The Child Mind BlogBrainstorm

  • Demi Lovato Does It Again
    March 20, 2015 Caroline Miller

    In the past we've admired the way Demi Lovato has talked openly about her struggles with addiction, bulimia, and cutting. When the singer and former Disney star went into treatment in 2010, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she went public about that, too. This week she celebrated 3 years of sobriety and did it in a spectacular way—with a benefit concert in Los Angeles for her scholarship fund to help people get care for mental illness.

    Demi Lovato

    Lovato has courage to match her big voice and killer smile, and the support she extends to other young women who are struggling is priceless.

    And there's more: To celebrate her 3-year milestone, Lovato and her boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama exchanged romantic Instagram posts. Hers read:

    I wish I could put into words how grateful I am for this man right here. But my love has grown to a level that words could never possibly express how much this man completes me. He's loved me the way I never thought I deserved to be loved and with this day marking my 3rd year sober. After sharing my ups, putting up with my downs and supporting my recovery... he still never takes credit and I want the world to know how incredible his soul is. I really wouldn't be alive today without him. I love you Wilmer.

    Lovato is only 22 years old, but she already understands that no one survives these challenges alone. She's needed help—everyone needs help—and the empathy and support she's gotten has been critical in her recovery. Maybe that's why she's been so generous about extending a hand to other people who are struggling. 

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  • Depression in Comics
    March 17, 2015 Beth Arky

    There is nothing funny about depression, but comics are a uniquely effective way to communicate what depression feels like. Proof can be found in this BuzzFeed post featuring 21 comics that capture the frustration and real pain the disorder brings to adults, children, and teens.

    While the majority of the cartoons cover depression in a general sense—the way it's poo-poo'd as if it weren't a "real" disease, the loss of interest in things one once enjoyed, the struggle to just get out of bed, let alone function—a couple focus directly on what it's like to be depressed as a young person.

    One comic, about the difficulties of trying to share your feelings with family by Moose Kleenex, shows a teen trying to open up by saying, "I'm feeling depressed lately..." to which her mom responds, "Oh don't be silly. You have everything in the world going for you," effectively shutting down her child. A week later, the picture is entirely different. As the kid stares out the car window, listless and disengaged, the now worried-looking parent asks, "How come you don't tell me anything?"

    In another, about the struggles of being a student dealing with depression by Paralanalysis, the character says, "I found it so very stressful when depression made it difficult to go to school.... The experience was quite jarring for me, because I had always been a bit of a teacher's pet. But I fear there are thousands who felt a little like I did. Who don't turn in essays...not because they want to misbehave...but because it is taking all of their strength not to run and cry."

    These eloquent cartoons speak volumes as to the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with kids about their feelings—and taking these feelings seriously.   

    Read more about how to help depressed teenagers here.  

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  • Stop Worrying About Those College Rejection Letters
    March 16, 2015 Caroline Miller

    New York Times columnist Frank Bruni has written a terrific piece on the experience millions of high school seniors are about to have in the next few weeks: being rejected by their first choice colleges. And sometimes their second, third, and fourth.

    It's a particularly good column because Bruni nails how brutal the experience can feel to these kids, and yet how being forced to depart from the script they had imagined for the next chapter of their lives can actually help them thrive.

    For one thing, being in a somewhat less competitive and entitled atmosphere can enable them to develop more confidence and enterprise. There can be an advantage to being around kids not, to use his rather delicate phrase, "as showily gifted." 

    For another thing, the experience of rejection itself can turn out to be surprisingly liberating. He quotes one student who said she felt "worthless" after her top five schools turned her down. But she discovered that rejection, like a lot of pain, was fleeting. And once she found her footing at her fallback school, she had lost the fear of rejection that holds so many of us back.

    "As a result, she told Bruni, "I applied for things fearlessly." This young woman went on to be accepted into Teach for America and recently launched a new charter school. "I never would have had the strength, drive or fearlessness to take such a risk if I hadn't been rejected so intensely before," she said. "There's a beauty to that kind of rejection, because it allows you to find the strength within."

    Bruni argues that rejection can help kids develop grit—that quality of perseverance and resourcefulness that has been linked to success in life, not just in school. But he's also arguing that that it's a fallacy that elite schools are the fast track (or the only track) to a rewarding and successful life. It may come from our worship of brands, or our tendency to measure our own worth by our kids' achievements. But it does our kids a disservice to make them think their lives hinge on this particular lottery.

    Bruni urges parents to let kids know, before the rejections and acceptances roll in, that they won't be a measure of their worth or their future potential. 

    Read more about how to help kids deal with rejection

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  • #TheDress and Autism
    Feb. 27, 2015 Rachel Ehmke

    The thing everyone and their mother was talking about on Thursday (besides the escaped llamas) was the dress. You know the one. At first I thought it was whitish/goldish, but then I decided it was probably blueish/blackish after all. I hear Taylor Swift and Kanye agree. Wired has posted a scientific explanation of the controversy, which has to do with how we interpret light and color. They also give what they say is a definitive answer.

    The cool thing about the dress, and what made it the enigmatic Mona Lisa of the week, wasn't the dress itself but how we each interpreted it. It was a very effective reminder that we all can be stumped by our senses at times, and we are all capable of experiencing the same things very differently. Which is nothing new to those who think a lot about sensory processing and autism.

    Emily Willingham, a science writer we admire, thought the controversy was pretty familiar. She posted to Twitter:

    Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, agreed. Ne'eman said Dressgate is "a really good way of acknowledging that people see things differently, perceive things differently, and one way is not necessarily superior to the other." Which is an unexpected—and welcome—revelation to come out of the latest internet craze. 

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  • New York's First Lady Gets Real About Mental Health
    Feb. 27, 2015 Caroline Miller

    Chirlane McCray is one of the things New Yorkers liked about Bill DeBlasio when they elected him mayor of New York City in 2013. The family made such an unforgettable picture—the very tall white guy with the very short black wife and two quite colorful children. Bill and Chirlane seemed like real people who were comfortable being different and letting their kids be different.

    Of course Bill and Chirlane also had a record of being fierce and fearless advocates. And we're thrilled that Chirlane has decided to use her role as New York's first lady to focus on mental health. She's speaking out about, and collecting data about, the disturbing number of New Yorkers who don't have access to good mental health care. And she's being real about it: She published a piece today in the New York Daily News in which she writes about her struggles to find the right care for their daughter Chiara, who has struggled with anxiety, depression, and addiction.

    Like so many parents we hear from, she found it daunting to understand what Chiara needed and to respond effectively. "Our child was in terrible pain, but because it originated in her brain and not another part of her body, there wasn't an established series of steps to follow."

    The DeBlasio family is lucky, she notes, because they had the resources to get good treatment for Chiara, who she reports is doing well in recovery. But she hasn't forgotten what it was like:

    Even after our crisis ended, I couldn't forget how scared and helpless I felt during those first frantic weeks. So I continued my research, wanting to understand how other people manage in these situations, especially those who don't have the same advantages as us.

    Read the rest of her piece to see what she learned, and what she plans to do to help New York City develop a more inclusive system—one that acknowledges the very real obstacles that prevent people from getting care. As she puts it, "When I say a 'more inclusive' system, I mean one that meets—and treats —people where they live."

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  • Metta World Peace Coaches a Girls’ High School Basketball Team
    Feb. 26, 2015 Rachel Ehmke

    Metta World Peace, the NBA All-Star and member of the 2010 Lakers team that won the championship, is now an assistant basketball coach for Palisades Charter High School. He's been working with the girls' team since June, but Torino Johnson, the head coach, says they've been talking about him joining the staff ever since World Peace's daughter Sadie was playing for the team four years ago.  He has started helping out on his son's team as well.

    It would be an amazing opportunity for anyone to be coached by the NBA star, but the fact that he's taking his expertise to high school kids, and not only to high school kids but to high school girls, is pretty phenomenal. Women's athletics don't get a lot of respect, so knowing that an NBA champion takes girls' basketball seriously enough to sign on to coach must be a heady confidence boost for the players.

    When a reporter from TMZ Sports recently asked World Peace what it's like coaching a girls' high school basketball team, he replied, "They do a great job and they're smart—smarter than the boys." He was also very modest when the reporter pointed out it must be surreal for the girls to be coached by the former Lakers star. "Everybody had a coach," World Peace said. "Everybody needs some type of coach on their way to pro or college. And I played for professional basketball players who coached. You know, Phil Jackson was a basketball player and he coached us, and that was nice."

    There was a time when few people would have called World Peace a good role model. Back when the Queensbridge projects native went by Ron Artest, he made headlines for his anger issues, like the infamous 2004 "Malice at the Palace" brawl between players and fans. But he started going to counseling and changed his name to the Buddhist-inspired Metta World Peace, and since then he's been an outspoken advocate for mental health care. He thanked his psychiatrist after winning the 2010 NBA championship and even auctioned off his championship ring to raise money for mental health. He was already a favorite of ours, but hearing about his new coaching gig makes him even more of a hero.

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  • Teen Suicide and the Oscars
    Feb. 23, 2015 Caroline Miller

    There were a couple of electrifying moments at the generally snoozy Academy Awards ceremony last night, and one of them was when screenwriter Graham Moore, who won for The Imitation Game, used his Oscar moment to acknowledge that he tried to kill himself when he was 16. He did it, he said, "because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like did not belong. And now I'm standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for that kid who's out there who feels weird or feels different or feels she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do."

    Moore's excellent shout-out to teenagers who have suicidal thoughts deserved the standing ovation it got. And it was especially welcome because just two days ago another teenager who was creative and clever and different also tried to kill himself—but Draven Rodriguez, unfortunately, succeeded.  

    Graham Moore, Oscars 2015

    Rodriguez was a smart, funny 17-year-old from Schenectady, New York, who had become something of an Internet sensation when he submitted a kitchy image of himself and his cat, against a background of colored lasers, for his high school yearbook picture. The picture was rejected—rules must be followed!—but his principal posed with Draven, his cat, and her Chihuahua for a separate page with a message about the importance of adopting pets from rescue organizations. And the original picture went viral.

    Draven's parents haven't shared any more information about what might have been behind his suicide, but they noted his independent streak. At 9, he was allowed to have his hair dyed green, as long as he brought home good grades. His interests included guitar, computers, gaming, running, rowing, and grammar—including correcting his teachers, the Times-Union reports. We don't know if he struggled with depression or anxiety, but he was certainly different.

    Moore, a successful novelist as well as a sought-after screenwriter, acknowledged to Dateline Hollywood backstage at the Oscars that he had been depressed as a teenager, and has continued to struggle with depression since then.

    We couldn't admire more his decision to use his Oscar win to extend a hand to other struggling teenagers. He said backstage that it had been hard, but he thought, "I'm a writer, when am I ever going to be on television? I might as well use it to say something useful."

    Teenage suicides are so often an utter surprise to the people who love them that helping kids who are struggling to be more open about their pain can be a life-saver.

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  • A Salute to the Academy for Recognizing Mental Health in Film
    Feb. 20, 2015 Harold Koplewicz

    This year, Hollywood made major strides in recognizing the importance of mental health through the accurate portrayal of psychiatric disorders in film. Reese Witherspoon gave a riveting performance in Wild as a woman healing from the trauma of losing her mother by walking the Pacific Coast Trail and reconnecting with herself. Whiplash showed the stress that's an inevitable part of striving to be the best, and the strong impact teachers can have on their students—for better or worse. In The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed genius code breaker Alan Turing in a way that showed just how isolating genius can be. Meanwhile, The Theory of Everything showed not only how ALS has affected Stephen Hawking, but also the emotional burden on his wife and family. For many, movies are the first vehicle through which they see and begin to understand mental health issues, which is why it is so important that these films reflect reality.

    Rachel Ehmke
    Fox Searchlight

    More than 15 million American children live with a psychiatric or learning disorder. That's more than the number of children affected by leukemia, diabetes and AIDS combined. Yet historically, Hollywood has rarely told these stories, and when it has, they have often been painted as terrifying or laughable. Thankfully, this is changing.

    I am thrilled to see Hollywood creating more and more films over the last five years that accurately portray different types of mental illness and hardship. From Silver Linings Playbook to The King's Speech, these films are making a real difference in how the public views and comprehends mental health.

    Mental health is often misunderstood, but it doesn't have to be. Accurate portrayals of mental illnesses like autism or bipolar disorder in the media help the general public better understand the reality behind these diseases. One in five children copes with a psychiatric or learning disorder. Yet parents who notice signs of psychiatric or learning disorders in their children wait, on average, two years to get help for them. There are various reasons for this—parents are scared, they hope their son or daughter will outgrow it, or they think their child is just a late developer. But a major reason people hesitate to get help is because of the stigma attached to mental illness. The fact is, mental illness is real, common and treatable. That's where films like this year's Oscar nominees come in.  

    These films can change people's minds about mental health and learning disabilities. Though we still have a long way to go when it comes to ending stigma and raising awareness, these films provide a good start. My hope is that as more and more of these stories are told through notable and award-winning movies, parents will feel more comfortable talking to other parents, educators, or health professionals about their children's mental health issues.

    It is vital that people be open and knowledgeable about mental health, and much of this begins with what we see in film, television, and the media around us.

    I applaud the Academy for drawing attention to these important issues, and I look forward to seeing many more films that accurately portray the difficulties, triumphs, and overall journeys associated with mental health. 

    Originally published at the Hollywood Reporter

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  • Kate Middleton Speaks Up on Kids' Mental Health
    Feb. 16, 2015 Caroline Miller

    We like our princesses with mettle, and Kate Middleton showed hers today by sticking up for kids who are struggling with mental health issues. We couldn't have said it better: "The stigma around mental health means that many children do not get the help that they so badly need," she said in a video PSA for the first Children's Mental Health Week in the UK. "This needs to change."

    The week is the work of a British group called Place2Be, a non-profit that provides school-based mental health support for kids. The group acknowledges that it can be hard for parents to ask for help for their kids, and that talking more openly about mental health opens the door to getting more kids help. As the Duchess of Cambridge puts it:

    We need to help young people and their parents understand that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. A child's mental health is just as important as their physical health, and deserves the same quality of support. No one would feel embarrassed about seeking help for a child if they broke their arm, and we really should be equally ready to support a child coping with emotional difficulties.

    The Duchess, who is pregnant with her second child, spoke about the importance of early intervention to prevent kids from developing more resistant problems when they are older, including anxiety, depression, addiction and self-harm. "Both William and I sincerely believe that early action can prevent problems in childhood from turning into larger ones later in life."

    We're delighted that the Dutchess has chosen this focus for her charity efforts.  A spokesman for Kensington Palace calls her "a committed champion of issues related to children's mental health and emotional wellbeing." And she has a winning can-do attitude. As she says firmly in closing the PSA:

    Together, with open conversations and greater understanding, we can insure that attitudes towards mental health change and children receive the support they deserve.

    Watch the PSA here:

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  • Alex and Ani Launches Little Brown Bear Charm to Benefit the Child Mind Institute
    Feb. 4, 2015 Alex and Ani

    Partnership Celebrated at CHARITY BY DESIGN Event in New York City

    NEW YORK, N.Y. - February 4, 2015 - The Child Mind Institute and CHARITY BY DESIGN are excited to announce the launch of the Little Brown Bear charm, which will be available for the first time through ALEX AND ANI and directly benefits the Child Mind Institute, the only independent nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to transforming mental health care for children.

    "We are thrilled to be partnering with ALEX AND ANI and CHARITY BY DESIGN," said Child Mind Institute President and Founder Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. "The money we raise through this generous partnership will help us change the trajectory for so many struggling kids."

    20% of bangle sales will go to the Child Mind Institute. The charm, with its teddy bear image, is meant to be a reminder of the carefree days of childhood.

    The bangle was introduced at an event on February 4th at ALEX AND ANI SoHo. 15% of all sales and 20% of all Little Brown Bear Bangle sales at the event went directly to the Child Mind Institute. Chris Mack, philanthropist and Child Mind Institute board member, hosted the event, which featured candy bars provided by Handsome Dan's and (+) Energy Punch.

    "It is truly an honor to partner with the Child Mind Institute through the exciting new Little Brown Bear launch within our CHARITY BY DESIGN collection," said Nicki Maher, Vice President of ALEX AND ANI | CHARITY BY DESIGN. "We share their dedication and commitment in transforming mental health care for children everywhere as it is extremely needed in communities nationwide.  We hope this new collaboration will not only empower those who learn about it, but also act as a reminder that they too can make a difference."

    CHARITY BY DESIGN is a unique division of ALEX AND ANI focused solely upon giving. Since its inception, the company has been able to give back over $18 million to partner charities and various other nonprofit organizations. ALEX AND ANI is currently partnered with 45 nonprofits.

    The Little Brown Bear charm was first unveiled and exclusively sold nationwide this past September through retail partner Bloomingdale's to commemorate a new philanthropic partnership with the brand.  It also represents and is inspired by Bloomingdale's continued support for the Child Mind Institute through the annual plush favorite, the Little Brown Bear by designer Gund®. 
Since the exclusive 2014 launch through Bloomingdale's, the bangle has raised over $28,000 for the Child Mind Institute

    About the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org) The Child Mind Institute is the only independent nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to transforming mental health care for children everywhere. Founded by Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz and Brooke Garber Neidich, our organization is committed to finding more effective treatments for childhood psychiatric and learning disorders, building the science of healthy brain development, and empowering children and their families with help, hope, and answers. The Child Mind Institute does not accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

    About ALEX AND ANI

    ALEX AND ANI creates meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry and accessories to empower the light in you. Each piece is designed by Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder, Creative Director and CEO. Carolyn believes that every individual has a positive message to share with the world, and by incorporating powerful symbolism into each product, ALEX AND ANI provides a vehicle for consumers to express their individuality. ALEX AND ANI is committed to giving back to the world that we live in. By using recycled materials with eco-conscious processes and through our CHARITY BY DESIGN division, ALEX AND ANI positively impacts our planet and our communities. CHARITY BY DESIGN has strengthened non-profit organizations through innovative partnerships and collaborative experiences resulting in donations of over $18 million. An Inc. 500 Company, ALEX AND ANI has retail stores in addition to retail partners worldwide. Its World Headquarters is located in the Greater Providence, Rhode Island area, where its products are designed and assembled with love. Please visit alexandani.com for more information.

    Press Contacts:

    Child Mind Institute

    Alison McSherry, 646-625-4341

    Alison.mcsherry@childmind.org

    ALEX AND ANI

    Lauren Bettencourt, 401-633-1486

    lbettencourt@alexandani.com

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