October 27, 2022

By Courtney Wise and Diana Hembree

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In this issue, we bring you advice from teen psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg on how to talk with an 18-year-old who may have a serious eating disorder. We also look at a new book to help young children prevent gun violence and talk about why the 2017 animated film “Coco” is still the ideal movie to see with your kids as you approach Dia de los Muertos. 

Miguel Rivera, 12, plays a ballad in Coco. Credit: Disney/Pixar

Also in this edition: Exposure in utero to a climate disaster is linked to a higher risk of developing a psychiatric illness. Free webinars on suicide prevention, anxiety, grief, and conflict resolution, courtesy of South Dakota. Actor Hugh Jackson on feeling proud that his kids can talk so openly about mental health. And more.

Ask Barbara: Advice From a Teen Psychologist

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, Clinical Psychologist

Today’s question is from a worried grandmother who suspects her grandson’s girlfriend may have a serious eating disorder. Find out how Dr. Greenberg advises her to approach the issue.

If you have a question about parenting kids or teens (or conversely, if you’re a teen who has questions about your parents), send them to Dr. Greenberg, co-author of Teenage as a Second Language and a member of the MindSite News editorial advisory board, at info@mindsitenews.org. Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you.

As Dia de los Muertos nears, “Coco” encourages conversations about loved ones who’ve died

Miguel and Hector in “Coco.”.Credit: Shutterstock Credit: Pixar

If your family is looking for a movie to stream together this weekend, consider the animated Disney/Pixar film “Coco.” Magical, funny and deeply moving, it follows 12-year-old Miguel Rivera as he unexpectedly finds himself in the Land of the Dead, a lively place where he vows to finally unravel the secrets weighing down his family.  The story takes place during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a joyful Mexican holiday that celebrates ancestors and beloved family members who have passed on. On this day, honored in many parts of Latin America and the U.S., families visit cemeteries and build private altars adorned with pictures, favorite food and beverages, and other beloved objects of their loved ones who’ve died.

Watching Coco and talking about Dia de los Muertos “can be an opportunity to start important conversations …about how it feels when someone you care about has died,” according to Psychology Today. Or, as Monica Castillo put it in a New York Times review of Coco when it was first released, “Día de Muertos is not Halloween, and death is not meant to scare us. It’s a time for families to celebrate life and the memories of those no longer with us.”

Gun culture, the zeitgeist and children’s books 

A Gun Is Not Fun (cover art)

Books can be  tools to help children cope with fear and trauma. That’s something children’s author and Emmy-winning Sesame Street writer Ian Ellis James told Richmond’s News 6 he knows firsthand. His book A Gun is Not Fun is designed to help youth in early elementary school learn about gun safety and cope with the awareness of gun violence. “It really impacts kids of color, the community of color. I tell you, it like, it breaks my heart. That’s really why I’m doing this,…I think I can change behavior,” said James. 

Child psychologists agree that books are effective in helping children make sense of danger, grief and loss, while book editors and publishers see the texts as ways to acknowledge that youth really do experience trauma and hardships. “There was probably an effort a while ago to keep children’s literature sort of light and happy, and that kids shouldn’t have to experience trauma in their books. But the fact is, kids do,” said Andrea Colvin, the editorial director of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. “Children’s literature needs to  – or it should – reflect what’s actually happening to kids and what’s happening in the world.”

In other news…

Actor Hugh Jackson in the movie “Chappie” in Moscow in 2015. Credit: Shutterstock

Actor Hugh Jackman is “really proud” of his kids for engaging with mental health,” according to People magazine. Jackman talked with them after the screening of “The Son,” a film about a father struggling to help his mentally troubled son. “What I find amazing is that 22 to 17-year-olds are totally fine having these conversations,” he told People. In a conversation two years earlier, he mentioned how his children had transformed him. “When you’re a parent, you can’t lie to them or yourself,” he said. “They will shine a light on every one of your flaws, your Achilles heel, whatever. You’ve got to look at yourself.”

Natural disasters during pregnancy can have big implications for kids’ mental health, according to an article in HuffPost. Just as children have a higher risk of developing serious health conditions if exposed to childhood trauma, researchers have found a similar phenomenon when someone who is pregnant experiences toxic stress and trauma during a climate emergency. Kids exposed in utero to the stresses of Superstorm Sandy, for example, were more likely to meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder.  “The difference was humongous. It was literally like over 20 times [the] difference in anxiety and aggression,” said researcher Yoko Nomura, a professor of psychology at Queens College.

Free mental health webinars for people in South Dakota (and elsewhere): Avera Health and the Sioux Falls School District have partnered to offer people across the state free access to digital webinars on mental health topics, including suicide prevention, anxiety, unhealthy eating habits, grief, and conflict resolution. Stressing that mental health disorders are often treatable when acknowledged, Sioux Falls superintendent Jamie Nold told Keloland News that they hope people really engage with these resources. “We hope that anybody that wishes to or any parent that has a concern with one of these areas can truly tune in…or even after the fact go and access it online.” All sessions are 40 minutes in length and are available for on-demand replay via the school district’s website.

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.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.