Youth peer support now part of the service array in Michigan - Young voices lead the way

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Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Krissy Dristy

"Loneliness is the most terrible poverty" – Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

I believe that Mother Theresa had it right when she shared this poignant and meaningful insight with the world. This quote has held great significance and meaning to me throughout my life. Artfully displayed in a painting by the entryway of my parents’ home, I read the words daily on my way out the door each morning. There was something powerful about Mother Theresa's reminder of the pervasive effect that loneliness has on the human condition. It blew my mind to think that with so many people in the world, we can still feel alone on our paths in life.

As a youth dealing with anxiety and depression, I was no stranger to loneliness. When explaining this part of my story to others today, I have often been met with a look of shock and disbelief. It is true that I had a supportive family, awesome friends and positive school and work experiences. In fact, for the most part, life seemed pretty great. Underneath it all, I often felt isolated in my mind.  Depression can be a dark place, and while I was holding it together on the outside, the pain I felt inside was gripping. Of course, I had my friends and family to support me, but they didn’t understand how it felt to be in my shoes. I just wanted to talk to someone who had been down this path before and had come out on the other side. Someone who understood how hard it could be; someone who wouldn’t judge or look down on me. What I was longing for was Youth Peer Support.

I did not know it at the time, but peer support for youth and families was on the rise in my home state. The partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Association for Children’s Mental Health (ACMH) had supported Parent Support Partner (PSP) since 2010. With the Department and statewide family organization working together, a successful training model was created for PSP, and parents and caregivers could access PSP through Medicaid. This was a great triumph for families who, through the public health system were now able to receive support from parents who could directly identify with their challenges. Parents no longer had to feel quite as lonely in the hardships that can come with raising children with SED (severe emotional disturbances).

With Parent Support Partner creating positive outcomes for families, the need to extend peer support to youth with SED was clear. In 2014, DHHS and ACMH worked with a national consultant to collect stakeholder input and began creating a curriculum for State Plan Medicaid Youth Peer Support. By the summer of 2015, ACMH hired for the positions of Statewide Youth Peer Support Coordinator and Lead Trainer. This past November, the first cohort of Youth Peer Support Specialists went through the state approved YPS training. With the hard work and invaluable contributions of many, we are beyond pleased to announce that Youth Peer Support is now officially a part of the service array in the Pre-Paid Inpatient Health Plan/Community Mental Health Service Provider system for youth and families in Michigan.

Youth Peer Support Specialists (YPSSs) are young people between the ages of 18-26 with lived experience who have received mental health services as a youth. YPSSs serve as an integral member of the treatment team and use their voice of experience to help create positive outcomes for youth. They are young adults who have “been there” and used their challenges to build resiliency, and are now leading their own paths to a life of recovery. By connecting with YPSSs, youth peers are less likely to experience stigma and isolation and more likely to feel engaged in services and experience hope for the future. When youth experience positive outcomes from YPS, families, caregivers and the system as a whole benefit too!

I truly believe in the great impact that Youth Peer Support will have for Michigan Youth. Having been lucky enough to co-facilitate Cohort One of YPS, I had the opportunity to meet the amazing group of young people who will pioneer this service in our state. Their courage and willingness to share their stories was inspiring to me, to say the least. I know that had I been able to connect with someone like them, I would have been able to get on the road to recovery sooner. I am so thankful that youth today will not have to wait as long.

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krissyKrissy Dristy is theYouth Peer Support Statewide Coordinator for the Association for Children’s Mental Health (ACMH), a statewide youth and family advocacy organization based in Lansing, MI. Krissy describes her role at ACMH this way - "I support youth and families by training young people with SED to provide support to their peers. Navigating the system while managing a mental health challenge can be a scary and lonely experience at times. Youth Peer Support Partners can relate and can help by providing direct support and assisting with information and skill building."

Documentary film exposes heroin addiction; Congress debates; CDC stymied in abuse prevention efforts

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heroin
I just finished watching the new HBO documentary, Heroin: Cape Cod. It is a raw, up close and personal account of the heroin epidemic currently gripping our nation, as told by those who know addiction best - active users.

I encourage you to watch this film, which is currently playing on HBO. If you do not have a subscription to HBO, you will need to find someone who does. Take the extra step and figure out a way to watch this film.

Steven Okazaki, the director and creator of Heroin: Cape Cod tells the story of heroin addiction today, through candid interviews with eight young heroin addicts, law enforcement and family members attending a parent support group. You should know going in, that all of the heroin users in the film will draw you into their lives. You will feel every bit of the anguish, love, anger and desperation that is constantly swirling in their lives and the lives of those around them. You should also know that some of the people in this film that you will develop a bond with, die of a drug overdose during filming.

Then why watch such a depressing movie?
Our nation needs a wake-up call to the rampant abuse and overprescription of opioid painkillers. Addicts, who may have begun their opioid journey through painkillers such as oxycontin or oxycodone, tend to gravitate to cheaper heroin, readily available on the streets. The result is a rising tide of needless overdose deaths.

Here are some stark statistics from the recently released CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines fact sheet.

  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
  • Prescription opioid sales in the United States have increased by 300% since 19992, but there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report.
  • Almost 2 million Americans, age 12 or older, either abused or were dependent on opioid pain relievers in 2013.
  • In 2013, more than 16,000 people died in the United States from overdose related to opioid pain relievers, four times the number in 1999.

What are Congress and the White House doing about the epidemic?
There have been a host of bills introduced in the 114th Congress that address opioid abuse in one way or another. The White House has pledged to continue the fight against painkiller addiction and the abuse epidemic leading to an increasing number of overdose deaths. Clearly, something needs to be done, and I am hopeful, will be done.

CDC stymied in efforts to provide guidance on opioid prescriptions
But trouble looms in the fight to set guidelines for prescribing opioids. Recently, the CDC was forced to delay issuing voluntary guidelines aimed at reducing the use of the drugs, after complaints that they based their results on thin evidence and that the recommendations were crafted quietly with a small set of specially chosen advisors. Due to the intense criticism from some advocates and political leaders, CDC is holding off distributing the guidelines, and instead, opening up the draft to public comment — despite support from at least 14 senators and many addiction advocacy groups.

In a recent Politico article, Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is quoted as saying, "Many are calling this a victory for the opioid lobby. That decision will tack months on to the process [and also] increases the likelihood that the guideline may never be released. This is an enormous win for the opioid lobby.”

What to do?
Here are three things you can do now:

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scottScott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

Well, Network faithful, was I right about Wilton? We are indeed in good hands. We are fortunate to have a host of young adults like Wilton Johnson doing strong advocacy work across America. Take a moment to celebrate the Wilton Johnson in your life and let them know that you appreciate what they do.

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scott

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.ZlnxSpOD.dpuf

 

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scott

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.ZlnxSpOD.dpuf

 

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scott

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.ZlnxSpOD.dpuf

 

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scott

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.ZlnxSpOD.dpuf

Preventing Stage 4 Mental Illness—Call your congressional representative and let them know it is possible

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Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Dennis D. Embry

What is Stage 4 mental illness? Surprisingly, the answer to that question had not occurred to me until Paul Gionfriddo spoke at the national conference of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health—just before Thanksgiving. For those who don’t know, Paul is the CEO of Mental Health American and the father of a child with a serious mental illness. There were no dry eyes as Paul spoke, unless their eyes were made of stone.

I know what Stage 4 is. I am a cancer survivor. I had Stage 1 of a rare and dangerous melanoma, and it scared the crap of me. And I know all about mental illness from my own family and my professional life as a psychologist.

A giant zap went through my brain as Paul spoke. “YES! We can prevent Stage 4 mental illness. The gold-standard prevention science for that is published and easily available at www.pubmed.gov.”  The science has been funded by the National Institutes of Heath. I’d never thought about it that way, even though I am a prevention scientist and a psychologist. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “Paul, we can prevent Stage 4 mental illness!” We probably cannot in every case of mental illness, any more than we can prevent every case of Stage 4 cancer.

How do I know we can prevent Stage 4 mental illness? Well, the work of my colleagues at Johns Hopkins shows that a simple first-grade preventive strategy that teaches self-regulation and peer cooperation prevents suicide 10 to 20 years later (1-4). Amazingly, the same first-grade preventions strategy averts really violent, anti-social behavior associated with homicides 10-20 years later (2, 5). Check these out www.pubmed.gov.

Ah, maybe that strategy is a fluke. Well, it’s not. The next day after Paul Gionfriddo told his heart-wrenching story, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln from the National Institutes of Health told the same prevention-science story, except it involved a completely different mechanism—dietary intake of fatty acids. He called his presentation, Oiling the Brain. You can read that science by Hibbeln and other researchers at pubmed. Dr. Hibblen and his colleagues absolutely show that reducing omega-6 fatty acids in the brain and increasing omega-3 increase mental health, reduce violence and reduce suicide.

The world should be celebrating that two completely different methods are absolutely proven to prevent Stage 4 mental illness. This should be headline news on the front page of every newspaper in America, and the focus of every TV news program. When the first returns of the Salk vaccine showed it could prevent polio, the world rejoiced. So after, the nation and the world mobilized to eradicate polio—which we’ve almost done 50 years later. We have the caliber of science to prevent Stage 4 mental illness, though we cannot do that overnight.

Could everyone reading this please, please, please start telling everyone you know: “We don’t just have to focus on treatment of serious mental illnesses after the have a crises that requires forced treatment for people like so many of the shooters. We don’t have to have legislation just focused on iron lungs, braces and wheel chairs for people’s broken brains.

What to do? Start by calling (202-225-2301), faxing (202-225-1844), emailing or writing Congressman Tim Murphy to tell him he can be the nation’s hero by preventing Stage 4 mental illness rapidly and inexpensively—based on gold-standard science funded by the National Institutes of Health and described in the 2009 Institute of Medicine Report on Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People.  And, please, share this same message with your Congressional representative, Senators, Governor and State Legislature. And call your Mayor and city council, too. Tell you’re your local hospitals to hold grand rounds about preventing major mental illnesses. We have good enough science to start preventing Stage 4 mental illnesses. Let’s do it. #SaveAllKids

References

1. H. C. Wilcox et al., The impact of two universal randomized first- and second-grade classroom interventions on young adult suicide ideation and attempts. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 14 (2008).

2. S. G. Kellam et al., The good behavior game and the future of prevention and treatment. Addict Sci Clin Pract 6, 73-84 (2011).

3. C. Katz et al., A systematic review of school-based suicide prevention programs. Depression and anxiety 30, 1030-1045 (2013).

4. A. R. Newcomer et al., Higher childhood peer reports of social preference mediates the impact of the good behavior game on suicide attempt. Prevention Science, No Pagination Specified (2015).

5. H. Petras et al., Developmental epidemiological courses leading to antisocial personality disorder and violent and criminal behavior: Effects by young adulthood of a universal preventive intervention in first- and second-grade classrooms. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 15 (2008).

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embryDennis Embry, President/Senior Scientist at PAXIS Institute – Dennis D. Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson and co-investigator at Johns Hopkins University and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. His work and that of colleagues cited in 2009 the Institute of Medicine Report on The Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. Clinically his work has focused on children and adults with serious mental illnesses. He was responsible for drafting of the letter signed by  23 scientists, who collectively represent scores of randomized prevention trials of mental illnesses published in leading scientific journals. In March 2014, his work and the work of several signatories was featured in a Prime-TV special on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on the prevention of mental illnesses among children—which have become epidemic in North America. Dr. Embry serves on the Children's Mental Health Network Advisory Council.


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enbry

Dennis Embry, President/Senior Scientist at PAXIS Institute – Dennis D. Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson and co-investigator at Johns Hopkins University and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. His work and that of colleagues cited in 2009 the Institute of Medicine Report on The Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. Clinically his work has focused on children and adults with serious mental illnesses. He was responsible for drafting of the letter signed by  23 scientists, who collectively represent scores of randomized prevention trials of mental illnesses published in leading scientific journals. In March 2014, his work and the work of several signatories was featured in a Prime-TV special on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on the prevention of mental illnesses among children—which have become epidemic in North America. Dr. Embry serves on the Children's Mental Health Network Advisory Council.

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.fceVtweH.dpuf

Is a digital device in your child's future this holiday season?

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Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Amy Williams

kidscellphonesWhether you are dusting off your stockings to hang by the chimney with care or perfecting the art of frying golden latkes, giving gifts is a staple of the holiday season for many people. As families draw together, cherish traditions, and celebrate their beliefs it is easy for our children to devise a wish list of gadgets and toys they dream of unwrapping. For many parents, they are noticing that at the top of the present list is often a form of technology in the guise of a digital device.

Unwrapping Technology: Is My Child Ready?
Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and more might be a pixelated holiday dream for your child. It is believed that 75 percent of children aged under eight have access to devices classified as “smart” and 78 percent of teens possess their own cell phones. Unfortunately, many children and teens are not developmentally ready or responsible enough to have the world at their fingertips via wi-fi and social media.

If a child is not ready for the responsibility that comes with receiving digital devices this holiday season, their anticipated gift might download a whole new set of problems and heartbreak during the new year. Before gifting a new device, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my son or daughter able to be responsible for their belongings?
  • Does my child understand social media and the permanence of the Internet?
  • Can he or she make sound or reasonable judgments?
  • Have we addressed social media etiquette in our family?

6 Ways To Ring In A Happy Holiday Season
If you were able to say “yes” to the above questions with little hesitation, then your child might be ready to handle a new digital device. For many parents, it is important to understand the impact of allowing our kids a passport to digital citizenship. We need to realize that high levels of connectivity open our children up to a world of online predators, disappearing messages, cyberbullies, and sexting opportunities.

Here are six tips to help our children enjoy their digital devices this holiday season:

  • Create a contract for the family that lists all expectations and consequences of using technology.
    This is important, because it allows parents and children to discuss digital responsibilities which will eventually prevent arguments and disagreements down the road.
  • Avoid allowing digital devices in bedrooms.
    Besides the obvious benefit of deterring risky online behaviors, this step can ensure a child is able to get adequate sleep or enjoy time away from a glowing screen.
  • Sit down with children and walk them through the process of choosing their privacy settings. It sounds relatively simple, but many of our teens are not protected. Don’t let your child suffer, because they forgot to add a password or turn off their location tracking.
  • Begin an ongoing discussion regarding digital etiquette and how to behave online. Start simple and as a child grows, be sure to include topics like online predators, identity theft, and cyberbullying.
  • Don’t leave a child’s well being up to chance- take advantage of monitoring software. You wouldn’t give a 16 year old the keys to a car without a few driving lessons. Why would you allow a child to use the Internet or technology without parental guidance? Go high-tech and use convenient programs to track a child’s phone and Internet activity. As a child demonstrates good choices, scale back this process.
  • One of the best ways to protect our children is to have a firm understanding of the dangers lurking behind our children’s technology. Did you know that sexting is considered a normal part of development? How about the facts that cyberbullying rates are rising and have tripled within the last year? By knowing the facts, you can help bully proof your child or take measures to avoid heartbreak.

All parents, regardless of what holiday we celebrate, want their child to safely chat and snap selfies with their friends long after the dreidels and decorations are packed away. If your child is begging for a new digital device this holiday season, taking a few precautions today will ensure many more happy celebrations to come.

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tonko

Congressman Paul Tonko represents New York’s 20

- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.SvhQiqNg.dpuf

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amyAmy Williams is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. She believes that, in our digital age, it's time for parents and educators to make sure parents and students alike are educated about technology and social media use. You can follow her on Twitter.

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