Special Needs and Mental Health

Special Needs and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, 1 in 4 adults, an estimated 61 million individuals, have a disability. Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refer to a single population, this is a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see and can limit how a child or adult functions.

In addition to these challenges, approximately 30-50% of children with special needs may also have mental health conditions, according to research in the Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability. Frequent mental distress is associated with poor health behaviors, increased use of health services, mental disorders, chronic disease, and limitations in daily life.

You might look for mental health help for your special needs child if they:

• Are acting differently than their usual self
• Refuse to partake in routine chores like they used to.
• Have significant changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.
• Seem unsettled – extra frustrated, aggressive, angry, worried, or sad.
• Are having trouble sleeping, stomach aches, constipation, or other physical issues – with no clear medical reason why.
• Have quick bursts of energy like pacing back and forth, tantrums, or more vocalizations.
• Are trying risky behavior or doing things to self-injure on purpose?
• Have more (or more intense) challenging behaviors than usual.

National Resources:
• Special Olympics Inclusive Health- Inclusive Health 
• Self-Care Tips for Special Olympics Families
• NCHPAD – Building Healthy Inclusive Communities
• Disability and Health Healthy Living | CDC

How to Talk Away the Dark

How to Talk Away the Dark

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) wants to talk. Well, they want us to talk. About mental health and suicide, the 12th leading cause of death in the US. On average, there are 130 suicides per day here.

AFSP research shows suicide is preventable if we work together. Since their public education program “Talk Saves Lives” launched in 2015, it has reached nearly 150,000 people across all 50 states with science-informed education about suicide and how we can all help prevent it. It can be as simple as reaching out to a friend.

Suicide is a topic that often hides in the shadows. In the dark. Many with depression or other mental health conditions that are unaddressed could lead to suicide and may feel ashamed or hesitant to ask for help. We can all make a difference. Learn the warning signs, know the risk factors and if you sense someone is struggling, be brave and talk to them. A few kind words can make a difference in connecting someone to help.

Now you’re thinking, “Could saying the wrong thing make it worse?” and worrying, “How do I begin a conversation?” You’re probably afraid of what you’ll do if they confess they are having thoughts of suicide. But research shows that asking someone directly if you suspect they may be thinking about suicide won’t put the idea in their head if it wasn’t there to begin with.

AFSP wants people to feel more confident in having a #RealConvo about mental health in general, and suicide when it comes up. Their #TalkAwayTheDark campaign page features a new short film highlighting some of the warning signs for suicide, #RealConvo Guides, and other tools, resources, and creative ways to help us overcome our fears of speaking up.

The #RealConvo Guides, which cover topics including general mental health conversations, how to reach out for help, how to respond if someone tells you they’re thinking about suicide, and how to sensitively talk to a survivor of suicide loss, contain an easy-to-follow step by step process, from opening lines to follow up. They include conversation starters such as, “What is one thing you are looking forward to?’ and ‘Who is one person who makes you feel seen?’ The guides offer ways to share your own experiences, how to follow the other person’s lead, when to take a break, and how to help them connect to professional support.

Suicide prevention begins with talking. Be open to discussions of mental health. Be watchful and be ready to speak up.

Learn more with #TalkAwayTheDark.

Always remember, if you, a friend or a loved one is in crisis, call or text 988, or text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7. If you’ve lost someone to suicide, support is available.

Lzzy Hale: How I Wrote That Song

Lzzy Hale: How I Wrote That Song

Lzzy Hale has been writing and performing with her band Halestorm for over half of her life. Over the past two decades, she’s released gold and platinum-selling albums with plenty of chart-toppers at rock radio, all while shattering the status quo with her powerhouse vocals and bold lyrics.

In this installment of How I Wrote That Song, WMMR’s Sara asks Lzzy about her biggest hits, going back to when Halestorm came out swinging in 2009 with the single “I Get Off.” Despite the saucy title, the song’s first draft was actually about how the band won over a few hardened record executives in the audience at a live showcase. When Lzzy developed the lyrics further with a writing collective called The Girls, she explains: “I was telling them this story [about the show] and one of them – and this is why I love writing with women, because our sense of humor is the same – was like, ‘Oh, so you got off on them enjoying what you do’… and we took over this piano, in the lobby of this hotel, and were singing ‘I get off on you, getting off on me,’ just totally annoying everybody around us.”

She adds with a laugh, “It originally didn’t start from sex, but it definitely grew its own legs!”

Sara and Lzzy also discuss the Grammy-nominated song “Uncomfortable” and a new track called “Terrible Things.” Along the way, they touch on her unexpected radio hit with Daughtry this year, swapping gender perspectives in song lyrics, and how activism plays a role in her writing process.

Note: This interview was originally recorded in March 2023.

The Effects of Chronic Illness and Medical Trauma on Child, Adolescent, + Teen Mental Health

The Effects of Chronic Illness and Medical Trauma on Child, Adolescent, + Teen Mental Health

When you hear the terms “chronic illness” and “medical trauma,” what comes to mind? Chronic illness may be defined as a chronic physiological condition that affects a person’s physical abilities that may require extended medical treatments. Medical trauma results from continued or extended medical treatments that may be painful or invasive in their goal towards overall better health.

With chronic illness and medical trauma, the average person may assume that this only affects adults, but it also affects our children, adolescents, and teens. They too, are dealing with medical trauma because of their chronic illness. And that can lead to a decrease in their overall mental well-being.

What it may look like in children, adolescents, and teens

In children, adolescents, and teens with chronic illnesses, you may see difficulties with their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional interactions, which can take a toll on their siblings as well as their parent’s relationships. Due to the high levels of stress equated with chronic illness and medical trauma they may present anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders. Furthermore, there may be signs of decreased energy, difficulty sleeping, difficulty focusing, changes in appetite as well as other physiological discomforts like aches, pains, headaches, and cramps. With their difficulties Adjusting to continued physical pains as well as invasive treatments, parents, siblings, and extended family members who may not be aware of ways that they are able to help in this process. Here are a few ways that family members may help during and after the hospital or medical facility visit.

Ways parents can help at the hospital or medical facility

  • Be patient with your child.
  • Help your child understand what is happening
  • Talk about your feelings together.
  • Help your child see the hospital staff or medical staff as helpers.
  • Young children are often more affected by being left alone.
  • Take care of yourself

Ways parents can help at home.

  • Go back to everyday routines.
  • Be patient and give everyone time to readjust.
  • Set normal time limits.
  • Allow your children to talk about feelings and worries if they want to
  • Encourage your child to spend time with friends.
  • Help your child to do some things on his or her own.
  • Take time to deal with your feelings.
  • Follow up with your doctor.

If you, your child, adolescent, teen, or someone you know is experiencing a decrease in their mental health due to chronic illness and medical trauma, please contact The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, click Trauma Types, and scroll down and you will see Medical Trauma. For medical trauma resources, click the NCTSN resources.

Coping Strategies For Families

Coping Strategies For Families

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Healthy coping and self-soothing strategies are often effective tools that help us manage the effects of stress and intense emotions. These strategies have also been shown to help moderate the relationship between stress and the development of more severe health problems, such as depressive symptoms and physical health concerns. Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.

What is coping?

Coping commonly refers to an individual’s effort to regulate emotions, cognitions, physiology, behavior and situations in reaction to stressful events or challenging circumstances. In other words, coping is anything that one does in an attempt to manage stress. During stressful situations, coping skills can help to diffuse or “turn down the volume” of intense emotion, allowing for increased control over an individual’s response to the situation.

10 Coping Skills For Families:

  1. Connect

Pro Tip: Connection with younger children happens less through direct conversation and more through play and shared activity, so be aware of when and how your child usually opens up

  1. Move

Pro tip: Ask your child if they’d like to choose an activity to ‘move our bodies or if they’d like you to. This way, you can offer them some control if necessary or not if they’re overwhelmed.

  1. Slow down

Pro Tip: Simply allow an open and unscheduled chunk of time for your child to navigate. Pretty easy right?

  1. Play

Pro-tip: Push through your adult discomforts and don’t be afraid to get silly with your child! Allow them to direct the play and meet their needs for control and predictability.

  1. Journal

Pro-tip: Use these engaging emotions flashcards for kids (fresh off the press!) to prompt them in writing how they feel and why.

  1. Create

Pro-tip: Prepare an inviting surface (this might mean putting down a tablecloth, tray, etc) for your child, and set out a few different art tools for them to choose from.

  1. Music 

Pro tip: Spotify has tons of great playlists for relaxation or check out Nancy’s great collection of music for kids.

  1. Nourish

Pro tip: Make a healthy recipe with your child and reap the benefits of a better mood, fun, and connection.

  1. Meditation

Pro tip: Check out the best tools for mindfulness with kids that promote calm and focus

  1. Problem Solve

Pro Tip: Use these goal setting resources for kids to make it super simple for you and your child.

  1. Go Outdoors

Pro-tip: Bring an ‘indoor activity’ outside! Simply grab your lunch, some books or a board game and do them outside instead.

Mental Health Resources for Families:

American Academy of Pediatrics-Mental Health Resources for Families (aap.org)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)- Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA

Child Mind Institute-How to Model Healthy Coping Skills – Child Mind Institute

NAMI-Mental Health Education | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness