Message from the Executive Director
As I write this, parents have just taken their kids off to college and schools around the Metroplex are back in session for another year. As parents, we make sure our kids have all the supplies they need—new backpacks and notebooks, coordinated decor to make their dorm rooms feel homey, and we make sure their immunizations are up to date. But, how do we deal with their mental health needs? Do we give them the necessary "supplies" to make sure their mental and emotional health needs are taken care of?
A study presented at the recent American Psychological Association meeting noted that college students are arriving with more mental health issues than they were just a decade ago. Issues such as bullying have become such a part of life for teens that our recent conference on bullying was standing-room-only. It is becoming more and more obvious that our kids' mental health is as vitally important as their physical health, and equipping them with the right tools for their mental well-being is as important as anything else we do for them.
The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to ramp up our efforts to recognize the mental health needs of our youth. As parents take their kids to college, dealing with stress, anxiety and depression should be part of the conversation and kids should be provided with the right "supplies"—an action plan for what to do if life gets too tough.
For younger teens, this is a great time to make mental health part of the physical health checkup. We are so pleased that Inwood Village Pediatrics piloted our mental health screening initiative as part of their back-to-school check-ups for teens.
The I AM H·E·R·E Coalition is working hard to make sure that we are providing our teens, parents, educators, providers and others with all the necessary supplies and tools for a successful school year.
Inwood Village Pediatrics has been the pilot practice for the pediatric screening initiative and to date has screened more than 70 teens for mental health issues. The Help Team is working with these doctors to analyze their findings as well as their experience with implementation of this tool and will be making recommendations for wider use by other practices. Dr. Tina Deuber, president of the Dallas Pediatric Society, reported to the group's executive committee on her practice's experience and the screening tool will be piloted in another pediatric practice beginning in October.
The Bully Suicide Committee has decided to make the Bully Conference an annual event based on the outstanding feedback from their August conference. There has been an overwhelming request for more programs like this. In addition, they will be developing a conference for students who are peer mediators, offering information and tips that students can take back to their campuses.
The Awareness Committee is developing a public service announcement (PSA) contest focused on teen suicide prevention that will be open to high school students. The committee is finalizing rules and guidelines for the contest, securing prizes, and developing a theme for the contest. They plan to roll this out by mid-November with a deadline of February or March for entries.
The Training Committee has decided on a curriculum format for their new training program. They are working on a "train the trainers" program as well as a promotion plan so that the target audience is aware of the opportunity to receive this training.
This team is now focusing on content for the H·E·R·E For You website. This will be the informational component of the website. Various team members are working on developing and gathering content for different sections. The team welcomes all input into this important community resource.
The Encouragement Team is looking at how to build participation in the existing peer-to-peer support group run by Annie Walley at UT Southwestern on the first Thursday of every month. They are also looking at a collaboration between Communities in Schools and the Houston Independent School District that has established support groups for high school students in Houston and how a similar program can be developed for Dallas schools.
"New Age of Bullying" Draws Capacity Crowd
"The New Age of Bullying" was designed to educate and inform educators and parents about new trends, particularly the rise in cyberbullying, and presented solutions undertaken by some school districts in the area.
More than 100 counselors, teachers, school personnel, foster parents and parents of teens gathered at Children's Medical Center to hear speakers on a range of topics, including Texas laws regarding bullying, cyberbullying, identifying if your child is the bully and how schools should manage bullying. In addition, attendees heard from teens who have experienced bullying first-hand in a panel moderated by Beaux Wellborn, co-founder of The Bully Suicide Project.
"The diversity of the kids on the panel truly demonstrated that bullying affects different ages, genders, cultures and sexual orientation," said Wellborn. "It is important that when we talk about the issue, we put a face to the victims."
In June, the committee decided to put together this conference because of the growing concern over bullying and particularly its long-term effects on teens, including depression and suicide. Several area adolescent suicides earlier this year have been directly linked to bullying.
Response to the conference has been overwhelmingly positive, according to the coalition's executive director Diana Weaver. Many have asked to have conferences like this presented several times a year.
In the words of one attendee: "What an AWESOME conference! I absolutely was impressed with your team's ability to gather some great minds. Let me tell you, the energy was spectacular. People arrived early, the refreshments provided great hospitality. The registration process, expert line up, media presence, and guest politician all provided a level of legitimacy needed to justify one's time commitment to your event. Bravo!"
In addition to being covered by several media outlets, State Representative Carol Kent, District 102, Dallas County, made a special appearance at the conference and commended the commitment of the attendees to learning more about the issue as well as looking for new strategies to address bullying in our schools and homes.
The half-day conference was sponsored by The Bully Suicide Project, Communities in Schools, Grant Halliburton Foundation, Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas, Teen CONTACT, and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
A special thanks to the committee, Beaux Wellborn, Monica Ordonez, Jennifer Mootz, Missy Wall, Alex Garcia, Sheron Fountain and Sylvia Joseph for all their hard work; Michelle Gross with Children's Medical Center for providing meeting space; and Coalition members Amy Pool, Janie Stubblefield, Priya Singhvi and Amy Halliburton for volunteering their time that morning. Thanks also to Starbucks and Einstein's Bagels for their donations of refreshments.
Rising Rates of ADHD Linked to School Enrollment DatesTwo recent studies validate concerns that the rising rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may mean that the condition is being misdiagnosed. The studies demonstrate that large discrepancies in diagnosis and treatment are based on small differences in children's dates of birth.
"We believe that younger children may be mistakenly diagnosed as having ADHD, when in fact they are simply less mature," says Dr. Melinda Morrill, a research assistant professor of economics at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study.
For the study, the researchers examined data from two national health surveys and a national private health insurance claims database to evaluate rates of ADHD diagnosis and treatment in children. The data sources covered different time periods ranging from 1996 to 2006.
In a related study, researchers at Michigan State University found that roughly 8.4 percent of children born in the month prior to their state's cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility—typically the youngest and most developmentally immature children in a grade—are diagnosed with ADHD, compared to 5.1 percent of children born in the month immediately afterward.
A child's birth date relative to the eligibility cutoff also strongly influences teachers' assessments of whether the child exhibits ADHD symptoms but is only weakly associated with similarly measured parental assessments. The research suggests that many diagnoses may be driven by teachers' perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a classroom.
Lead researcher Todd Elder, assistant professor of economics at MSU, says these children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behavior-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin. This is particularly worrisome because of the unknown impacts of long-term stimulant use on children's health.
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for children in the United States, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Overall, the study found that about 20 percent—or 900,000—of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD may likely have been misdiagnosed. The researchers used the students' birth dates and the states' kindergarten eligibility cutoff dates to determine the youngest and oldest students in a grade. The most popular cut-off date is September 1, with 15 states mandating that a student must turn 5 on or before that date to enter kindergarten.
Results of the study were definitive and the researchers found that even though students were sometimes born just a day apart, they were assessed differently simply because they were compared to classmates of a different grade.
Although teachers cannot diagnose ADHD, their perceptions are often instrumental in decisions to send a child for mental health evaluations, according to Elder. Both studies will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics.
Having a Sister Can Improve Mental Health
In a recent study on the impact of siblings on one another, Brigham Young University professor Laura Padilla-Walker found that siblings, particularly sisters, provide something that even parents can't in improving the mental health of 10-to 14-year olds.
The Brigham Young research stems from the University's Flourishing Families Project and included 395 families with more than one child, at least one of whom was an adolescent between 10 and 14 years old. The researchers gathered information about each family's dynamics, then followed up one year later.
Statistical analyses showed that having a sister protected adolescents from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful when the results were adjusted to remove the effects of parental influence. Whether the sister was older or younger did not seem to matter.
Brothers had an impact as well, though not as strong as sisters, and the study found that siblings of either sex promoted good deeds and fostered charitable attitudes more than even having loving parents did. The researchers speculate that the sister tie may be stronger perhaps because girls tend to talk more than boys do.
Padilla-Walker also speculates that sisters may act as a sounding board at a time when adolescents don't talk to their parents. For parents of younger kids, the message is to encourage sibling affection, says Padilla-Walker.
"Once they get to adolescence, it's going to be a big protective factor," she adds.
Obesity Common in Teens with Mental Illnesses
While it is known that adults with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression are at greater risk for obesity, less has been known about the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adolescents with these conditions.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center studied data on 114 adolescents, aged 12 to 18 years, who received treatment as part of a partial hospitalization program between 2003 and 2004, and who were considered to have serious mental illness as measured by the Global Assessment of Functioning.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that 55.4 percent of the patients were overweight—defined as having a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile for age and gender. Thirty percent were obese, defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile.
In addition, those patients without medical insurance and those on Medicaid were 3.3 times more likely to be overweight or obese than those with private medical insurance. Smokers were four times more likely to be overweight or obese than non-smokers.
The researchers concluded that significantly more adolescents in the sample with severe mental illness were overweight or obese compared with community and national peer groups, placing these youth at increased risk for the development of obesity-related comorbid physical diseases.
While the researchers state that this is the first study to identify adolescents with severe mental illness as a subpopulation at increased risk for overweight and obesity, they call for further studies to confirm their findings.
Jewish Family Service Has New Groups for Parents and GrandparentsJewish Family Service has launched two new support groups for parents of children with special needs and grandparents who are raising or helping to raise a grandchild.
Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs is for any parent raising a child with any special need. The group meets every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m.
Grandparents' Group is for any grandparent who is raising or helping to raise a grandchild, whether typically developing or with special needs. The group meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.
Both groups are designed to allow participants to provide support to one another, share resources and develop insights about themselves. The groups will be facilitated by Gretchen Ladd, Ph.D., a special needs psychologist. Cost for the groups is $20 per session, although a sliding fee scale is available.
Upcoming EventsI AM H·E·R·E Coalition Meetings
Tuesday, October 26
Tuesday, December 7
4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak St., Dallas, Texas 75204 (Google map)
Via Hope Youth Focus Group
Wednesday, October 13 | 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
NAMI Dallas office, 6510 Abrams Road Dallas, TX 75231
Via Hope is looking for individuals ages 14 to 24 who want to create change around mental health and who want to help create a statewide program. See the flyer or download the application for participation.
Contact Lauren Cohen with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-693-2000.
Lewisville ISD Provider Resource Fair
Friday, October 15 | 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
The Lewisville ISD will be hosting a Provider Resource Fair for all agencies serving Denton County on Friday, October 15. There will be 200 counselors and psychologists attending.
Bolin Administrative Center—Boardroom
1565 W. Main Street Lewisville, TX 75067
Call 469-948-8680 or e-mail email@example.com by October 1 if you would like to participate.
Frisco ISD to Offer Training of Trainers for Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
Tuesday, October 19–Wednesday, October 20
Frisco ISD will be conducting a Training of Trainers program for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, widely recognized as the most researched and best known bully prevention program available today.
The program will be held October 19-21 with trainers from Olweus, a joint venture of Clemson University and Hazelden. Participants will become certified as trainers for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, enabling them to train others in their districts on this nationally recognized bully prevention program. Cost for the training program is $4,200.
For more information, contact Brenda Russell, Director of Guidance, Testing and Counseling for Frisco ISD at RussellB@friscoisd.org.
Friday, October 22 | 9:00 a.m. to noon
Presented by Nishendu Vesavada, M.D.
3 hours of CEUs available. No charge.
University Behavioral Health, 2026 E. University Dr., Denton TX 75201
This workshop will provide discussion regarding various co-morbidities and their management. Topics covered will include ADHD and behavior problems, PTSD and substance abuse, mood disorders and personality disorders.
Register online at www.ubhdenton.com or call 940-320-8100 for more information.