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Suicide - Is This Generation More Depressed or More Aware of Suicide? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 07, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing examine why the rate of teen suicide is continuing to climb even though we know more about teen suicide than ever - click here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

Psychologists know more about suicide than ever, but the rate of teen suicide has climbed steadily over the generations and is now the third leading causing of death for Americans from 15 to 24 years of age. So, why does the rate of teen suicide continue to grow even though Americans are taking more action than ever to stop suicides?

Epidemic Depression:

Part of the answer is that teen depression and anxiety are reaching epidemic levels. Research has found that teen depression has increased tenfold over the last century and it strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. That means that this generation is ten times more likely to reach clinical levels of depression, and they will likely become depressed when they are still children. In addition once depression and anxiety have set up shop in your child’s mind, they are more likely to return in the future. Severe depression reoccurs about 50% of the time.

Swept Under The Rug:

Even though suicide attempts indicate very serious mental health issues, very few suicidal teens actually receive professional treatment. According to research, 60-80% of American teens who attempt suicide do not seek out professional treatment until after the second suicide attempt. Their friends and family downplay the suicide attempt and try to make it a temporary anomaly. Hopefully, they don’t wait until it’s too late.

Deadly Differences:

Eighty-four percent of completed suicides, or attempts that end in death, are committed by boys. Girls are much more likely to attempt suicide, but boys tend to use much more violent and lethal means in their attempts. They may use a gun, intentionally wreck their car, or even jump off of buildings. Girls tend to use much less violent methods such as poison or overdosing.

If you are worried about your teen, here are some suicide warning signs to watch out for:

  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of peers or acquaintances
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • Increased rate of angry outbursts
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Low appetite
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • History of previous suicide attempts

Clinical depression and suicide are very serious issues. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by By Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov

Suicide - The Rising Rate of Teen Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the rising rate of teen suicides, why American teens need more help than ever, and some of the warning signs of teen suicide - click here.

According to the CDC, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

The American Psychological Association reports that teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for people who are 15 to 24 years old. So why would a teenager with every thing to look forward to in life choose a permanent solution such as suicide?

Most teen suicides begin with a perfect storm of upsetting events, like getting dumped by a significant other or losing a family member, that leads to overwhelming depression. If they lose hope and think that their life will never change for the better, they may begin to think about committing suicide. At a basic level, these adolescents lack the necessary coping skills to think accurately about temporary setbacks and how to overcome adversity.

There are several factors that can lead to teen suicide:

No Hope For The Future:

Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the best predictor for a suicide attempt. Hopelessness is the most common emotion in those who attempt to end their lives.

Escaping Unsolvable Problems:

The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex. In most cases, they are trying to escape depression and loss, debilitating anxiety, or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the greater the likelihood that their suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

Hidden Mental Illness:

Mental illness, such as clinical depression or general anxiety disorder, is the top risk factor in suicide and accounts for 90% of all suicides. Clinical depression is the most common disorder linked to suicide. Children and adolescents are particularly skilled at hiding their mental health challenges since they do not know how to fully describe their thoughts and feelings. Since they are confused about what is going on inside of their minds, they don’t know when they need to ask for professional help.

Masking Their Pain:

Adolescents will not always articulate their pain because they often don’t understand the serious nature of their feelings. In fact, they may even present a happy façade. Psychologists describe this condition as a “smiling depressive” since they are hiding their clinically depressed thoughts behind a mask.

A lack of emotional coping skills combined with overwhelming situational stress can drive children and teens toward suicide. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov

The Higher Risk of Suicide In The Baby Boomer Generation - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on KTXD 47 discuss the recent teen suicides in Rockwall, TX and why suicide is more common in the Baby Boomer generation - click here.

Violence Prediction and Narcissistic Decline - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how certain perceptions of the world can push vulnerable minds to violence - click here.

The Internet is filled with theories about the recent Boston Marathon bombings.

Doctors, journalists, and bloggers are focusing on the psychology of terrorism or the role of siblings in violence. However, perpetrators of such violent crimes often come with unique warning signs. If we know what to look for, it may be possible to prevent future tragedies. Here are some of the reasons that someone you know may be prone to violence:

Inflated Self-Image

Many perpetrators have grandiose opinions of themselves. They expect the world to recognize how special they are and reward their talents and abilities at all times. They are shocked when they do not receive the acclaim that they expect and they struggle to understand the reasons for it.

“Me Against The World”

The trouble begins when the world regularly frustrates and deprives them of the recognition they feel entitled to receive. Due to their exceptionally high opinions of themselves, the perpetrator develops elaborate explanations and conspiracies for these setbacks. They find somewhere to place the blame for their negative feelings and they may begin to plan their revenge.

Losing Their Grip On Reality

Once their negative feelings reach a tipping point, their thinking may become actively delusional as they slip deeper into disappointment. They become convinced that they have been robbed of the rewards they justly deserve. They find evidence all around them of a person or force determined to suppress their greatness.

Breaking Point

This type of thinking can often provoke a more anti-social perspective that starts to incorporate desires for revenge and payback. Each mind has its own threshold for violence, but their thinking may begin to fragment and allow irrational thoughts and justifications for violence.

If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist to help you understand the signs of violence and what you can do to help.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. John Exner

Handling Freshman Stress - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dr. Sylvia Gearing on Texas Living discussing how to handle college freshman - click here.

Courageous TV Anchor Responds To Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discusses the courageous response from a TV anchor to her bully - click here.

Why would someone write an email like this?

This is a classic example of workplace bullying. This man was shaming, disrespectful, and embarrassing to this woman. His comments emphasized the imbalance of power—he could reprimand her from a distance without direct response. I doubt if he ever dreamed that she would respond live on the air.

This is the pattern that we see in online bullying. Bullies feel like there are no consequences. I can slam you and lie about you without any consequence for me. In a fair fight, the victim gets a chance to respond, but this man chose to humiliate her anonymously over nothing except his own prejudice.

What about her response?

It was a masterful, eloquent statement that directly discredited his attack. She pointed out what all women know—we come in all shapes and sizes and they are not only acceptable but beautiful. She did the right thing by speaking up since silence perpetuates injustice. Injustice then builds helplessness, and this anchor was by no means helpless. She used the very tools of her own professional success—her verbal agility, on air presence and organizational skills—to make this man look ridiculous. A great lesson for children in America.

Why was she targeted?

We live in an epidemic of eating disorders. Around 40% of college aged women engage in some sort of eating disorder behavior. Being thin is sadly linked with being powerful or attractive, and this myth has gathered momentum over the decades. Appearance is still too defining of our worth as women. But change starts with us. Women need to refuse to buy into silly prescriptions of who we are and how we should look.

Is this kind of bullying increasing or are we just more aware of this kind of harassment?

I think both statements are true—bullying is increasing AND we are more aware. With the infiltration of technology and social media into our lives, we all go online to express our opinions and to share with the community. However, such access to others can turn ugly, as we see in this case. A shot at another person, especially a woman with notoriety and power, is easier to do than ever.

Remember that bullying flourishes in an environment of anonymity. This man hoped that she would internalize what he said and feel badly about herself. He tried to offload his own prejudices onto her and she refused to take it. Good for her and good for all of us!

A generation ago, we lived in a society that was more accountable. There was a community that reinforced that accountability. Now with the Internet, you can be savage without your community really knowing how poorly you behaved.

What can women do to support her?

Please support women who choose to stand up and speak out about this kind of prejudice. Refuse to be a victim of others who tell you how you should look. Remember that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman who knows who she is and refuses to be silent about her gifts.

SOURCES:

www.APA.org

The Back To School Bullying Epidemic - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss Back To School Bullying and what you can do about it - click here.

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in some sort of bullying as either the bully, the victim, or a bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can turn deadly with 2/3 of school shooters reporting that they were being chronically bullied at school.

What are the specific characteristics of bullying?

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying peaks in middle school. Seventh grade is the worst year.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

Popular Kids Often Bully: Kids use the bullying of others to gain status and to exhibit their intimidation skills.

Here's why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who tend to intimidate others rear kids who do the same. Bulling others becomes a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, entitlement, the intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They simply lack a conscience. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

But what about the recent surge of online bullying?

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person by emphasizing the imbalance of power. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

We all know that bullying can have life long traumatic effects on a victim, but research shows that bullies and bystanders are also deeply effected by the act of bullying:

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Here's what you can do to help your child with bullying at school:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

"Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups," Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003. Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S. (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D., Napolitano, S. "Bullying: Prevention and Intervention," 2009

Drug Bust At Texas Christian University - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How big a problem are drugs on college campuses?

Drug addiction in general is increasing exponentially. Over a ten-year period, the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs increased seven times faster than the increase in the U.S. population.

Getting High on Campus: Forty nine percent (just under 4 million) of full time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs on campus.

Dependency: Just fewer than 2 million students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence—2.5 times the 8% of the general population.

Invisible Epidemic: We have been in denial about the severity of this problem. Alcoholism has received the most media attention in the past but those rates have not risen. However, prescription drug abuse has become the most underreported drug abuse problem in the nation. Unfortunately, it is now an epidemic.

Why is prescription drug abuse growing at such alarming rates?

Access to Drugs: We have more effective drugs that are more vigorously marketed to the public ($60 billion annually spent on marketing by pharmaceutical companies). Approximately three billion prescriptions are written annually, and we are all encouraged to take pills to make things better.

Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs: We have grown more casual in self-medicating. We also borrow prescriptions from friends and families. One study found that fifty-six percent of pain relief abusers acquired the medicine from a friend or relative for free (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007). An estimated 48 million people have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetimes (National Institute of Drug Abuse) – that’s almost 20% of the U.S. population!

What are the signs that a college student may be abusing drugs?

Remember that addictions are progressive—what you see today started months ago. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • A change in your child's friends
  • Long unexplained periods away from home
  • Lying and Stealing
  • Deteriorating family relationships
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Obvious intoxication such as slurred speech
  • Decreased school performance
  • Relaxed and/or a euphoric state

What are the effects on a college student’s future?

We know that young adults are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. The brain in early adulthood is still expanding and refining itself and is not fully mature until age 26. When you introduce drugs or alcohol into a developing brain, lifelong addictions can get a foothold. The dependence on the drug replaces the cultivation of sturdier, more resilient ways of approaching problems in life. Emotional intensity that compels them to escape into a “high” is the solution.

What would you recommend for parents who are concerned about their college age child?

Discuss the Problem: Challenges such as alcohol and drug abuse must be part of the family conversation. Kids who learn about substance abuse from their parents have much lower usage rates than those whose parents never offer to talk about it.

Parents are the Keys to Prevention: Live the lesson you are teaching your child. Do not drink and drive, smoke marijuana or misuse your own prescription drugs and then wonder why your child is confused. Practice what you preach without exception.

High Expectations: Today’s parents are often afraid of expecting the best from their kids. They worry about overtaxing their child with expectations and demands. But on the basics of responsible living--like don’t use drugs-- you have a responsibility to be clear, absolute and emphatic. Step up and make your son or daughter understand the rules.

Source:

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

Do You Have A Bad First Name? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 20, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on YouTube explain what to do if your first name is holding you back in life - click here.

A recent study in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science found that your first name could have unintended ill effects on your future life! The effects were felt in everything from job searches to the dating scene!

With findings like that, many people are wondering how to change or downplay their names. I have seen three trends that work:

Abbreviate: Abbreviate your name and make it more common and traditional in social settings. For example, you can use your initials or part of the name as a handle.

Adopt Your Last Name: Use your last name as your nickname or use a similar name such as substituting Jack for John. People who have pleasant last names can shorten it and add a “y” to the end – names like “Sully” and “Scotty.”

Give Up on Your Name Entirely: The final option is to change your name completely -- sometimes people despise their name so much that they lose the name. They legally change the name to one that reflects who they are now. If a dramatic name change is done in adulthood, it can be unsettling for the parents. However, putting up with a name you can’t stand is unfair in the long run.

Sources:

Parent Magazine

“Generation Me” by Jean Twenge

“Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner