Categories
Self-Compassion

Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Meghaa

It’s that time of year again – the school year is winding down, a summer breeze is in the air, and everyone is ready for vacation! While May is appropriately popular for its blooming scenery, it also marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual event which many people can participate in through a variety of ways. So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, here are some different methods you can practice to raise awareness for mental health!

Mental Health Awareness Month started in the U.S. in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America (MHA), right after World War II. Since then, MHA has continued the tradition of the month by providing updated online toolkits during March and selecting an annual theme. This year’s “Back to Basics” connects COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on mental health, with MHA recognizing that “stress, isolation, and uncertainty have taken a toll on [our] well-being”. 

As with the theme, let’s start by going over some foundational terms associated with mental health care and their significance. According to MHA, mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being, so it impacts our behaviors, thoughts, and relationships with others. As a result, prioritizing mental health is important to make well-informed decisions regarding daily aspects of our lives. A diagnosis is not needed for a person to be dealing with poor mental health, which can stem from a multitude of factors such as trauma, stress, or genetics. 

Since mental health is a journey, there will be many highs and lows which each bring their own set of unique circumstances. If you are in a good mental place currently, remember to practice coping mechanisms – skills that help you deal with difficult situations – such as taking up a new hobby or extracurricular interest. This way, your skills will be refined and polished to use when needed. These fluctuations in one’s health also lead to struggles such as not feeling “sick enough” to seek treatment for mild symptoms. 

By Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.com

We’ve seen the background behind mental health, so now how can we make a difference? To begin with, educating ourselves is the most important step in the process of advocacy, so we do not spread misinformation and become well acquainted with taboo topics. 

For example, did you know…

  • 50 million or 19% of U.S. adults struggle with mental illness, making it more commonplace than people expect
  • There are 3 clusters of personality disorders characterized by different symptoms
  • The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 not only contends with physical health benefits, but also expands insurance plans to cover mental health treatment

To learn more about similar topics you can do one of these four things suggested or even more!

  • Local: Talk to your school counselor for information regarding mental health basics
  • Casual: Check out MHA’s website for quick facts/statistics
  • Informative: Go to your local library and read books like “This is Depression”
  • Professional: Take an online, college accredited course such as through Stanford

Online advocacy is another good place to start, especially for those with social anxiety or social media access. Toolkits made by organizations like Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), New Directions, and more can help assist with curating infographics and videos to post on online platforms. Many are downloadable and accessible for free, providing reliable content. Bulleted below are just a few toolkits found online, but feel free to explore more!

By Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.com

Last but not least, in-person advocacy is a more direct action that would take more planning and energy to execute, but would leave a greater impact. This can be done on a variety of levels, but starting small helps when beginning your advocacy journey, and then you can build your way up to a greater platform. Through this, you will have the chance to nurture valuable leadership skills to better tackle mental health awareness in new and creative ways! For now remember to think outside the box for a more personal, unique method to communicate your message.

We hope these suggestions empower you to take action and raise awareness for mental health as we go “Back to Basics” for this month! 

By Duy Pham on Unsplash.com

Works Cited:

“Starting to Think about Mental Health.” Mental Health America, https://mhanational.org/starting-think-about-mental-health.

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Study Skills

By Vihaan and Soven

We all know high school is really tough, and for many of us, focusing on work can be quite tough as well. There are many ways to improve your focus and study skills but the three that have been proved to be the most effective are meditating, taking breaks, and developing a plan for working that works well for you.

Meditation

Meditation can be used for a variety of things and it is most effective when used to combat overwhelming or stressing feelings. When you notice yourself panicking about anything, you should sit down and meditate for 5-10 minutes in order to obtain a calmer mind.

Meditation consists of sitting down and slowing down. You need to focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The goal of meditation is to clear your mind. Don’t think of the test you have tomorrow or the homework you have to do. All you need to focus on while meditating is your breathing. After you sit down and meditate for 5-10 minutes you should feel very relaxed and rejuvenated. Doctors suggest that after you meditate, you should walk into whatever you are doing with a clear mind and relaxed body.

Meditation helps you focus, and focus helps you improve your study skills. One of the main causes of not being able to focus is stressing too much about things that are not worthy of stressing out over. With improved focus and study skills, you will have even less stress which will allow you to focus better, which in turn will improve your study skills. It is a cycle that, over time, brings many positive outcomes.

Taking Breaks

Another important thing you can do when studying is taking breaks. While these should not interfere with your productivity, they are important. You should take a break, even if it is 10 minutes, every couple or so hours from your work. It can prevent your brain from being fatigued. Additionally, taking breaks can help to lower your stress by giving a few minutes of relaxation, so you can calm down before you get back to work. This can, in turn, improve your creativity, productivity, mental health, and more. Also, having breaks in between your work can make you more motivated to work as you have something to look forward to. 

One very popular technique for taking breaks is called the Pomodoro Method. This is a technique in which you study for 25 minutes and take a five-minute break. This helps to keep your mind aware, awake, and active. Some excellent ways to take a break include: going on a quick walk or getting some fresh air, reading a book, talking to someone, or even taking a quick nap. A short, 10-20 minute nap can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to work again. 

Work Plan

In high school, it is expected for a student to already have a solid studying plan that works well for them. If a student does not have one of these plans, they will struggle until they find one that works for them. There are many ways to develop a good plan but one of the best ways is to let the homework you get in middle school guide you. You should use this homework to figure out what works for you, so when the homework gets harder, you already have a plan. 

I can personally attest that having a work plan increased my ability to study by a factor of 10. Before I developed a study plan that worked well for me, I was struggling. There was a lot of work to manage and I could never seem to find the time that I needed to manage it. This all changed though, when I developed my work plan. My grades improved, I had a lot more leisure time, and my stress levels decreased a lot.

Active Improving

Although the items mentioned above will help you with your passive studying skills, you have to actively improve them as well. There are many things that you can actively do to improve your study skills. These skills include paying attention in class by putting all distractions away, managing your workload by dividing things up, managing time so you don’t procrastinate, making a schedule, paying attention to your homework, and double-checking everything that you have done to make sure that you have not messed it up. Even though these are all study skills that you have to actively think about, if practiced frequently and effectively, these can become passive skills that you would no longer have to think about.

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Parenting in the 21st Century

Raise your Words
Not your voice
It is rain that grows flowers,
Not thunder
– Rumi


Dr. Daniel Siegal (A psychiatrist and a Clinical Professor at UCLA), in his book ‘Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,’ talks about the changes in the structure and functioning of the brain during adolescence. In one of his interviews for a teen magazine, Dr. Siegal talks about an architectural restructuring of the teenage brain and an emergence of the adolescent mind that is wonderfully creative,
adaptive, and vibrant.

“Adolescence is the golden age for innovation. The adolescent brain is a construction zone: creativity, innovation, the capacity for abstract thinking, and the need to experiment are traits that drive this period. Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes see the adolescent drive towards experimentation only as a negative, a sign that the teen is being “crazy” or immature.”

Raising kids is tough, and parents are not born with a manual for raising their children. Teens go through social, emotional, and psychological changes between 12 and 18. No two teens are alike, and the values, culture, beliefs, and the environment they grow up in all play a vital role in their wellness and health. The reality is a teen’s brain is in the process of remodeling.

Adolescence can be a challenging time, to say the least, while seeking a secure emotional base or a container where they feel loved and accepted as each teen is going through changes so rapidly. Family can assist in building and supporting a teen’s confidence, help build their identity and be available during their trying times. Our job as parents is to raise a college-bound, portfolio-focused teen with creativity and passion for life.


In India, summer meant playing outside for hours with occasional breaks for food or snacks. We never had many toys, including digital games or social media. Today’s generation of teens, on the other hand, don’t have any time for free play. Their days are packed with structured activities, even in summer, to build up a “portfolio” for the so-called top schools. When my daughters were in high school, they would share how their peers were planning to take many AP courses, online classes, internships over the summer, etc. schedules were packed. Many parents want their teens to go to their chosen top schools only. They have an unrelenting focus on academics at the expense of everything else, including mental health. The physical manifestation of this stress on teens is a growing epidemic – anxiety disorders, migraines, panic attacks, to name a few, and even auto-immune conditions, in some cases.

How can we, as parents, help:
Create a stress-free zone: Parents and teens can develop a “zone out” time together. It could be watching their favorite buzz feed videos/TV, cooking/baking, a time of leisure without judgment or life lessons.

Efforts vs. grades: We can counsel them without an obsessive focus on scores. It can be a life lesson that will help them focus on what they need to do and not stress about outcomes beyond their control. Constantly setting stretch expectations, leading to a relentless pressure to meet them, is toxic for your teen’s health.

Sharing your past: Share your college experiences more as an understanding and awareness for your teen, not necessarily to communicate only your (parent) generation’s methods are correct. It would make any teen feel that they never measure up and can damage the child’s long-term self-esteem.

One-on-One: Celebrating your teen’s accomplishments, sharing their disappointments, and supporting their hobbies helps your teen know you’re interested in them. You don’t have to make a big deal of this, sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up to watch your child play a sport or music, reading together, or cooking or baking, and arts and crafts activity or giving them a ride to extracurricular activities.

Treats: Treats worked in elementary school, and they still do, such as a Starbucks drink or a Jamba Juice. Some parents feel that appreciating their teen’s effort or journey would defocus them and stop putting in their efforts. However, research has shown that positive encouragement is vital for teens to succeed in any environment. It is not a bribe but an acknowledgment of their effort. In addition, an encouraging comment along with the reward will help make the message clear to your child how much you appreciated their efforts.

Be Empathetic: Active listening when you are conversing with your teen, without interrupting with our own opinions or judgments, being curious and open-minded about their point of view, and having patience as they solve their problems could be the best thing you offer your teen. You need to increase your capacity to listen actively, be open, and provide a non-judgmental stance.

For example, when a teen comes home heartbroken as they did not get their desired result in their quiz, a parent could respond, “I saw how much you worked on that; I am so sorry to hear that.” This kind of empathy is powerful to hear someone say, soothes them.

Only STEM mindset: There are some misconceptions that only a few majors guarantee a job. Other than STEM majors, there are other majors in Public Health, Global Health, Economics, Nursing, etc., leading to great jobs and careers. Parents should encourage their children to create a career path that brings them joy as well as a paycheck. Holistic outlook.

The Bureau of Labor published in their latest research that there are going to be more non-stem jobs than today over the next decade.With the present Pandemic, more fields are in the making more so in the health care, public health, construction, real estate and other fields.

Chores/Jobs: As parents, we would like to rescue and complete our kids’ activities and chores. However, it is an excellent time for teens to develop and mature and develop independent living skills. Managing simple tasks like laundry, cooking, or running errands for the house once they start driving, teaches them accountability/responsibility and time management. Holistic outlook.

Limit Setting/Boundaries: By setting up rules, boundaries, and standards of behavior, you give a teen a sense of stability and predictability. Regular family meetings and explaining the benefits and consequences of following rules/boundaries would help. It also helps them internalize the concept of delayed gratification. Of course, there will be pushbacks, yet this practice is integral in a time of chaos.

Conclusion:
Trust and respect are earned not by doing only heroic, victorious deeds, making significant changes, saving lives around you, but also by paying close attention to your teen’s emotions and feelings. Dr. Siegal reemphasizes the importance of how young adults need to be seen and soothed by their parents. Relationships with our teens provide a template for relating with people when they step outside our homes. Developmental relationships are connections that help young become their best selves.

If you are experiencing going through a difficult time, therapy can help; for more information, contact.
Geetha Narayanan – 669-500-5362 OR geethanmft@gmail.com

Links:

  1. Auto-immune condition –
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/autoimmune-disease-and-stress-is-there-a-link-2018071114230
  2. Panic/Anxiety attack – https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

Books and Resources:

For Teens:

  • Anxiety Sucks! – Teen survival Guide – Natasha Daniels
  • My Anxious Mind – A teen’s guide to manage anxiety and Panic Michael Tompkins
  • The Self-Esteem habit for teens – Lisa Schab – 50 simple ways to build your confidence every day
  • Reviving Ophelia
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project

For Parents:

  • Brainstorm – Daniel Siegal
  • The whole Brain Child – Daniel Siegal
  • Emotionally Intelligence – Daniel Coleman
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project
Categories
Stress Management

National Stress Awareness Month

By Soven Saste

April is National Stress Awareness Month, which has been observed since 1992. In today’s day and age, people are often stressed, so it is important to learn about stress and how to manage it.

What is stress? According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can be defined as a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” Stress is something we all experience at one point or another and is completely normal. Activities in daily life such as school, work, and family life can all cause some degree of stress. However, when you have too much stress, then it can start to become a problem. It can cause problems like being irritable, feeling overwhelmed, having depression, low energy, aching muscles, insomnia, nervousness, racing thoughts, changes in appetite, and much more.

 You cannot always control the things that make you stressed, but you can work on how you deal with tough situations and manage your long-term stress. When present in a difficult situation, put in a focused effort to remain calm, try and understand the situation, and take a step back from the environment if you have to. 

Managing Long-Term Stress

It is important to learn how to manage your long-term stress so that you can stay healthy and happy. Some great ways to manage stress include:

Exercising

When you exercise, you release endorphins, (or feel good hormones) in your body that can combat stress. Going for a short walk, biking, or even swimming are all ways to clear your mind and to control stress. Additionally, a balanced diet can also help to lower your stress.

Partaking in a hobby or leisure activity

Doing something fun and engaging for even 20-30 minutes a day can get your mind off of your issues. You can do things like playing an instrument, knitting, reading, or cooking, among other creative activities.

Meditation/Mindfulness

Recently, many people have started to meditate and practice mindfulness as part of their self-care routines, and for good reason. At Taarika Foundation, we emphasize the practice of meditation and mindfulness for overall health and well-being. Meditating is doing things that essentially attempt to bring you in touch with reality and the present moment. 

There are many ways to meditate, including mindfulness meditation, religious meditation, meditating through exercises such as yoga, and more. You can explore these different options and see which one works best for you. 

Mindfulness is a form of meditation. Mindfulness is often given a false meaning or misunderstood by many people. According to the Oxford dictionary, mindfulness is “ a mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you, used as a technique to help you relax.” Mindfulness involves being fully aware of your thoughts and feelings but rather than shutting them out, you acknowledge them and the fact that you have them. 

Mindfulness can be applied to many different things. For example, you can be mindful while eating food. That would entail focusing on the food, how it tastes, how it smells, etc. By practicing mindfulness and meditation, you can greatly curb your stress.

Sharing

Sharing your personal issues with someone trusted like a close friend or family member can be very helpful to manage stress. Oftentimes, talking to other people about your stress can help you gain clarity. If your stress load is very heavy, it would even make sense to talk to a professional like a therapist or a psychiatrist. While there is a lot of stigma that might linger around this, it is perfectly normal to talk to a therapist and in fact, getting help is a sign of great strength, courage and resilience. 

This April, put an effort towards making a habit out of self-caring activities like exercise, clean eating, and meditation to keep your stress in control. Remember that it is normal to find these practices challenging even if you might understand how beneficial they are. The important thing is to put your best foot forward and try your best. Try to make improvements that work well for your own circumstances and current habits to have a healthy and satisfying lifestyle. 

Categories
Interview

Celebrate Counseling

By: Divya Venkataraman

April is National Counseling Awareness Month, according to the Greater Baltimore Counseling Center. It is a time to not only honor the professionals in the counseling field but to also understand the importance of counseling and the vast benefits it can bring.

Counseling has made a huge difference in my life — thanks to my guidance counselor at Monta Vista High School (MVHS), Clay Stiver. Whether it be helping me with anything academic-related, with future career aspirations or even with social-emotional aspects, it is safe to say that a counselor’s presence while I navigate the strenuous years of high school has positively impacted my life. I truly appreciate being fortunate enough to have someone so vested in not only my academic success but my general well-being as well. 

That being said, this month is a perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the often-overlooked profession of counseling and just how remarkable it can be.

Counseling Defined

Merriam Webster defines counseling as: “professional guidance of the individual by utilizing

psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes.”

MVHS Guidance Counselor Clay Stiver expands on this definition of counseling using his own experiences as a counselor.

“I look at counseling as a supportive collaboration towards a goal of some kind — [whether it be] academic counseling, college counseling or social-emotional counseling,” Stiver said. “The goal can be dealing with a crisis of some sort of working on long term goals — academically or social-emotionally.”

Stiver also shares his joys of counseling — and how they shape his profession.

“I really like helping people,” Stiver said. “And high school is such a big transitional time; I wanted to be a support for students — a conduit to success or social-emotional growth. It is rewarding.”

Counseling Responsibilities

Along with being a counselor come responsibilities pertaining to the job; these responsibilities can vary depending on the specific type of counselor — since there are many. In general, Betterteam states that counselors are responsible for hearing what their patients may have to say, creating treatment plans for individual patients and developing strategies for coping.

Stiver describes his specific profession as a guidance counselor for MVHS — someone who handles three main domains when counseling students: the academic and college domain, the career domain and the social-emotional domain. He also outlines the responsibilities of his specialized counseling profession.

“[On] a surface level, my responsibilities cover the three domains of my profession,” Stiver said. “When it comes to academics, it is to make sure my students are on track to graduate [MVHS] and deliver [the MVHS] yearly guidance curriculum. But it is also to give support to parents, students or teachers — to be here for crisis situations and help find resources.”

The Benefits of Counseling

There is often a stigma surrounding counseling — that it exposes your weaknesses and is something that you should not engage in. Yet this is not true.

As Brené Brown — a research professor at the University of Houston — says in her novel Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable but they are never a weakness.”

Brown articulates the importance of sharing vulnerability rather than being scared of the act. Counseling is a way to do so — to help out instead of exposing weakness. Stiver shares the same sentiment; regardless of what one may be going through, counseling has the potential to offer some help.

“[Counseling] can provide new perspectives — a neutral third party,” Stiver said. “It entails having an advocate for, in my case, students who do not feel as though they have a voice. [Counseling] provides a listening ear as support.”

Reaching Out

Clearly, counseling can have innumerable merits — and one can always reach out to get help. In fact, Stiver shares a few ways to do so.

“If I was a student, I would do one of three things — or all three,” Stiver said. “The first is to see one of the guidance counselors [at school] — a brief chat can help a lot, whether it be with resources or social-emotional support. [Another option] would be to go to my doctor and talk to them about what services they may know of or provide themselves. [The third option] is going to my parents — if appropriate given the situation — for help.”

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, guidance counselors — although extremely valuable — are not equally accessible to some students across the United States of America, particularly low-income students. In fact, more than one-fifth of public high schools across the nation do not have access to even one guidance counselor, as reported by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in 2016. Though many protests have occurred to persuade districts to offer more resources — such as guidance counselors — for schools, progress is still quite slow. 

“We can do better,” Stiver said. “We, as a school, say that we prioritize mental health — it is time to show it.”

Given that this month is National Counseling Awareness Month, it is important, more now than ever, to share the benefits of counseling; every student in the nation should have access to someone who can help them with their school careers as Stiver helped me with mine. Every student in the nation deserves someone to help them live up to their absolute fullest potential — someone who can give them the academic, career and social-emotion support they need.

Categories
Self-Compassion

Biculturalism: Part 1

By Anya Deshpande and Malavika Eby

Listen to our Biculturalism podcast episode here!

What is Biculturalism?

Biculturalism is the coexistence of two originally distinct cultures which often makes it even more confusing for first and second-generation immigrant youth to figure out our identities and where we belong. Depending upon the racial demographic surrounding us, we can even feel pressured to “choose” one culture over the other. Almost all of the people that surround us are from families of different cultures, and sometimes it feels good to have people to relate with. But, when we feel like we’re in a tug-of-war battle between two cultures, it becomes important to find a balance between the two. 

Struggles with Biculturalism

The world around us isn’t as black and white as we’d like it to be. Many times, we like to categorize things so they at least seem to make sense to us. Stereotypes, as much as they suck sometimes, make the world easier for us to understand. But when it comes to our own identity, in our struggle to classify ourselves one way or the other, we lose sight of the “middle identity” that exists between different cultures. But, there’s no need for any of us to be fully defined by one label. We’re all so different in our family backgrounds, our interests, our attitudes toward our culture, our upbringing, and the million other aspects of our identities. We don’t need to fit in or change according to what we think a certain identity “should” look like. To add on, identity is a spectrum, even when it comes to something seemingly straightforward like ethnicity and culture. Even if we have the same ethnic background as many of our friends, one part of our culture could influence us differently than it influences them. 

Surround ourselves with people who share our identity

While the racial and cultural demographics and norms around us will constantly change, the only approval we need is our own. It’s also important to have diverse friendships. It helps us to better understand others’ attitudes toward their cultures, learn about their diverse experiences and put our identity struggle in perspective. Though there will be differences here and there between how we each perceive our ethnic backgrounds, we can always use others’ experiences as a framework to develop our views. It can also teach us to accept people for who they are and prevent ourselves from racial stereotyping when we open ourselves to diverse groups of friends. If we’re willing to get to know people of all backgrounds, our worldview can be much wider and even richer. 

Expose ourselves to both cultures and learn

To conclude, our identities belong to ourselves. It is pretty confusing to come to terms with who we are when we are surrounded by multiple cultures that each seem to want to pull us to their side. Maybe our parents want us to be closer to our roots and maybe it’s easier to fit in at school when we align ourselves with American culture as closely as possible. That’s messy and a very valid struggle. But as said before, no one’s opinion matters here as much as our own. We should explore these different parts of our cultural backgrounds because that’s how we’ll figure out which of those things we enjoy and feel most comfortable with. If we accept ourselves, we will always feel like we belong. If we find our places on the spectrum and validate whichever places they may be, we’ll feel absolutely content just being ourselves.

Also, stay tuned…more to come next month!

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Bipolar Disorder

By Vihaan Parekh

About the Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes severe changes in energy, mood, and concentration within a relatively short period of time.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder. All three types of bipolar disorder cause severe changes in mood and energy. There are different types of mood changes that one can go through. There are manic episodes that cause a person to show extremely irritated, elated, and restless behavior (there are less severe manic episodes that are classified as hypomanic episodes). On the contrary, there are depressive episodes that cause people to appear sad, suicidal, energy-ridden, and hopeless.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three types of Bipolar disorder; Cyclothymic Disorder, Bipolar I Disorder, and Bipolar II Disorder. 

Cyclothymic Disorder is a rare type of Bipolar disorder whose symptoms are not as severe as those with Bipolar I or II Disorder. If you have this disorder you would experience noticeable mood shifts that go up and down from your normal moods. For some time, you may feel amazing, happy, and motivated, but this changes when you experience a low period which makes you feel sad and depressed. Besides these temporary highs and lows, you may feel completely fine. Although the highs and lows of this disease are less extreme than their bipolar disorder counterparts, it is still imperative to seek help managing these symptoms because they increase your risk of bipolar I and II disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder causes mood swings that include a mixture of emotional highs (mania) and emotional lows (depression). Episodes of having symptoms of depression and mania at the same time are also possible. When your mood shifts to depression you may feel sad and lose pleasure in most of your activities. When your mood shifts to mania you may feel full of energy and irritable. These varying mood swings can affect sleep, energy, and the ability to think clearly.

Bipolar II Disorder causes depressive and hypomanic episodes. It does not cause the full-blown manic episodes that Bipolar I Disorder causes.

Signs and Symptoms

People with bipolar disorder experience distinct periods of emotional changes regarded as mood episodes. Mood episodes are prolonged mood swings where the symptoms last every day for most of the day. These mood episodes may also last for longer amounts of time such as days or weeks.

These symptoms vary from person to person and are not the same with everyone. A person may still have bipolar disorder even if their symptoms are less extreme than those listed above. Some people with bipolar II disorder experience hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, a person may feel good, happy, and productive. Even though they may not be able to feel anything irregular, their family and friends may notice changes in their behavior. Without the required treatment, hypomania could turn into severe mania or depression. 

Diagnosis

Getting a proper diagnosis and good treatment can help people with bipolar disorder have very healthy, active, and fulfilling lives. The first step to getting diagnosed is to talk with a doctor or a licensed health provider. Your doctor might refer you to a psychiatrist, who will help you to open up about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. You may be asked to complete a self-evaluation about your symptoms and your family members and friends might be asked to provide information about your symptoms.

A person is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder based on their symptoms, experiences, lifetime history, and family history. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed during late adolescence and early adulthood. Bipolar symptoms can appear in children, although this is very rare. Bipolar disorder can also appear during pregnancy or childbirth. Even though the symptoms of Bipolar disorder will vary over time, it still requires lifelong monitoring and treatment. Following a structured treatment plan can lead to a much longer and better life.

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Stereotypes

By Arya Jodh

What do you think stereotypes are? 

Often we mistake them as something uncommon, something that we don’t perpetuate or have applied to us, but stereotypes are apparent in almost every aspect of our lives. It isn’t hard to imagine a world where everyone looks at you through a judgmental filter in order to sort you into different social categories because that is already a part of our reality. These are stereotypes. By textbook definition, a stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Commonplace labels based on stereotypes, even the seemingly harmless ones like “jock”, and “nerd,” can be  problematic because of how deeply they are rooted in society, continuously spreading ignorance and false assumptions.

It is first important to reflect on your life, actions, and experiences regarding stereotypes. To do that, follow these two steps: 

Step 1) Take a moment to bring to mind any stereotypes you may have applied to people in your own life and what negative effects that may have had. Acknowledging the issue is the first step to making progress in being mindful about everyday actions and language.

Step 2) Take another moment to think about whether others have applied stereotypes to you, and how that made you feel. You could have been a victim of hate speech, or something about your identity was the target of a “joke” and you might have been told to “chill” about it. Stereotypes are present nearly everywhere in our everyday lives and can manifest as casual assumptions we’ve made about the people around us, both positive and negative, which can accumulate to fuel interpersonal conflicts, bullying or even hate crimes.

And if you have used a stereotype, you might not have done it on purpose! It could have been unintentional, based on what you learned through observing your family’s and friends’ beliefs, and the people stereotyping you might not realize their mistake either!  Regardless of intention, people can suffer very serious mental distress as a result of being stereotyped, especially children and teenagers because they are still in the process of developing their own identity all while society is telling them to label themselves. These stereotypes place people into confined boxes that they don’t necessarily fit into in order to label them as “something”. These labels may be wrong, or just don’t show the whole picture. A prominent part of society where stereotypes are used is school. Stereotypes at school are used by teachers, students, sports coaches, parents, and the list goes on. As we said before, the use of stereotypes might be unintentional or purposeful. For starters, gender and dress coding is a huge and widely held stereotype. Female presenting people in the hallways will get dress-coded for “showing too much skin” while biological males can take their shirts off during athletic practices and not get any negative consequences. Another stereotype common at schools is students being unofficially ranked at school based on race. Many of you have heard “asian nerd” or “dumb blonde”. Statements like these are so common and used flippantly. Often, it may not seem insulting in the context it is used, but if you take the time to think about if the context was different, things take a different meaning and effect. It is important to be mindful with your words and avoid stereotypes because while it is not always insulting, someone is always categorized incorrectly, and by being mindful, you can combat this. 

In addition, often we hear intentional statements being made, like “you’re good at this sport for a girl” or in other cases “you’re smart for someone who’s pretty”. These are called microaggressions. These little comments are the intentional, negative use of stereotypes. If you catch yourself using a microaggression or catch someone else, take some time to figure out why it can be wrong and how to look at the situation differently in order to not use microaggressions. Scaled up from microaggressions come prejudicial bullying. Some examples of this were crime against East Asians after the spread of COVID-19, or the hate crimes stemming from the rampant Islamophobia after 9/11. These prejudicial stereotypes are rooted in society, are harder to unlearn and are more subtle, which can make them harder to realize they are wrong. They can come from personal upbringing, school social environments, or even the widespread media. And as mentioned before, these can lead to verbal, physical, and even cyber bullying. 

People, especially kids, who grow up being bullied based on these stereotypes can struggle with their self-image and self-worth, and they create an overall negative environment to grow up in. At school, when a child is targeted by bullies who based their targets on religion or race because of stereotypes, a person can feel like a piece of their identity is worthless. This is because they are being shown by their surroundings that they are being perceived as an outcast. Mentally, especially in teens who are working to solidify their identity, this can cause social anxiety in the sense that they experience a loss of self-confidence and may end up feeling the need to unnecessarily change themselves for other people or to fit in. This can harm teens’ “self-image,” or the way that they view themselves. Especially nowadays, where more and more teens are feeling insecure about themselves, bullying from others could really damage someone. Within the past couple of years, suicide rates in teens have been rising, so it is important that teens feel comfortable in their own bodies to be who they really are. One example of this outside bullying influence is body shaming people. Social media creates a harmful stereotype saying that people need to have a “perfect body” to be pretty and things like that. This can lead to teens feeling the need to change themselves for others or to “fit in” to the stereotype, which could result in serious conditions such as eating disorders. When someone receives a negative comment based on stereotypes through social media about their physical or mental state, it is harder to deal with. This is because social media provides an outlet that can hide the instigator. Not being able to know who the other person is can leave the victim feeling helpless because they can’t stand up for themselves without taking extreme measures. 

Let’s take a look at some other stereotypes that target teens in general. There is a wide-held bias against teens that a lot of adults believe. Usually, adults place teens into a category that says that teens are inherently “up-to-no-good”. And even when an adult has known a teen for a long time and knows they are a good person, the adult trusts the stereotype more than they trust the teen themselves. On top of that, many adults have an expectation that a teen should have their future planned out and should be doing everything they can in school to get good grades, sports, extracurriculars, and the list goes on. This double standard can cause anxiety and cause the individual to feel a lot of pressure. This can lead teens to feel like they aren’t good enough for their parents or other adults, or that they will never meet their expectations. And eventually, even if teens feel comfortable enough to share their feelings, many adults tell them they are being “sensitive”, also perpetuating stereotypes about mental health. And this leads to a never-ending cycle of teens feeling like they aren’t good enough for their parents, and bottling up their feelings. This lack of trust doesn’t let communication happen, which is essential in building a healthy relationship without stereotypes. 

In all of these situations, it is important to be aware and informed. Be mindful of your language and actions to create healthy and positive environments for you and people surrounding you. Taking the time to be informed will also help you in the event you need to resolve a situation created by stereotypes. If someone calls you out for using a stereotype, don’t get defensive and try to prove yourself, just own up to it, apologize, and move on. It is essential to be mindful of how big of an impact yours, or someone else’s words could potentially have and to be mindful of others’ feelings on the receiving ends of these types of jokes and bullying situations. By taking others’ feelings into account, it is easier to not use those stereotypes. Overall, stereotypes are prominent in almost every decision in our lives today. Realizing these biases and views on society and making efforts to come together and respect each other’s differences can make a huge impact. As a community, we can work together to unroot any deeply held stereotypes or prejudices that are prominent in our world today. 

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they aren’t true, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Categories
Body Dysmorphia

Self-Injury Awareness

By: Meghaa Ravichandran

Trigger Warning: This article includes mentions of self-harm with details of cutting. 

With the advent of spring, mental health awareness continues to remain strong as we kick off the month with Self-Injury Awareness Day on March 1st. More frequently judged than treated, people who self-harm often do not receive the proper treatment they need to regain a healthy mindset but are bullied for their scars and labeled ‘attention seekers’ instead. Self-harm is the act of deliberately harming one’s own body through cutting, scratching, burning, self-hitting, inserting objects into the skin, and more. 

In my experience, when scrolling through social media, there are often more judgemental comments than supportive ones when a stranger online has the courage to ask for help. I’ve also seen hate comments on posts/videos regarding healed self-injury scars, with unfriendly sentiments comparing cuts on one’s wrist to a barcode on grocery products. However, there is always hope in the darkest crevices of the Internet and life as supportive communities spread awareness regarding self-injury and break down the surrounding stigma and social barriers. 

It is reported that around 15% of teenagers have reported some form of self-injury with skin cutting being a prevalent method (Mental Health America). Self-harm is often a last resort for many people as they try to process negative emotions and the downhills in life through an unhealthy coping mechanism. Although people who self-harm may be suicidal, the majority are not as they seek temporary relief and fall victim to a self-destructive cycle of self-injury. By engaging in self-injury, a person believes they gain control over their body when everything else in life is uncontrollable. 

As with all mental health issues, self-injury causes many problems to one’s health in the short and long term. Physically, it may cause permanent scarring, uncontrollable bleeding, addictions, and infections. Mentally, it can exacerbate negative emotions such as guilt or shame, lead to avoiding friends/family, cause more interpersonal difficulty in close relationships. 

Starting a conversation with those around you on this topic is often very difficult to initiate. After setting a serious tone for the discussion, make sure to create a safe space, allowing others to express themselves and offering emotional support when needed. Remember to listen and not judge. If you believe a person you know has been harming themselves, you can look for these warning signs and direct them to treatment:

  • Unexplained frequent injures (ex: cuts & burns)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty handling feelings
  • Problems in relationships
  • Unstable work/home environment
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Statements of hopelessness/worthlessness
Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash.com

Professional and self-made treatment options for those who self-harm are abundant, but often hard to access due to socioeconomic status, inability to ask for help, uncertainty regarding resources, etc. Ensuring that everyone knows that such treatment exists makes a difference, so here are some examples of beginning the road to recovery: 

If you would like to observe Self-Injury Awareness Day with us, here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Check up on a friend – even the littlest actions mean a lot
  • Take a depression screening at your local clinic
  • Bring a guest therapist to school for free community consultations
  • Attend local/national events near you or organize your own!
  • Do your own research if you would like to dive into the issue deeper
  • Speak to a professional to seek help or learn more. 
    • Pro Tip: Organize a speaker series to bring in educational discussions to your school community!
  • Listen, don’t judge – think twice before leaving hateful comments online or speaking badly in real life
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.com

Sources:

National Day Calendar. “Self-Injury Awareness Day – March 1.” National Day Calendar, 22 Feb. 2022, https://nationaldaycalendar.com/self-injury-awareness-day-march-1/. 

“Self-Harm.” Crisis Text Line, 4 Aug. 2021, https://www.crisistextline.org/topics/self-harm/#how-to-deal-with-self-harm-4. 

“Self-Injury (Cutting, Self-Harm or Self-Mutilation).” Mental Health America, https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/self-injury-cutting-self-harm-or-self-mutilation. 

“Self-Injury Awareness Day.” National Today, 14 Dec. 2021, https://nationaltoday.com/self-injury-awareness-day/. 

Categories
Sleeping Well

Sleep On It

By Divya Venkataraman

At some point or another, we have all had to make a tough choice. We may think, ‘do I want to major in biology or chemistry?’ or ‘should I rent or buy this house?’; when faced with difficult decisions such as these, we tend to begin panicking. 

In situations like these, one of the most common pieces of advice heard is: “sleep on it.” Yet, is this just another excuse to procrastinate, or is this actually a good idea that helps our mental well-being? 

Truth is, this saying is one of the most accurate phrases one might say. In fact, a good night’s rest is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, improving attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can have horrible effects on one’s health.

Executive director of sleep medicine at Harvard University, Russell Sanna, Ph.D., believes that sleep and its importance cannot be overstated in the slightest. “If you’re having a problem in life or at work,” he tells WebMD, “analyze the problem and its possible solutions, [then] sleep on it before making a final decision.” 

Unfortunately, sleep is often overlooked, especially among adolescents. In between extracurriculars, calculating our GPA, worrying about chances of getting into a college, developing social status and studying – for the SAT, ACT, AP Exams, finals and so much more – we also need to spend time eating, breathing and sleeping. So, which one do we cut out when we become swamped with work? 

Well, cutting down on eating or extracurriculars will just save a couple of hours of the day. But sleep? If we cut down our sleep from the suggested 9 hours to about 4, we are gaining a whole 5 hours to work! Many students have admitted that they just need time for work: in the debate between time versus sleep, time often wins. 

This is where the problem lies: the lack of sleep may gain you some time here and there — but in the long run, you’re actually taking away precious time in your future. Sleep doesn’t just help you feel good tomorrow but helps our brain and body function as a whole. While you are able to gain an extra 5 hours to work every day without sleep, you are actually impairing yourself in the future — the lack of sleep has been proven to lead to major physical health issues. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the link between sleep deprivation and chronic diseases has grown significantly — including a connection to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. 

A lack of sleep doesn’t only affect one’s physical state, but the mental state as well. In fact, sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, prohibiting it from doing its duties well. During sleep, your brain is rejuvenated; pathways between neurons in the brain form — allowing you to remember what you’ve learned — while REM sleep stimulates areas of your brain essential in spatial memory and learning. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, out of 10,000 adults, those with insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression or anxiety. Additionally, they were also 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder. 

A lack of sleep is not something to take lightly, having many negative effects on physical and mental health; we may be thinking in a short-term way because we want success now rather than later, but we should also look into taking care of our future. 

The next time you are planning your day, try scheduling everything before a certain time to ensure that you are sleeping on time. The next time you are swamped with work, take a breath and manage your time properly. The next time you are faced with a hard decision, take your time to listen to one of society’s best advice and sleep on it.