Autumn October Recognizes Mental Health
by Nique Belleville, MA
Fall brings scarves, tall boots, pumpkin spiced everything, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and leaves changing colors.  With fall comes changes in lives.  These transitions can create intense emotions and those overwhelming feelings of being stressed.  The month of October recognizes mental health by hosting Mental Health Awareness week and World Mental Health Day. 

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was established in 1990 by the U.S. Congress in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and increase awareness about mental illness. Lime green is the color that represents mental illness.  

World Mental Health Day is also observed in October, with the overall of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.  Mental Health Day, the 10th of October, provides an opportunity for all mental health professionals, stakeholders, policy change makers working on mental health issues to talk about their work, an what needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.  
The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day, covers "psychological first aid". Efforts in support of the day will focus on basic pragmatic psychological support by people who find themselves in a helping role whether they be staff, teachers, firemen, community workers, or police officers.  Despite its name, psychological first aid covers both psychological and social support.  Just like general health care never consists of physical first aid alone, similarly no mental health care system should consist of psychological first aid alone.  Indeed, the investment in psychological first aid is part of a longer-term effort to ensure that anyone in acute distress due to a crisis is able to receive basic support, and that those who need more than psychological first aid will receive additional advanced support from health, mental health, and social services. 

"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start." - Nido Qubein

Therapeutic Efficacy of Pets
by Sonal Markanda, Ph. D.
While some may argue against the idea of domesticating wild animals, pets have evolved to serve people in a variety of ways.  Pets, specifically cats, have been around for thousands of years, dating back to Egypt and Turkey.  For example, cats with thick coats such as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats travelled with the Vikings across the ocean during brutally cold weather to keep mice away from the food aboard their ships.  Nowadays, pets and science have evolved so much that dogs can sniff out bombs, cancer, and drops in their owner's blood sugar! Some cats, in nursing homes, have even been known to predict when residents will die, due to their sensitivity to smell and ability to detect certain hormones secreted before people die.

PetsPets can also decrease anxiety during high arousale situations and increase happiness when someone is feeling down. What makes pets so comforting?! Could it be their non-judgmental, forgiving attitude in a world where we may constantly feel judged? Science shows that when cats purr, not only is purring a self-healing mechanism, but it can help heal humans as well.  Cats vibrate at a frequency that promotes healing!  Pets provide a sensory experience, with the ability to touch and pet them.  Additionally, animals can provide the motivation to get active!  Running or walking with dogs and plying indoors with your cat is an excellent activity and a way to get blood flowing to the motor cortex.  In turn, activating the motor cortex can secrete "feel good" neurotransmitters, which can explain why you feel so happy after spending time with your pet!  Lastly, pets are very structured beings.  Having a routine each day can be important in regulating sleep and appetite.  Regulated sleep and appetite can improve your mental well-being.  Waking up and eating breakfast at the same time you feed your beloved pet can be a great jump start to the day and serve as a reminder to eat the most important meal of the day!

Given appopriate financial and time resources, pets can be a valuable addition to your household!

Bullying Prevention: What Can Teachers and Parents Do?
by Paul Blaske, MA
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one of every four U.S. students reported being bullied during the 2013 school year.  Bully behavior is defined as harmful acts causing physical or emotional pain.  Research suggests children who are bullied are at increased risk to experience low self-esteem, perform poorly in school, have few friends, and develop mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety).  Last month, millions of young students returned to classes opening the door for learning and growing.  However, reintroduction to school can be a stressful undertaking for students who fear being bullied by their peers.  

Fortunately, bullying preventin has been picking up steam over the last decade. This October marks the 10th anniversary of PACER's National Bully Prevention Month. Throughout the year PACER sponsors a variety of programs and events promoting bully prevention awareness, for detailed information visit PACER's website. Let's take a look at some of the research that supports PACER's goal to improve the school environment for all students.No Bullying

Studies suggest that positive staff-student relationships are one of the biggest determining factors in creating a safe school atmosphere.  Students' positive staff-student relationships are one of the biggest determining factors in creating a safe school atmosphere.  Students' positive relationships with their teachers, starting in kindergarten, are predictors of healthy emotionality and positive behavioral outcomes (Thapa et al., 2013). Teachers and school staff can build relationships with students by promoting an inclusive, respectful and welcoming environment around the school and in the classroom.  Tips for helping teachers accomplish this include: 1) rewarding good behavior more often than punishing bad behavior, 2) encourage open and honest feedback from students, 3) make behavioral expectations clear, and 4) be a positive role model by demonstrating kindness and compassion.  

Outside the classroom, parents can help prevent bully behavior through open communication and encouragement.  Children benefit from discussions with parents regarding what bullying looks like and how to get help if they experience bullying.  Many children are afraid to report bullying, but parents can get ahead of this issue by having bully conversations early and modeling open communication.  Boosting a child's self-esteem is another protective factor for school-aged children.  By encouraging kids to pursue their interests, hobbies, and special talents, parents and teachers help build confidence in young people's lives.  Research indicates that high self-esteem in children helps them make friends and relate more positively to their environment.  Although it is clear that bullying is a serious concern in schools today, there are many things we can do within schools and at home to create a safer atmosphere for children.  Organizations like PACER and research institutions across the country continue to work on promoting awareness and developing strategies to prevent the harmful effects of bullying.  Please visit Stop Bullying and Pacer for more resources. 

Thapta, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D ‘Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 1-29.

Have I been Affected by Domestic Violence?
by Vickie Wilhelm, MS., LPC
Domestic Violence is not just a question of whether a person has hit you or called you names.  Of course we care very much if you have been hit or hurt in any way, usually by a loved one/family member.  But Domestic Violence involves a pattern of behaviors which serves to give the abuser the tactics of power and control over the victim.  These tactics directly affect the victim and victim's sense of worthiness.  Also, witnessing these tactics (often by a child in the home), have tremendous impact on the health, development, and ability to learn of the child.  The impact is long-term.  One such sign that a child has either witnessed or experienced directly such abuse is that the child shows an inability to regulate their emotions and behaviors, including how to calm oneself in the face of or aftermath of a stressful event.  

Break the ViolenceOne clear tactic of power and control is the pattern of the abuser using blaming, denying, and minimizing. This can sound like, "You are the one who is depressed and never gets anything done!" (Blaming). Or, "So, I forgot to go to the store this one time--you make such a big deal out of everything." (Minimization). Or, "I never yell at the kids!" (Denial).  If you experience a pattern of blaming in your love relationship, this is quite damaging and sadly/tragically, we begin to believe the message.  Little by little, we lose our sense of self and we work so hard to please the partner or lessen the chance of tension.  But, we are not the cause of the tension!  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  

Other damaging tactics of POWER and CONTROL are:

  • Using Isolation
    Does your partner try to keep you from seeing your family or friends? Or does your partner need to know what exactly you did today -- or didn't do?
  • Using Emotional Abuse
    Do you hear criticism and put-downs? Do you try hard to do "the right thing" and then are told you still don't get it? Rule changes can be illogical. 
  • Using Economic Abuse
    Does your partner prevent you from getting a job or undermine your efforts? Does your partner control the money and keep you from being a part of the decision making?
  • Using Coercion & Threats
    Does your partner threaten to leave you? Or, threaten to kill theirself? Or, threaten to call Social Services? Or, talk you into dropping the Order for Protection because everything is fine now?
  • Using Intimidation
    Do you feel frightened when your partner gives you "the look"? Does your partner slam their hand on to the table? Or throw items? Abuse or threaten to get rid of the pets? Or, back you into a wall or block you from leaving the room or gesture that you may be struck/hit?

Please ask yourself today and tomorrow, am I free to express my thoughts and feelings? Do I tell my childtren to just stay queit because my partner is in a bad mood or tired?  Are you and your children SAFE? Saftey is Number One!  Please DO feel free to discuss these ideas with a counselor or therapist who has experience with Domestic Violence.  You are important and do not deserve any form of Domestic Violence!