November 3, 2022
By Diana Hembree
Good morning, MindSite News readers. In this edition, we bring you a question that nags at some parents: What to do if your teen only wants to wear one beloved outfit – all the time. We also share a mental health playbook to support your child from our own Dr. Neha Chaudhary. And in case you missed them in the days before our parenting newsletter: a roundup of MindSite News’ “greatest hits” about kids, families and schools.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg is taking a break from her column this week, but she will be back next Thursday, so send your questions to her at email@example.com. And today, join MindSite News founding editor Rob Waters at 10 am PST in a live conversation on psychedelics and mental health with Simran Sethi of the Asian Psychedelics Collective. (To join the event, just scroll to the bottom of this newsletter and use the registration button.) Onward….
Call for parenting advice: Stepdaughter wears same outfit daily — should I intervene?
This week, a question was posed to the Washington Post’s advice columnist Carolyn Hax by an anxious stepmother, who fears that her stepdaughter, although clean and tidy, will be “eaten alive” in high school if she continues wearing the same outfit daily. You can read what Hax has to say about it in the Post and hear from other readers who grappled with the same issue and sent in their own comments. Our favorite is this one:
“In the summer before seventh grade, my son asked me to buy him four identical pairs of pants and eight identical red turtleneck shirts. That fall, I got a call from the guidance counselor, uncomfortably and politely asking me whether I was aware that he wore the same clothes every day. (Clearly there was some concern that he wasn’t wearing clean clothes.) I was with a client when I got the call, and because it was from the school, I excused myself and answered it. I burst out laughing and explained that he bathed and changed his clothes daily, that his clothes were washed regularly, but that he didn’t want to have to make any more decisions and chose to wear the same thing. I found out later that his look was so distinctive that another kid was him for Halloween.” You can read the entire Post column here.
And while you wait for Dr. Greenberg’s Ask Barbara column next week, check out her Psychology Today article on new research about the strong link between aggression and narcissism – a mental condition marked by an overweening sense of one’s own importance, an excessive need for attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others – and the implications these findings have for other people, including the families and children of narcissists.
A mental health playbook to support your child
With rates of depression and suicide on the rise, how can we help our children thrive all the way to adulthood? In a recent article for CNN, Dr. Neha Chaudhary writes that families and schools can create a playbook to support kids’ mental health that will give them those skills. “In a world that can often feel divided, it’s easy to lose sight of one thing all adults have in common — we were all kids once,” writes Chaudhary, a child and teen psychiatrist on the faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Our caregivers and educators played integral roles…in our abilities to navigate life’s ups and downs.”
Chaudhary continues: “The first step in addressing any problem is recognizing it exists. Mental health is no different.” Schools, she says, could teach kids about mental health, including the signs and symptoms of common conditions and how to improve their overall well-being. A formal curriculum, she says, “would help them identify if they’re struggling before it’s too late, help friends in need or even spot and dispel misinformation when they come across it in places they traditionally turn to — such as social media.”
Chaudhary, an advisory board member for MindSite News, recommends creating a safe place for kids and teens to talk – including a weekly school or family check-in on how everyone is feeling without fear of criticism or judgment. She also suggests giving them a coping toolkit to deal with stress, such as reading, listening to music or doing a few jumping jacks “when intense feelings hit.”
It’s also important to develop a plan for extra support if needed, she says, such as referring kids for professional help or extra accommodations at school. Crisis planning is also key, such as teaching them how to find a trusted adult in an emergency and sharing common phone numbers for crisis lines. Finally, include youth voices. “Youth mental health really is a shared responsibility,” she writes. “If we take it on together — in classrooms, homes and beyond — we might be surprised at what the next generation looks like.”
In case you missed it: MindSite News’ 7 greatest hits for parents
Our parenting newsletter got underway as we neared MindSite News’ first-year anniversary, so new readers may not have seen our earlier reporting on families, children, schools and the youth mental health crisis. Here are some of those original stories with “long tails” – that is, ones that continue to be read long after they are published, according to Google Analytics:
Cavetown Song “Boys Will Be Boys”: Rx for Teen Boys’ Mental Health. This 2018 sleeper hit is probably the most important song about teen boys that adults have never heard of.
“Hiding in Plain Sight” Takes Us Inside the Youth Mental Health Crisis. Our arts and culture reporter reviews this powerful two-part PBS documentary by Ken Burns’ production company.
Librarians’ Mental Health Threatened by Book Bans, Threats and Harassment. School librarians need parents’ help: They’re being harassed and threatened by rightwing groups for everything from carrying books about Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks to memoirs of growing up gay.
What’s Behind The Protests Against Schools Trying to Boost Kids’ Mental Health? A close look at protests over mental health programs at school suggest that the powerful forces driving them are anything but grassroots. (Think: dark money.) Also, see our story about TRAILS, a social-emotional learning program in Michigan schools that teachers are using to increase students’ sense of connection.
Young Advocates Take The Lead to Curb Campus Suicide. A recent survey of college students showed that 41% reported clinical levels of depression and 13% had considered suicide. Many college students are now working with the national mental health group Active Minds to reverse that trend, campus by campus. Here are some of their success stories.
‘Corporal Punishment Is Violence’: Black Communities Vow To Ban School Paddling. School paddlings, which can cause severe physical and mental problems, are disproportionately inflicted on Black children and are higher in areas with histories of lynching. Also – trigger warning – see my first-person account of school paddlings in my first grade class in Cobb County, Georgia.
The Kids Are Not Alright. Published before the Surgeon General’s chilling report on the youth mental health crisis, this story by education reporter Holly Korbey examines stress, isolation and loss plaguing many children on their return to school – and how one crusading Tennessee school aimed to stem the tide.
Psychedelics & Mental Health Live Conversation TODAY
MindSite News founding editor Rob Waters will be in conversation with journalist and Asian Psychedelics Collective founder Simran Sethi to discuss ethnic and racial disparities in mental health, and to hear about her experience as a member of the Fireside Project, a nonprofit psychedelic peer support line.
Access the MindSite News YouTube channel and watch the recording from last week’s Psychedelics & Mental Health live conversation with Double Blind Magazine, Minority Trip Podcast and Lucid News by clicking below.
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It’s November and that means we are getting ready for our end-of year fundraising effort. As a member of INN, the Institute for Nonprofit News, donations of up to $1,000 between now and the end of the year will be matched
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If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.
Recent MindSite News Stories
At the end of a Congressional session that has focused more on mental health issues – and passed more funding for behavioral health – than any Congress in history, could further substantive legislation still emerge? The answer, as always these days, is maybe.
As communities across the country set up new ways to respond to mental health emergencies and the federal government increases funding for mental health programs, the shortage of clinicians looms as a major barrier. One potential solution: training and hiring peer support workers.
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The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.