Mental Health

All Articles in the Category ‘Mental Health’

New Initiative Aims to Prevent Youth Suicide

Seattle Children’s Zero Suicide Initiative helps identify and treat children ages 10 and up who are at risk for suicide.

A teenage boy arrives at Seattle Children’s Emergency Department (ED) with an increased heart rate. His parents are scared and unsure of what could be causing their son’s pulse to spike. While the nurse takes the patient’s vitals, she asks him a series of questions about suicide — prompting the patient to share that he tried to overdose on prescription medication the night before. The nurse informs the provider, and an immediate plan is set in motion to further assess not only the patient’s physical health, but his mental health, as well.

A 10-year-old girl enters the ED with a sprained elbow after taking a tumble on the soccer field. Her parents have been taking her to therapy to help with her anxiety, and the therapist communicates his findings with them often. Because she is so young, the therapist has never directly asked the patient if she’s ever had suicidal thoughts. After the ED nurse initiates suicide-screening questions, the girl admits that she has had thoughts about harming herself in the past. Prior to discharging the patient, a mental health evaluator shares resources and information about suicide with the family, and the provider contacts the patient’s therapist and asks the girl’s suicidal thoughts be addressed in their next appointment.

These are just two stories of the more than 500 children who have screened positive for suicide risk in Seattle Children’s ED and inpatient settings over the past six months who presented for concerns unrelated to their mental health. These crucial “catches” were made with help from a new clinical pathway known as Seattle Children’s Zero Suicide Initiative (ZSI), a universal screening method to help identify and treat youth at risk of suicide.

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Sam Doesn’t Let His Mental Health Struggles Define Him

When Sam Duenwald, 18, was in seventh grade, he got sick and had to miss a couple of weeks of school.

However, a couple of weeks of missed school turned into three, then four, then five.

“It became a vicious cycle,” Sam said. “I was getting really anxious about going back to school because I knew I had missed a ton of homework and that was causing my grades to drop, so I decided to avoid going to school altogether. This of course spiraled into missing even more homework, making my grades suffer further.”

Naturally, the situation caused tension between Sam and his parents.

“There was a lot of stress at home, and I was fighting with my parents all the time,” Sam said. “They knew I needed help.”

Sam’s anxiety became so severe that his parents took him to see a psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s midway through seventh grade. He was prescribed anxiety medication, which helped Sam finish up the school year.

“Over the summer, I kept telling myself, ‘I need to go back to school regularly; I’m going to be in eighth grade and everything is going to be great,’” Sam said.

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Helping Kids Cope With Anxiety Over Distressing News

In an episode of the popular TV show Big Little Lies, a character’s young daughter has an anxiety attack, prompted by worries about climate change. Though this may seem drastic, Dr. Kendra Read, attending psychologist and director of anxiety programs with Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team, is having many conversations with families about how to cope with distressing news, such as mass shootings, crime, global politics and natural disasters.

“It’s common for kids to be worried about events that might potentially harm them or their loved ones,” Read said. “Worrying is normal and a typical part of life, but I tend to talk to children whose anxiety over current events impacts their daily functioning. They exaggerate the likelihood of bad things happening and underestimate their ability to cope with things.”

The key is helping kids cope with the worry about these events happening, even though the likelihood is small. With school back in session, Read offers advice to families whose children might experience heightened anxiety after a frightening news event.

“We want to bolster kids’ coping abilities and teach them how they can help themselves,” Read said. Read full post »

Dealing With the Emotional Aftermath of a Cancer Diagnosis

Grace Blanchard was just three weeks away from graduating from college when she began feeling like something was off.

“It started with my handwriting,” Blanchard said. “I had always felt like I had good handwriting, so it was strange that it all of a sudden became messy, slanted and unreadable.”

Then there was the slurred speech and dizziness.

“At first I thought I had vertigo,” she said, “so I decided to see a neurologist to get an MRI.”

Once the results of the MRI scan were in, Blanchard received a call.

“They asked me to come into the clinic as quickly as possible, and that I should bring support,” she said. “They knew that after hearing, ‘you have a brain tumor the size of a golf ball on your cerebellum,’ I wouldn’t be able to listen to anything else.”

The following day, Blanchard flew from California, where she had been going to school, to Seattle, her hometown, for surgery to remove the tumor.

“I decided Seattle would be the best option, not only because I wanted to be with my family,” she said, “but also because of the fact that Seattle has the best hospitals for cancer treatment.”

Within 24 hours of flying into Seattle, Blanchard went to Seattle Children’s to get her tumor surgically removed.

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‘Boys Will Be Boys:’ The Negative Effects of Traditional Masculinity

The phrase ‘boys will be boys,’ is often used to describe what some consider are normal masculine tendencies boys might have, such as being rough and reckless.

Dr. Tyler Sasser, a psychologist in Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine clinic believes these characteristics of what society deems as masculine can often reflect unhealthy and sometimes risky behaviors.

“In Western culture, boys and men are expected to be competitive, tough and dominant,” Sasser said. “The term, traditional masculinity, labels these expectations. Meaning, boys and men need to be stoic and suppress emotions they experience, other than anger.”

Recent research shows that these beliefs associated with traditional masculinity often lead to harmful behaviors toward themselves and others.

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‘Hold On, Pain Ends:’ Javi Shares Her Mental Health Struggles to Inspire Change

I was in middle school when my mental health started deteriorating. Every day I would hide under tables, cover my ears, or hit my head. I would lash out at anyone who tried to help me. I was anxious 24/7. But I kept denying what was happening. I told myself that I was fine, that I was just going through a rough couple of days. Then days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.

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Cutting to Cope: What is Nonsuicidal Self-Injury?

Today, nearly one in five children has a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. While some seek relief from their distress using positive coping methods, others may choose methods that are harmful and potentially life-threatening.

Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, has been seeing a recent increase in teens coming into the clinic with self-injuries done through cutting, burning, pinching and scratching, among others.

“It’s possible that the increase may be partly due to the impact that social media and technology has on the current generation,” Evans said. “Kids might see their peers online engaging in self-harming behavior as a way to cope with their emotions, influencing them to replicate that type of behavior.”

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Sewing a Seamless Transition for Chester’s Autism Care

Chester Dudley was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old. When he reached his late teens, his mother had growing concern about the resources that would be available for him once he entered adulthood. Fortunately, Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center made the transition for Chester easier.

When Chester Dudley was 3 years old, his mother, Stella Ogiale, enrolled him into a child care center located near their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After a few months, Ogiale received a startling message from the center telling her that there might be something wrong with Chester.

“They told me I needed to get him checked,” Ogiale said. “When I heard that, I became so emotional and upset that I stopped taking him there.”

She thought her son’s hyperactive behavior was like any other child’s, but to give her peace of mind, she decided to have him evaluated.

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Mother of Twins with Autism Shares Her Gratitude to Care Team

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, On the Pulse shares a story about a mother with 3-year-old twin daughters who have autism and her showing of gratitude for the relentless care and support that the Seattle Children’s Autism Center staff has provided her family.

Nataly Cuzcueta felt like a proud parent when she witnessed her twin daughters, Kira and Aliya, smile, laugh and walk for the first time.

Seeing them reach these milestones left no doubt in Cuzcueta’s mind that their development was right on track.

However, when her daughters turned 11 months old, everything changed.

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How to Address Sexual Abuse With Children and Teens

With stories of sexual abuse perpetrated by public figures continuing to be in the spotlight, as well as the rise of the #MeToo movement, there is a growing need for parents and caregivers to educate children and teens about the difficult topic of sexual abuse.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 92 seconds a person in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.

“Before the age of 18, one in every four girls and one in every six boys will be sexually abused,” said Dr. Lynda Lee Carlisle, a psychiatrist and trauma specialist from Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine clinic. “While it can happen to any child, those most vulnerable are intellectually disabled or identify as LGBTQ+.”

Sexual abuse is rarely committed by a stranger. It is often by someone who the child knows and trusts. While some may think sexual abuse only involves physical contact, it can also be done without contact in the form of inappropriate photos or videos, exposure or other behavior.

“We commonly see children abused by a family member,” said Dr. Carole Jenny, child abuse fellowship director of Seattle Children’s Protection Program (SCAN). “It is also more likely to occur in blended families, with the abuser being a step-parent or a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend.”

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