August 31, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Hello, MindSite News readers! In this issue, meet Fabiola Rivas, a Florida teen unable to afford therapy in her hometown but who ended up working with a telehealth provider in Venezuela. Also: How to comfort and talk with your child about the loss of a beloved pet. What to do when your kids fib. And why nearly 40% of Millennials and more than 25% of Gen Z’ers don’t understand the gravity of insurance fraud.

Plus: A Southeast Asian teen’s play about her mental health struggles, working to end youth homelessness in Detroit, and more.

Few mental health providers offer services to support LGBTQ teens

By the end of middle school in 2019, Fabiola Rivas realized she was a lesbian. She also knew she needed therapy to address the loneliness and isolation she felt, the now 18 year old told NBC News. But to Rivas and her family’s surprise, there was only one mental health facility in their city of Melbourne, Florida equipped to provide the support she needed while coming out. Worse yet, her family couldn’t afford the cost of sessions. It wasn’t until the following year, amid the COVID pandemic and further decline in her mental health, that Rivas connected with a telehealth provider – one thousands of miles away in Venezuela, where her family is from. 

Unfortunately, the difficult search for a mental health provider trained to support LGBTQ people, regardless of age, is common. A study published earlier this summer found that less than 1 in 3 of the nation’s mental health facilities offers services targeted to LGBTQ clients, including coming out support, counseling on sexuality, and gender-affirming therapy. Researchers also learned there are fewer than 10 providers offering LGBTQ services for every 100,000 children across the nation. The findings confirm results of a 2022 national survey from The Trevor Project, in which 60% of LGBTQ youth respondents who sought mental health care in 2021 couldn’t get it. 

“Asking for help is a sign of strength, but we need to make sure that we have the proper resources in place for those who need help,” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-New York, the first openly gay Afro Latino in Congress, said in an email to NBC Health. He’s been working with his Democratic colleagues, Reps. Eric Sorensen, D-Illinois, and Sharice Davids, D-Kansas  to garner support for the Pride in Mental Health Act, a bill the trio introduced to make mental health treatment more accessible to LGBTQ youth and offer their families and schools training to support their needs. The bill “is a crucial step in the right direction in addressing LGBTQI+ mental health,” Torres said.

In the meantime, Rivas is finding solace within community for more self care – and she advises other LGBTQ youth to do the same. “Finding people, it can be very hard,” she said, though she’s been successful with a slam poetry group and the It Gets Better Project.

How to comfort your child over the loss of a beloved pet

A distressed mother who promised her daughter that nothing would change while she was away at summer camp realizes their beloved dog will need to be put down soon after her child gets back. Find out what teen and parent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg has to tell her on how to help her daughter deal with the devastating loss of a pet. (Dr. Greenberg is also a member of the MindSite News editorial advisory board.)

Kids lying? Try these approaches 

First things first, accept that (virtually) all kids lie. Yes, even yours. It’s not always merely about deception either, Fatherly reports. Lying in young children often signals they’ve entered a vital stage of development. It means they’ve started to recognize that other people’s beliefs can differ from their own. But you’ll still have to notice and correct the behavior when necessary, says child and adolescent psychologist Ashley Harlow. 

To determine “when necessary,” notice when your children make things up for fun or tell untruths to be deceitful. “Sometimes kids will make up stories for attention, to entertain themselves, and to test limits of what they can get parents to buy into,” Harlow told Fatherly. “Parents are always the experts on their own kids — you know when you’re being tested or kind of brought along for a ride. I think that it’s just fine to join in the joke and then somewhere along the line let them know that we can both laugh about this because we both know it isn’t true.”

Then, consider that children, especially those with diagnoses like ADHD, aren’t equipped with the same level of impulse control as adults. That means sometimes lies can happen just because. “Impulsivity drives much of the dishonesty in many of the kids I work with who have diagnosed conditions like ADHD,” says Harlow. “It’s not necessarily a nefarious dishonesty. They’re just saying whatever thought pops into their head.” When this happens, don’t jump straight to discipline without allowing them a chance to correct the error. If they do, offer praise for their honesty and move on. If they don’t, remind them the importance of honesty before you dish an appropriate consequence.

Finally, notice kids when they’re being honest and affirm them. “It’s really important to catch kids being good,” Harlow says. Further, when explaining why telling the truth matters, steer the conversation toward a positive consequence, like a closer relationship between the two of you. “Explain to kids that there will be times when you will really have to be able to trust them and that you really want to be able to trust them,” Harlow says. 

In other news…

Parents, consider a check-in with your young adults about auto insurance “misreporting.” A recent survey by ValuePenguin has found that “there’s a fine line between line between cost-cutting and lawbreaking when it comes to insurance, and many Americans don’t seem to know what that line is.” And a surprising percentage of those Americans are Millennials with car insurance policies, 39% of whom admit to deception to save money on them, compared with just 3% of baby boomers.

Among Millennials’ most common tactics: Using another address to get a favorable rate (16%), reporting their vehicle as stolen to cash in (15%), not reporting all the people who drive their car (15%) and reporting they use their vehicle less than they do (15%). And Gen Z? They’re more than four times as likely as boomers “to say they don’t consider insurance fraud a crime.” In fact, many Millennials and Gen Z’ers seemed unaware of the potential consequences of what they considered “little white lies.” As ValuePenguin insurance expert Divya Sangameshwar told MindSite News: “The scale [of Millennial self-reported auto insurance fraud] is shocking, but our finding is that their lack of awareness is driving their habits. Anecdotally, there is also a sense of ‘sticking it to the big guy’ driving a lot of these behaviors.” – Diana Hembree

“Good vs. Bad Foods” healthy eating exercises may encourage disordered eating: Activities in which children are asked to separate “good foods” from “bad foods” aren’t the cause of eating disorders, but the “messages they’re getting from school and from the larger culture,” can be. They might restrict foods or become more drawn to the foods parents work to keep away. “It can really lead them down a road of more and more restriction, and that’s where we see younger and younger kids developing eating disorders like anorexia,” Oona Hanson, a family mentor at Equip, an eating disorder treatment program, told the Washington Post.

Teen writes play using her own mental health struggles to raise awareness about mental health in South Asia: 17-year-old Siyani Sheth told the BBC that her challenges with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder are likely rooted in the high pressure culture under which she grew. (For more on the dangers of putting too much pressure on your adolescent, check out this book recommendation from the Washington Post.) Surrounded by expectations “to be perfect and excel,” Sheth said, “It’s really hard to sometimes live up to that.” So, she’s moving toward letting that go and inspiring others to do the same with her play, The Expulsion of Exulansis. The play is currently running in London, with final shows playing later today, August 31.

Nonprofit leader Courtney Smith rises from homelessness to head efforts to end homelessness for youth in her hometown Detroit: “The youth of Detroit matter,” Smith told Outlier Media, expressing the urgency of her work. She remembers graduating from high school while living in a shelter. Today, she’s well known across the city as founding CEO of the Detroit Phoenix Center, an organization offering wraparound services to youth experiencing homelessness, struggling to have their basic needs met, and looking for a place to belong.

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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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...