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Mental Health

Talking To Teens About Tragedy

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 16, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Many of us remember Columbine as if it was yesterday.

Today, shootings, especially school shootings, are not any easier to hear.

How do we talk to our teens about these tragedies?

It’s time to turn to the experts.

Dr. Michele Borba, a leading educational psychologist shares her 10 Tips to Talk to Kids About Tragedy including her T.A.L.K. model.

T – Talk about the event.

Ensure that your child has accurate information that come from you so as not to develop unfounded fears.

A – Assess how your child is coping.

Every child handles a tragedy differently. There is no predicting. Tune into your child’s feelings and behavior. Watch and listen how he deals with the event so you’ll know how to help him cope and build resilience.

L – Listen to your child’s concerns and questions.

Use the “Talk. Stop. Listen. Talk. Stop. Listen” model as your discuss a tragedy. Listen more than your talk. Follow your child’s lead.

K – Kindle hope that the world will go on despite the horror

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist wrote an informative blog post on helping direct parents in try to make sense of this senseless act.

  • Get children mental help when they need it.
  • Do social skills training with kids who are lacking in empathy.
  • Be a mentor or help find a mentor for children who can use some guidance.
  • See children for their strengths, not simply for what they lack.

Read Dr. Robyn’s full post here.

Melissa Fenton, a former librarian, who brought us the compelling essay about parent shaming, “Put Down Your Pitchforks,” nails it again, when she pens on the website Grown and Flown, “Trying to be ‘Perfect’ is Killing Our Teens and We’re to Blame.

Teenagers are suffering from depression and anxiety in record-setting numbers. Stumped researchers, social scientists,  and psychologists have only begun to investigate the causes, many of which they have linked to smart phone and social media use, but is that really it? Could be, seeing as how they’re growing up under a selfie spotlight – with images of perfection constantly loading in their devices – perpetuating the great lie that everyone else has it more together and better than they do.

And we got here when we opened every conversation with our high schoolers about futures, goals, and achievements with the words, “I just want you to succeed,” instead of the words, “I just want you to be happy.”

Take time to read this entire essay. It’s a must read and share it with every parent of a teenager.

Do you believe you’re teen needs outside help?  Have you exhausted your local resources?

Contact us for information about residential therapy. Don’t be a parent in denial.

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End Peer Cruelty: Understanding Bullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 14, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Teen Help

It’s a sea of sadness when we read headlines of peer cruelty, youth dying and the rise of incivility in our country today. Whether it’s offline, as in the school cafeteria or online, in the palm of your child’s hand, hate is hate and it’s killing our society.

Dr. Michele Borba is a leading bullying prevention expert as well as a best-selling author. In her most recent book, End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy (Free Spirit, February 2018) she gives us a road-map to bring back civility for our young people.

What works and does not work to reduce bullying?

In Dr. Borba’s new book, she explains that bullying is a learned behavior and can be unlearned, but the solutions to ending peer cruelty are not simple. She continues:

All these eye-catching posters and buttons, T-shirt contests, song competitions, one-day trainings, packaged worksheets, or stop-bullying — while they mean well — are not effective solutions. Bullying is not a one-size-fits-all approach that uses the same strategy for the targets, bystanders, and students who bully. After-all, each bullying incident differs in motivation, type, and dynamics, just as each student’s learning needs differ.

Understanding cyberbullying terminology that parents and educators should know:

  • Sexting: electronically sending or posting a naked, sexualized, or compromising photo of a person
  • Flaming: posting angry, rude comments in an online forum
  • Harassment: repeatedly sending offensive messages to someone
  • Denigration: attacking someone online by spreading rumors or posting false information
  • Outing and trickery: electronically disseminating intimate private information about someone or tricking someone into disclosing private information, which is then disseminated
  • Impersonation: pretending to be someone else and posting material online to damage that person’s reputation
  • Exclusion: intentionally excluding someone from an online group
  • Cyberstalking: creating fear by sending frequent threatening messages to someone

Is your child a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?

Dr. Borba offers insights and warning signs in her new book as well as the 6R’s of prevention.


Most bullying signs go unreported or undetected. Many students are uncomfortable telling adults they were bullied for fear it will make matters worse, because the parent or educator will confront the bullying child. Fear of retaliation is a major concern of targets, and rightly so. Most bullying occurs in areas and times when adults are not present to protect targets. That’s why it’s crucial that educators learn specific warning signs of bullying so they can support potential targets. Every student can have an “off” day and display a sign or two, so look for a sudden unhealthy behavior that is not typical of the student and endures. Of course, the signs might also indicate other problems, but any signs warrant closer examination and discussing with other staff members and the child’s parents.


A perpetrator uses digital media (such as texts, emails, IMs, website posts, tweets, videos) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail, or otherwise target another child. Though it is most common during the middle school years, the problem is making its way into the younger set. It is not surprising that cyberbullying has the potential to cause severe psychological damage in targeted children. Though most electronic bullying happens off school grounds, many students carry cell phones or tablets to school, so the staff should be aware of these signs. In addition to many of the signs just listed, a child who is being cyberbullied may:

  • be hesitant to go online, or act nervous when an IM, text message, or email appears
  • act visibly upset after using a computer or cell phone, or suddenly avoid electronic devices
  • hide or clear the computer or cell phone screen when a peer or adult approaches
  • spend longer hours online in a more tense, pensive posture

End Cruelty, Build Empathy is a must-own for every parent and teacher. It offers step-by-step valuable and practical solutions — as well as information to help you navigate through a generation of “mean.” From elementary school to middle and high school, no one escapes the scars of bullying, but with education and awareness we are on the way to helping to combat it.

How will you help your community become a kinder one – offline and online?

Is your teen a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?

Have you exhausted your local resources or maybe therapy isn’t working anymore? Considering residential therapy? Contact us for more information.

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How to Take Action During National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 19, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

By Anita Brikman

As National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month (NMAAM) approaches, I want to take some time to help inform other parents about over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse and the corresponding risks. It can be easy to overlook the potential dangers of misusing medicines that are legal and readily-available, but it’s important to recognize that these medicines can be harmful when abused… as some kids are doing.

Specifically, I want to highlight the abuse of OTC cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM). While these medicines are safe and effective when used as directed, one in 30 teens have abused DXM to get high. Furthermore, one in 3 teens knows of someone who has abused DXM, which means there’s a pretty good chance that your teen knows another teen who has abused the substance. What’s even more alarming? Some teens abuse OTC cough medicine by taking up to 25x the recommended dose, which can lead to dangerous side effects such as disorientation, double or blurred vision and impaired physical coordination. It’s certainly uncomfortable to think about, but I’m comforted knowing that the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign is actively working to alert parents and community members of this issue.

As a parent, I know that we all want to keep our families safe. Here are four things you can do during NMAAM to prevent medicine abuse in your home and community:

  1. Educate yourself. Learn about the warning signs and side effects of abuse to ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed in your home. Keep an ear out for slang terms and an eye out for changes in your teen’s behavior, physical appearance or group of friends.
  2. Take inventory of the medicines in your home. If you regularly keep tabs on what you have, you’ll be able to more easily notice when something goes missing without explanation.

To identify medicines that contain DXM, check the active ingredients list on the Drug Facts label and look for the above icon on the packaging.

  1. Talk with your teen. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but teens who learn about the risks of substance abuse from their parents are 50% less likely to misuse. Once you have the talk, be sure to keep the door open for an ongoing dialogue.
  2. Inform others. Talk with parents, teachers and other members of your community. Share what you’ve learned to make sure they are aware of the dangers of substance abuse and what they can do to prevent it.

For more information on how to prevent medicine abuse, visit StopMedicineAbuse.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.

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How to Help Your Teen Cope With Stress During the School Year

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 06, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

When summer ends and the school year begins, you can practically hear a symphony of teenagers simultaneously groaning. Who can blame them though? They need to wake up during the early hours of the morning, study for exams, complete homework for several different classes, balance extracurricular activities, maintain a social life – and in the midst of all of that, take care of themselves. That’s a lot on a young person’s plate! As a parent, you can expect them to be incredibly stressed out at having to manage everything all at once. Teens have a heavy amount of stress because not only do their high school years prepare them for college; they also begin to develop their individuality, learn how to be responsible, and get a taste of adulthood.

To help your teen have a more productive semester and reduce their academic anxiety, here’s how you can help them cope with stress during the school year:

Encourage them to focus on their well-being, first and foremost

Believe it or not, simple self-care methods such as taking showers, self-grooming, and relaxing can pushed aside in exchange for dedicating more time to school work. However, one never feels their best when they don’t take care of themselves! While your teen’s ambition is admirable, they should always consider the state of their emotional and physical well-being. Your teen should also always make time for hobbies and passions that make them happy as well. School work may take up most of their time, but they need to remember their personal needs and happiness is just as important.

Inform them of healthy coping mechanisms 

There’s a huge difference between dealing with stress in a healthy way versus an unhealthy way. Unhealthy coping mechanisms cause more stress and do more damage. Examples include suppressing emotions, purposely hurting others, self-harm and so forth. In the long run, unhealthy coping mechanisms can lead to your child developing depression, anxiety, and even an addiction to substances later on life. Factually, 1 in 8 Americans are alcoholics, and your teen does not need to be a part of that statistic, nor endure mental conditions that can be avoided. To prevent that, and many other unfortunate circumstances, inform and educate them on how to properly handle their stress with healthy coping mechanisms such as journal writing, articulating feelings to a trusted individual such as you or a friend, and meditation.

Help them establish a set schedule

With so many obligations that need to be fulfilled, your teen will get overwhelmed on where to focus most of their attention. Have them sit down to schedule a wake-up and sleep time, set aside specific parts of the day for studying, and adhere to it. However, they can be flexible on the weekends for friends and personal time. Fun is needed too! By following a schedule, your teen will be able to handle their responsibilities and live their life in an organized matter, rather than feeling lost or frazzled with what to do first.

Go grocery shopping for healthy food and meal prep 

A healthy and well-rounded diet affects a person just as much emotionally as it does physically. When overwhelmed with an endless list of things to do, it’s normal for a teen to eat whatever is available and neglect their diet. Educate your teen about healthier food choices, teach them to cook, and encourage them to prepare their meals ahead of time. If they meal prep healthy food, they never have to worry about spontaneous fast food purchases or unhealthy cravings! Over time, your teen will also naturally gravitate towards healthy food in general.

Encourage your teen to exercise

With stress taking a toll on both a mental and physical well-being, teens need a therapeutic outlet to release it! Exercise is one of the best methods of stress relief due to its ability to pump endorphins – nature’s pain-killing chemicals – throughout their body. Additionally, exercise helps stabilize their mood, improves overall brain function, and keeps them feeling energized and ready to take on the day. Regardless of the exercise they choose to do, such as weight training versus yoga, all exercises will contribute the same positive benefits. If your teen is up for it, suggest taking up an exercise together!

Tell them to take a break

When your teen needs a break from vigorously studying, offer to take them outside for some fresh air or remind them that it won’t hurt to relax for a few minutes. Despite sounding counter-intuitive, taking a break is actually more beneficial than harmful. The more your teen forces themselves to work, the less productive they become. With overexertion, they lose the ability to focus on tasks, become easily irritable, and rarely sleep. Some examples of breaks include spending fifteen minutes on the couch doing what they please, meditating, and even catching up with you about what’s been going on in their lives. By stepping back from the required readings and math notes, teens seize this moment to replenish their energy to study efficiently, absorb information, and demonstrate what they have learned onto their exams.

Remind them that stress is a part of life, and they will get through it just like everything else

Stress is inevitable. Truthfully, at times, it feels like it lasts forever – but that is never the case. Remind your teen that stress is always going to be a part of life, but they don’t need to fear it. What really matters is taking of themselves and always doing the best they can to succeed.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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Dealing with Disappointment: The Best Ways to Help Your Teen

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 11, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

You remember what it’s like to be a teenager trying to fit in and prepare yourself for adulthood. It’s difficult, confusing and oftentimes disappointing. Now you’re watching your teenagers go through some of the same struggles you did at their age.

While your first instinct is to make everything better, this may be doing more harm than good. Growing up is full of disappointments and failures, and that’s OK. Instead of shielding your children from every minor setback, here are a few positive ways to help your teens deal with disappointment:

Hear Them Out

Your teen just tried out for the school basketball team and didn’t make it. He’s upset, embarrassed and disappointed. Let him come to you to vent his frustrations. Try not to speak first or jump in to make him feel better, but rather let him rant and tell you all about what happened without any judgment. The more you listen, the more you can narrow down how your teen is feeling about not making them team and find ways to help him move forward.

Help Them Take Responsibility

Once you’ve heard everything your teen has to say about the situation, you can start asking some questions. For example, if she didn’t pass her driving test, ask her why she thinks that happened. Many teens’ first reaction is to start pointing fingers, such as at the driving instructor, but steer her away from this negative reaction to something she can control. If she says the test was unfair because the questions were too hard, you can ask her if she studied her driver’s permit booklet enough. Ask if those same questions were on the practice tests and if she could have prepared more. Gently explain that the test may not have been unfair but a consequence of her not being ready, and then help her come up with a plan to do better next time.

Come up With a Plan

One of the best ways to deal with disappointment is to come up with a plan for success. Have your son ask the basketball coach what he needs to do to make the team next year, and have your daughter go over the parts of her driving test she struggled with. Then, help your teen come up with ways to improve on these skills.

For example, you could sign your son up for a local basketball league where he can get a lot of playing time. Have him work with a private trainer or coach to work on his skills, and set aside time for him to practice on his own. For your daughter, help her study for the written part of her driving test with practice tests online and create a schedule for driving on your local streets, on the highway and in parking lots. While you can help your teens come up with this plan, make sure they know that they are responsible for following through and working hard to achieve success.

Through every up and down that adolescence presents, it’s important that your children know that you love them unconditionally. Whether they get the lead role in the play or get into college, you love them for who they are, not what they’ve accomplished. Be supportive and helpful in any way you can, but let your teens know that it’s okay to fail every once in awhile because that’s part of growing up. Let them be disappointed, and then help them find a way to succeed.

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Florida Drug Rehab Programs

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 26, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

It’s a billion dollar industry – and in the summer of 2017 the drug rehab scam in Florida was exposed.  Sadly, this came after several deaths of young people.

This is why our organization is so crucial to families today. A Parent’s True Story was published in 2001 and has helped thousands of families since then to educate them to find healthy and safe programs for their teenager.

Don’t narrow your search by state,  always double check your insurance claims and never get sucked in by sales reps on toll-free numbers. Lear more on our pages of helpful hints.

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Summer Flings: Teens and Healthy Relationships

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 23, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Whether it’s a summer romance or puppy love, teenagers are bound to experience relationships they believe will last forever. In reality, I’m sure there are some of you reading this that have actually married your high school sweetheart.

Like generations earlier, having the sex talk with our child is always that dreaded conversation for many parents. Today it’s not only conversations about sex, you must also be chatting frequently about their tech activity — as predators linger in their virtual playground, teens will flippantly send nudes without a second thought, and oversharinghas become as common as eating ice cream.

The Missing Piece.

A new report from Harvard Graduate School of Education Making Caring Common Project, The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young Peoples Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment reveals that a high percentage of teens and young people want guidance from their parents and educators through meaningfulconversations to nurture healthy relationships and more.

The Misconceptions of the Hook-up Culture.

In an interview with Radio Boston, Richard Weissbourd, Director of Making Caring Common, shared the findings of how the young people viewed the hook-up culture;

“Only about 4 percent said they were interested in hooking up. About 8 or 9 percent said they were interested in having casual sex with a friend. It’s very consistent with other data too … About 8 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds are dating casually, the rest are in a serious relationship or not dating at all. We have big misconceptions about this.”

The Opportunity We Have.

This report is opening doors for today’s parents to have an opportunity to TALK early.

70 percent of young people (18- to 25-year-olds) surveyed wished they had more guidance from their parents about the emotional aspect of relationships including these following topics. I’m confident most of us struggled with these in our teen years:

· 38 percent – how to have a more mature relationship

· 36 percent – how to deal with break-ups

· 34 percent – how to avoid getting hurt in a relationship

· 27 percent – how to begin a relationship

65 percent in the same age group wished their school taught the above in health or sex education class.

The Harsh Reality of Being A Girl.

In an earlier study from PEW Research, they shared the extreme forms of online harassment that females (18-24 years-olds) experience.

According to Harvard University’s The Talk research, 87 percent of females also reported negative and humiliating experiences.

· 55 percent – being catcalled

· 52 percent – having a stranger say something sexually to them

· 47 percent – insulted with sexual words (slut, ho, bitch) by a man

· 41 percent – touch without permission by a stranger

Sadly 76 percent of the respondents said their parents never had conversations with them about how to avoid or handle sexual harassment or forms of misogyny.

Being a Caring Partner.

Many parents have had the talk about safe-sex, abstinence, or whatever their preference is for their family — but are you remembering to discuss with your child about being a caring and respectful sexual partner?

The Talk report uncovers that although statistics reveal that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during college, parents and adults don’t seem to be having constructive conversations with young people (teens) about consent.

· 61 percent – being sure their partner wants to have sex and is comfortable doing so before having sex.

· 62 percent – the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you after they said no.

· 56 percent – the importance of not pressuring someone to have sex with you.

· 49 percent – assuring your own comfort in engaging in sex.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Talk research offers tips for parents to help young people develop healthy relationships. What’s important to understand is although they are only kids [teens], they — like us — want to have caring and meaningful friendships too.

We constantly talk about being role models with our behavior, from texting and driving to using foul language to our online behavior, but when was the last time you chatted with your teen about your summer flings or any romantic engagement? Your mistakes? What did you learn from it? Sometimes your teen needs to know you are human too. This isn’t about hooking-up, having sex or fifty-shades of whatever you’re into — it’s about “hey, I’ve been where you are, I had my heart broken too. Let’s go have ice cream and talk about it.”

Takeaway tips:

· The Talk research is your door-opener to start conversations about relationships with your teenager.

· Divorce, sadly, is common, however it’s how you handle it that effects your kids and their future relationships.

· Single parents that date is great, but be respectful to your partner. Your children are watching.

· Parents online, use discretion with your digital sharing. Teens will model your behavior.

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Missing Medicine? It Could Be a Sign of Medicine Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 26, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens

Does the scenario highlighted in the video below seem familiar?

I hope not, but the reality is that missing medicine could be a sign of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse. It’s common to hear about teens abusing illegal drugs, alcohol and even prescription medication to get high, but many parents don’t realize that teens may also abuse OTC cough medicine.

If this is news to you, you may be wondering, why would teens abuse OTC cough medicine?

Teens often abuse OTC cough medicine because it’s affordable and easy to access. They may also mistakenly believe that it’s safer to abuse than illegal drugs.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent your teen from abusing OTC cough medicine.

Educate yourself.

The first step is education. Learn about dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in most OTC cough medicines. Learn how to identify which products contain DXM by looking for the Stop Medicine Abuse icon. Become familiar with what DXM abuse looks like.


In addition to being on the lookout for missing medicine, it is also important to monitor your teen’s behavior for warning signs and side effects including:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Hostile and uncooperative attitude
  • Use of slang terms
  • Changes in friends
  • Declining grades
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion, slurred speech and disorientation

Communicate with your teen.

Have a conversation with your teen about the risks of medicine abuse. Ask your teen if he or she has ever been exposed to DXM abuse or whether it’s something that’s discussed amongst peers. The reality is that one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high. That’s scary to think about, but teens who learn about the risks of substance abuse from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs.

Share what you’ve learned.

It’s also important to communicate with other parents, teachers and community members to spread awareness. These conversations can be had at sports games, school activities or parent events to help inspire other parents to become vigilant against cough medicine abuse.

Parents can’t protect their teenagers from all the dangers of the world, but with education, close monitoring and a supportive community… parents can prevent OTC medicine abuse.

You can get more information at StopMedicineAbuse.org or join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

Contributor: Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.

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Extraordinary Summer Camps Bring Grieving Children Together

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 24, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Summer Camps, Teen Help

Experience Camps, a national non-profit organization that provides free, one-week camps for children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver, is highlighted in Sheryl Sandberg’s newest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

After losing their father, Sheryl’s children attended Experience Camps (the California camp location), with other kids whose loved ones have died. Along with swimming, arts and crafts, and team sports, the kids take part in bereavement activities including sharing circles where they are encouraged to talk about their grief.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1.5 million children are living in a single-family household due to the death of one parent. In the book, Sheryl talks about how her own children benefitted from attending Experience Camps, week-long summer camps that bring together children experiencing grief; and the value of support groups connecting you with others who really get what you are going through.

Excerpt from Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Pgs. 1884 – 1885. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

“Support groups connect you with others who really get what you are going through. Deep human connection. It is not just ‘Oh, I feel bad for you’ but ‘I actually understand…….My kids also attended Experience Camps, a free weeklong program for children who have lost a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. Two of the core values at the camp are building community and inspiring hope. In one exercise, kids went to stations to confront an emotion associated with grieving. For anger, kids used chalk to scrawl words that made them angry on the pavement. Some wrote “bullying”; others wrote “cancer” or “drugs.” Then on the count of three they threw water balloons on the ground to smear the words away and release their anger. At a second station, a camper held a brick representing guilt. As the brick became too heavy, another camper shared the burden of its weight. These exercises helped show my children that their emotions were normal and other kids felt them too.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“We are so honored to be mentioned in Option B and are appreciative of Sheryl’s impact on the conversation around grief and resilience. She will inspire more people to seek connections and support to help them get through whatever challenges they face,” said Sara Deren, Founder and Executive Director of Experience Camps. “At Experience Camps, we encourage children to find those same connections through the camaraderie and community of camp and by allowing them to realize they’re not the only ones who have experienced loss.”

In 2017, Experience Camps will have more than 450 campers at camps in Maine, California, New York, and Georgia.

For more information about Experience Camps, visit http://www.experience.camp. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Experience Camps

Experience Camps is a place where kids can laugh, cry, play, create, remember the person who died, or forget the grief that weighs them down.  It’s a place where they can feel “normal”, because everyone there has been through something similar and understands what it’s like to lose someone important to them. Along with swimming, arts and crafts, and team sports, the kids take part in bereavement activities including sharing circles where they are encouraged to talk about their grief. Experience Camps is a home away from home. And just about everyone will tell you…”It’s the best week of the year”.

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The Relationship Between Bullying and Drug Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 12, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

Bullying is a major problem for teens. It is estimated that at least 50% of teen suicides can be attributed to bullying, and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. Bullying also leads to depression, loss of motivation, personality change, self-harm, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It is already estimated that 1 in 3 teens experiment with drugs or alcohol by the time they finish the eighth grade. Bullying only increases the chances that your child will try drugs or alcohol. Spotting the signs of bullying before it becomes too severe can prevent teens from hurting themselves or developing an addiction.

Addiction can either begin rapidly or manifest over time. Bullying causes trauma, and trauma can follow a person for a lifetime. This trauma can cause a person to look for outlets and ways to feel better, or ways just to forget. Most addicts suffer from another underlying mental illness, and this often times was directly caused or triggered by emotional trauma. Drugs can often be a safe haven for someone suffering from trauma, anxiety, and/or depression. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence and happiness that bully victims lack; this is why it can be so hard for a bully victim to put down drugs.

Here are some ways to understand teens and addiction:

Skipping school

Bully victims often will skip school out of fear of harassment by their bully. This can lead to mischievous activities or risk taking. When a person begins skipping school or extracurricular activities they may begin to hang around people who are doing the same things. This can introduce your child to a “bad crowd” that may already be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Teens who have friends or acquaintances who use drugs are far more likely to experiment. 

Low self esteem 

Bully victims often develop low self-esteem and self-worth. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence that seem to “fix” this problem. A person eventually finds that they need drugs or alcohol to feel normal or like they fit in.


Bully victims lose motivation and interest in others. When they begin to abuse drugs this is exacerbated. A child may begin to stay out late, avoid friends and family, or stay in their room for long periods of time.

Personality changes

Bully victims and those suffering from addiction both begin to have significant personality changes. They lose interest in their favorite hobbies and activities. If they were once out-going they may become more introverted and lonely. Bully victims often become very depressed and find drugs or alcohol a way to “self-medicate”.

Bullies are at risk, too.

There is research that suggests that bullying perpetrators are also at risk.  Amanda Nickerson, PhD, Professor and Director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at University of Buffalo stated that “A fair amount of research has found higher rates of substance use among bullying perpetrators.”

Bullies often have turbulent lives at home or other underlying mental health issues which leads to their mischievous activities like violence, sexual promiscuity, and drug use.

Parents also play a vital role in protecting their children. It is common for parents or teachers to brush of bullying as “kids being kids” or that it is just “part of growing up”. Parents who can support their children and report bullying effectively have a high likelihood of preventing their children from trying drugs. This is crucial because teens who experiment with drugs are far more likely to develop and addiction later in life. Avoiding the perception of neglect plays a vital role in parenting and prevents childhood trauma.

Another study at the University of Buffalo examined 119 teens who said they had consumed alcohol in the past month. “They found teens who were severely bullied and who had strong support from their mothers and family cohesion—such as family members asking each other for help and spending free time together—were less likely to drink than bullied teens without strong maternal support and tight family bonds.”

Always talk to your child about bullying and take their concerns seriously. Addressing bullying quickly can mean the difference between development of an addiction or childhood trauma.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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