Anxiety: Plugged In Or Out? How Can We Help Mitigate The Effects Of Social Media On Our Kids?

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guest post by: S. Helen MacKinnon

The impact that social media has on kids is undeniable. A recent article in the New York Times highlights some of the more concerning issues.

I don’t think we need  much convincing that social media has had an impact on all our lives and it is not going away anytime soon. I am a neophyte when it comes to social media, but in my work with children and their families over the past 30 years has allowed me a first hand insight into the world of children and their families.

What can we do as parents, counsellors and educators to mitigate the impact that social media is having on our young people? As in any situation where we are trying to teach children, we ourselves need to be the role model. We need to examine the message we send our kids when we are engaged in use of our own devices. What parameters do we have for ourselves when it comes to use of devices?  Do we actually have discussions with our kids about amount of usage, times and places that are no go zones for adults and kids? Do we understand the  safety issues and if not do we educate ourselves about these issues and discuss them with our children?  Yes, with any privilege comes responsibility, both for us as the adult and for our children whom we must guide to be ethical digital citizens. Don’t let their media skills fool you! Although they appear to be very savvy in the area of technology, they do not have the life experience or a fully developed brain that allows them to project the outcome of what they may see as just having a little fun or wanting to fit in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimism

As a Counsellor or Psychologist you are surrounded by people who are not always optimistic. Is it important that you remain optimistic? I absolutely think it is essential.

How did I get to be an optimist? For me I believe there is a genetic component to why I am the way I am. I also believe it is because I have chosen to cope in the best possible way to the many negative things that have happened in my life. It is unrealistic for me to expect that I will feel optimistic in every situation, but in every situation I attempt to look for the good and what I can learn. Does this mean I look through rose coloured glasses? No, I fully recognize that there are some situations I have not handled well or times I have felt very sad or hurt or unloved, but I have worked very hard in my life not to stay in negativity. I feel my feelings , reach out for support and move towards a more optimistic outlook.

I surround myself as much as possible with people who lift me up , not tear me down. I hope you too will find the good in each possible moment you can , not just for you, but for the people you serve or love.

Hope doesn’t mean denying reality , but looking it in the eyes and remembering the heroes and events that challenged injustice in the past.

Rebecca Solnit

13 Reasons I Personally Choose NOT to Watch 13 Reasons

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  1. Picking up the pieces. I work with so many vulnerable youth and one in particular convinced me to not watch.  This young person was incredibly triggered by watching the show and made me realize that I did not need to watch it in order to know the harm it could cause to those who are at risk.
  2. Was I curious?  Like most of you yes, and I do understand that it is compelling for both adults and youth to want to watch the series, but I also chose to not read the book years ago for some of the reasons I am about to discuss. For those who did watch … this is not a criticism, just a choice I want to make for my own reasons.
  3.  I think young people need to know that there are adults who while they may be very curious about the series will still choose to NOT watch . I know this show was NOT created to really help young people , otherwise they would have based the series on solid research around suicide,  how it is portrayed in media and the impact on youth.  I do realize the creators say they consulted with medical experts and had good intentions however, I do think they missed out on some valuable helpful information when it comes to suicide. Stan Kutcher , a Psychiatrist and mental health expert from Dalhousie University whom I respect believes the show could be dangerous to young people who choose to watch it.
  4. I do not need to see the show to be informed and personally I have NO desire to see a child die by suicide (even if it is television). Some things on TV are even too graphic for me.
  5. I choose not to be triggered by watching the show. I have worked with too many vulnerable youth. I know that I need to practice self-care . Watching this series is not going to make me a better parent , School Counsellor or Psychologist . Being able to discuss sensitive topics is essential and I believe I can do so without actually watching this series.
  6. I plan on reading as many articles as I can that give informed information that is helpful regarding the series .   The National Association of School Psychologists gives important information on how to do so responsibly.  Dialoguing and engaging youth in thoughtful conversations around sensitive topics is essential.  Yes, I certainly know a lot and I mean a lot have already chosen to watch and will watch this series , some will do so with their parents most I am guessing will watch on their own. Parents who watch can and will open a conversation that is useful and helpful with their child. I am just saying for me , I want students to know it is OK to not watch if they have not already done so.
  7. I want all people to know that suicide is complex. We are learning more and more about the brain . I am sure new research in the future will give us a better understanding of some of the complexities.
  8. I want students to know the protective factors, risk factors and warning signs of suicide. We have Canada Mental Health come in every year to speak to all our grade 10 High School Students.
  9. I want all students and adults to become more literate when it comes to mental health. All staff at our school are trained in the go to educator series. You might want to consider this for your school.
  10. I want students to know how to have better coping skills.
  11. This show is NOT hopeful . Students need HOPE in as many ways as possible.
  12. Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. THERE IS HELP!  If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, like your School Counsellor or call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.
  13. School Counsellors across the world (#scchat) work very hard to let others know that they work diligently daily to help and serve students . They do save lives . They may possibly be the unsung hero in a child’s life , but that is not often the way they are depicted on tv or in movies and from what I have read definitely not in this series.   There are also lots of other people who do like parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, and friends. I want youth to reach out and keep asking for help until someone they trust makes that difference. WE DO CARE!!!!!

The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. This is my choice and although I listed 13 reasons I could have listed many more. I do not regret my decision. I know it is best for me.

RESOURCES:

Canada Mental Health responding to Netflix series .

Personal Wellness livebinders : Several topics and resources can be found here .

For Educators Teen Mental Health teenmentalhealth.org

Connect Teen: 24 hour support 403.264 TEEN Link to website.

Kids Help Phone: A space for you. Link to  website

Police / Emergency : 911

Teen mental health Reasons To Live

I love this short video that our wellness team put together for our  Jack Summit .

The Heart of A Community

Our students always inspire me. I am so fortunate to work in a community that encourages creativity in all forms. The people I work with also give their heart and soul to all they do. Thanks to our wonderful Art teacher Sheila Stacey and Counsellor Erin Luong for collaborating on this fun project full of heart.

One of the innovative projects I am pleased to work on this year involves a collaboration between myself, another counselling colleague and our art teacher. BCHS Spectrum Club’s mission is to bring people together and spread a message of love and acceptance. Our aim is to educate and bring awareness to students while expanding our […]

via Heart of A Community: BCHS Students Fill Their Hearts — Erin Luong’s Reflections on Counselling, Education, Leadership and Technology

Maritimers …stepping up to help

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One of the most stressful things School Counsellors ever have to do is assist a student who is contemplating suicide. We never want a child to feel so hopeless that they feel that there is no reason left  to live.

So I recognize how much courage it takes for a person that it is not in this profession to help when something so serious happens.  A gigantic thanks to two very courageous Maritimers who stepped up to help . Thanks Robbie for letting me share your story.

Robbie’s Story …
As most of you know, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on March 1, 2012. That was the day I was able to help a young man from taking his own life.
It was just after 1 o’clock on a clear, but very cold day. I was pulling into my parking spot situated on the top level of the parkade. I noticed a young person sitting on the wrong side of the railing. To be honest, my first reaction was to grab my phone and take a picture of the young man who I would later know as (Stephen). I just thought he was a thrill seeker. He was texting on his phone,dressed in a warm coat with a hoodie underneath, and the hood pulled up over his head. I could not see his face as his back was towards me. As a matter of fact, I only got to see his face three times over the course of the next 25 minutes.
Just as I was about to take his picture (I’m still thinking he is young and cocky for sitting on the wrong side of the railing) he starts to turn his body slowly around. I start to panic and lower my phone so he wouldn’t see me taking his photo. His head moved very slowly back around, facing away from me. I never saw his face.
I was in a rush to get back to my office, so jumped out of my truck and headed to the stairs in the corner of the parkade. To this day I don’t know why I stopped short but things just weren’t adding up. I could tell he lived on the street. His clothes were very dirty and the speed his head was moving was very slow. It was freezing at -15, so I stopped and turned around.I walked slowly up to him and asked, “Are you ok?” No response. I asked him again. No response. I am about 15 feet away from him on his left side. I ask once more and he responds in a slurred voice, “Nobody cares”. My first thought when he said that was … oh my god, we’ve got a jumper! It went through my head just like the movie Old School.
Surprisingly I stayed very calm, plus he couldn’t see my face when I first realized he was going to take his own life. It wasn’t hard to tell drugs were at play as well. Not sure what to do after he responded, I moved closer to him. This is when my heart dropped. He shuffled across a four inch concrete ledge away from me. You or I couldn’t do what he did sober, let alone high on drugs. The positive thing was he stopped by a column and could put his hand on it to support himself if needed. He was shaking very bad and would act like he was going to jump two or three times.

I just kept asking him questions.
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Do you miss home?”
“Do you miss water?”
Every question I asked him and he wouldn’t answer, I would answer myself.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Robbie.”
“Do you miss water?”
“I miss water, I’m from the east coast.”
For every 10 questions I asked, I would get about 1 answer in return, but we were starting to make a small connection. Finally he turned his head to see who was asking him all the questions and why. Then he turned away, but started answering a few of the question.
“What’s your name?’
“Stephen.”
“Where are you from?”
“The coast.” He slurred.
“What coast?”
“B.C.”
“Do you miss the water?” He turned slowly once more to look at me. This was the first time I saw his face. When all this was going on, I tried to get the attention of three cars that went by to call 911 for help, but no one stopped until Marty, a great guy from the Maritimes. He quickly realized what was going on and parked. I kept waiving at him to call 911, which he does. He walks slowly up and joins me and we both try to convince Stephen it’s not worth it. More time goes by and Marty and I are frozen, and so is Stephen. I was so scared he would fall, let alone jump. The parkade security showed up, but their radios were freaking Stephen out and he would start to shake as he was going to jump. We waved them to stay back a long distance.

The police also showed up and also stayed back with security. It was just the three of us. Marty and I took turns talking to Stephen and finally as I was telling him how cold it was, he just slowly reached his arm straight back as if to say, Ok, I’m done.
In a split second Marty and I had a hold of him and pulled him back over. Weird but at no time did I think we would drop him. I had the tightest grip ever on him, and so did Marty. From that moment, the police took over and got him downstairs and outside to the ambulance. I noticed when we pulled Stephen over, his phone fell on the ground. I grabbed it and looked at his last text. It was from his mother asking “are you ok?????” My heart broke,  but I got the police to call her right away. Turns out Stephen wouldn’t cooperate with the police unless I was there, so I sat with him until they got the information they needed. He left in an ambulance and I never saw him again.

I’m very grateful. for how this story ended  …  here is more of my story

For a better part of my life I have battled and struggled with anxiety and depression. Throw ADHD on that and you have a wound-up-top on a rollercoaster.Depression is something you hide easy. All you have to do it smile.

That day when Stephen and I were together, we made a connection. We both missed water, but I also made my own connection with him. The only difference between us was I was wearing a nice suit and he was wearing a dirty coat someone gave to him. I knew exactly what was going through his head.

  • Depression doesn’t know if you have a good job.
  • Depression doesn’t know where you live.
  • Depression doesn’t care if you are a good person or not.

I am very fortunate to have the best support people I could ever ask for. Two parents that are there for me for life and a wife that unconditionally loves and supports me. The one thing that’s harder to deal with than depression itself is to be married to someone that battles depression. So I am truly grateful for the support.
Don’t think that having depression slows me down. I have a saying “keep your feet moving” which I do very well. This doesn’t’ mean I don’t need help sometimes and it doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I think about many friends Mark and Colin, Felicity and family, Chad, Colette and family, Lori and her girls and their commonality is that they’ve all lost someone special. Someone that you never thought would take their own life. Someone that will never be replaced. Someone they loved very much.
They also gave me the courage to speak out and that it’s OK to talk about mental illness and depression. There probably will never be a cure for mental illness, but we always can be there for others. My father made a comment to me one time;
“Robbie, it doesn’t’ cost anything to care”.
Please understand that most people have some sort of struggle in life. Acknowledging and talking about it helps. Trust me, the best thing to do is to talk to someone who won’t judge you and who cares. They will never understand what you are truly going through, but can always offer love and support.

Robbie

Robbie thanks for being you and allowing me to share your story #bellletstalk  . I am sure someone reading this will understand that there are caring people like you and Marty who are willing to reach out to another human being when needed . I truly hope Stephen is alive and gets to read this some day knowing that two Maritimers who both live in Calgary were willing to step up to help.

ACCESS Mental Health
Provides mental health information and service options
Mon-Fri: 7:30am – 7:00p.m.
Telephone: 943-1500 (voicemail after hours)
Email: mental.health@albertahealthservices.ca

Health Link Alberta
Access to nurse advice and health information
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Telephone: 943-LINK (5465) Calgary or 1-866-408-5465 (Toll Free)
Website: http://www.healthlinkalberta.ca

Inform Alberta
General info about community, health, social, and government services across the province
Telephone: 2-1-1
Website: http://www.informalberta.ca

 

Colour Your Way To A Healthy Mind High School Students Creating Change

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“Be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.” … “Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity.” – Parker Palmer

Our students are passionate when it comes to mental health and wellness. They continue to work diligently when it comes to mental health and anti.stigma spreading messages of hope. All year they have continuued to do things that make a difference. Finally due to the generosity of Gary Nissen and Empowering minds … Connex we were  able to produce this lovely colouring book for all to enjoy! Every year partial proceeds will go to a different chaity, but this year students chose the Children’s Hospital mental health unit.

Thanks so much to all those who collaborated with the wellness team to make this a very special project. Our photography , spectrum and who’s frank clubs. All know the importance of reducing stigma. raising awareness and improving overall wellness. We hope you have fun , relax and enjoy this students led project that is meant to touch your heart and make a difference. So let go, de-stress be as creative as you want . We hope you will be inspired to design your own colouring page while thinking about the messages that matter from our students.

There Is An Artist In All Of Us

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Five years ago I did not paint and now thanks to great friends and my experiences in ETMOOC  , I have more confidence and find it one of the most rewarding , therapeutic experiences that I can imagine. I take mini courses and I watch lots of youtube videos to get tips. It is so much fun.

I have keratoconus a progressive eye disease, ( I was diagnosed later in life ) so I think partly that diagnosis has driven me to create visually in case my vision ever gets really poor. Painting is therapeutic and healing for me. I have played sports all my life and I absolutely love to read,  both which can bring me flow , but nothing brings me the kind of flow that painting does.

Painting brings me flow the kind of flow that was discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Fifteen hours can feel like five minutes for me. I love that it brings me joy and that I am completely absorbed in the process. It is fun and easy and yes I think anyone  can benefit from art and painting.  If I can you can too.

 

I plan on using the painting that I did above,  thanks to the online instructions from theArtSherpa ( see below) with our students. Art and Counselling definitely go together . Paintings tell stories often times with hidden messages.

Process for students:

Today we are going to embark on a journey of letting go of any negativity and go with the flow. For the next two hours you are not allowed to say to yourself I can’t . If you hear yourself speaking those words take your note pad and write I can … I will.

So let’s begin this process by being mindful and breathing. Lead students through a short mindfulness process to begin. Let them know that they are going to create a special painting today and that there are no mistakes. They can create their trees and painting anyway they like even if it is different from the paining they see. Like mine birch trees do not produce multi coloured leaves , but I did just because I wanted to visually and I  love the effect.  This seminar is about being yourself and letting go.

If they would like to follow the step by step instructions here they are:

  1. Write messages of hope and their dreams for their future in pencil on their canvas.
  2. Ask students if anyone would like to share their hopes and dreams with others.
  3. The size of canvas it up to the student. Have students bring the size of canvas they want to work on.
  4. Divide your canvas into six equal sections. They don’t have to be exact and you don’t have to measure them. Tell students they can estimate.  So begin by saying Today we are going to create . We are going to start by painting a rainbow with trees, you can use any method you like to paint your colors on your canvas. I used upwards stokes, but really any would work. Start with red, orange , yellow, greens,  blue and purple.
  5. Guide students through the process being as creative as you like in explaining what they can do next. Constantly remind them it is ok to make mistakes ( really there are no mistakes, but they may perceive them as such). Remind them that their perceived mistakes lead to more creativity and it is ok to be as creative as they wish going with the flow and what their heart wants to paint.
  6. Trees can be very symbolic and you can discuss this with students.Trees are strong and unique just like each of them. Birch trees can mean new beginnings. You can discuss with students what they believe their trees mean for them. I chose nine trees, but they can choose any number that means something to them. I also chose to add flowers and really birch trees have no colorful flowers, but I like the effect. The lovely thing when you create art just for the sake of it is that there is no right or wrong . There are no mistakes. It just is … creative , how wonderful and freeing.
  7. The rest of the directions are below in the video. You can watch and create your own instructions.
  8. Most importantly have fun and trust the process.

Check out the video below for detailed instructions:

If you decide to do this process with your students , please share your creative ideas with me @sspellmancann.

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life

Pablo Paccasso