and friends from considering how the world might feel exclusionary to their loved ones and how they might need to be empowered to rise above that fact.

Looking for Help?

If you are looking for ways to help someone with signs of depression or anxiety, it may be a good idea to speak to them about getting in touch with a professional. Sometimes, teens don’t get the help they need because they aren’t sure who or how to ask for it.