Sunday, March 15, 2015

Brain Awareness Week is March 16-22, 2015

I'm a big fan of my Brain.

It's such a totally cool organ. Without it, I couldn't do anything, really.

No doubt you feel the same way.

Brain health is vital to our mental and physical well-being. And as time marches on, exciting research and technologies will bring us even greater understanding of how our Brains work and offer insight into illness and disease.

So, now that you know it's Brain Awareness Week, go out and celebrate your Brain.

I'm going to attempt some super difficult crosswords puzzles. Make sure I eat green leafy vegetables and take my Brain for a longer walk than usual.

For more Brain tips go here and here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

March 1st is Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Awareness Day

Non-Suicidal Self-injury (NSSI) – is any deliberate, non suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress.

People who engage in
NSSI usually do not involve a conscious intent to die by suicide, though many believe that people who harm themselves are suicidal. There are also numerous myths that surround NSSI, which create a stigma for those struggling with kind of coping behavior. 

Individuals who use NSSI are often trying to:

* Distract emotional pain
* End feelings of numbness
* Calm overwhelming feelings
* Maintaining control
* Self-punish
* Express thoughts that cannot be put into words
* Express feelings for which there are no words

Who engages in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury?

There is no simple portrait of a person who intentionally self-injures. This behavior is not limited by gender, race, education, age, sexual orientation, socio-economics, or religion. However, there are some commonly seen factors:

* NSSI  more commonly occurs in adolescent females.

* Alexithymia is often a characteristic of those who struggle with NSSI.

* Many self-injurers have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

* Many self-injurers have co-existing problems like depression, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder or eating disorders.

* Self-injures tend to have been raised in families that discouraged expression of anger, and tend to lack skills to express their emotions.

What are the types of self-injury?

* Cutting
* Burning
* Picking at skin
* Interfereing with wound healing
* Hair-pulling
* Hitting
* Scratching
* Pinching
* Biting
* Embedding


NSSI is often misunderstood, and those seek medical or mental health treatment frequently report being treated badly by emergency room doctors and nurses, counselors, police officers and even mental health professionals.

Finding professionals who specialize in working with Non-Suicidal Self-Injury is IMPERATIVE. With proper treatment, new ways of coping will be learned and slowly the cycle of hurting will end.


If you need help and are not sure where to turn?
Call the S.A.F.E. Alternatives information line at (800) 366-8288 for referrals and support for non-suicidal self-injury. 

In the middle of a crisis?
If you’re feeling suicidal and need help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at (800) 273-8255

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Adult vs. Child Depression

Did you know that depression presents differently in children than it does in adults?
Though the disorder of depression can occur in in kids, teens - and even babies, the symptoms don’t always look like adult depression. Take a look at the differences below so you can learn how to detect this serious, but treatable disorder.

Signs of Depression in Adults
Signs of Depression in Children
Depressed mood
Irritable, fussy or cranky
Anhedonia (Decreased interest/enjoyment   in once-favorite activities)
Negative thinking, helplessness
Boredom, lack of interest in play,    giving up favorite activities
Blames self for failures, misperceives peer interactions, socially isolates, resists new experiences
Significant weight loss or weight gain
Failure to thrive, fussy eating,  overeating and weight gain especially in adolescence
Insomnia or Hypersomnia (Excessive sleeping)
Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, difficulty emerging from sleep, hard to awaken, frequent napping.
Psychomotor agitation, restlessness or slowness
Difficulty sitting still, pacing, very slow movements, clingy, little or no spontaneity, overly aggressive or sensitive
Fatigue or loss of energy
Persistently tired, appears lazy, sluggish, reports aches and pains, frequent absences from school 
Low self-esteem, feelings of guilt
Whiny, cries easily, self-critical, feels stupid, unloved or misunderstood
Inability to concentrate, indecisive
Sulks, appears foggy, distractible, poor school performance, forgetful, unmotivated
Recurrent suicidal thoughts or behavior
Worries about death, talks about running away, writing or drawings about death, giving away favorite toys or belongings 


Friday, January 16, 2015

Paperback Launch of "Depression and Your Child"

                                        My award-winning book
"Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers"
is now available in paperback!

Depression and Your Child by Deborah Serani

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Mindful Tips For Keeping New Year Resolutions

It's that time of year again. 
Out with the old, in with the new. 
And for many, it's resolution-making time.

Research reports about 45% of the American population make one or more resolutions at the turn of each New Year- with some of the top resolutions involving weight loss, exercising more, getting finances in order, stopping smoking or drinking, spending too much or other "bad" habits.

Studies shows that only about 25% of those who make resolutions fail at the 1 week mark, with another 40% reporting failure at 1 month. And those who fail at keeping their resolutions experience lowered self-esteem, sadness and depression. If you're a person who's making a resolution or two, here are some ways ways to foster well-being while adhering to your goals.

How to Find Success
  • Ask yourself if you're really ready to make a change. Taking on a resolution because someone else suggests it isn't the same if the idea comes from within you.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to make a New Year's resolution. Behavioral change isn't easy and requires a lot of planning, self-control and self-regulation. If you have too much going on in your life, maybe it's not the best time to be making resolutions.
  • If you've decided to start a resolution, make sure it's a realistic one. Unrealistic goals set you up for failure.
  • Once you've set your goal, be specific. Instead of saying, "I'm gonna join a gym and get into shape," better to say, "I'll get to the gym three times a week."
  • Monitor your progress in baby steps as you meet your goal. Cheer yourself on and ask others to rally with you. Short term reinforcement is key to keeping you on track. And rewarding yourself as you go is a very important part of behavioral change.
  • Use positive self-talking strategies and refrain from giving yourself ultimatums. Instead of saying, "I will never smoke again" be more realistic with "I'm going to try to quit smoking. If I slip, I'll start again tomorrow."
  • Know that the process of changing your behavior heightens irritability. Let others know what you're working on in your social, work and home life.
  • Don't give up too soon. If you can't hold tightly to your resolution, give it a few go- rounds before you throw the towel in. Research reports that those who succeed at reaching their goal made six to seven attempts before their new behaviors took hold.

Making Success Out of Failure
  • If you can't achieve your goal, give yourself permission to walk away. There's no shame in failure. In fact, the majority who fail at their resolution report learning something valuable about themselves.
  • While a lot of people who make New Year's resolutions generally find them hard to keep, research shows that making resolutions gives you direction. People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain goals than people who don't make any.
  • Redefine how you experience failure. Depressed people tend to hold a negative view about many experiences in life. For example, "I just can't do it." "Things will never go my way." Instead, shifting mind-sets to more positive and open-ended statements like "I'm a work in progress" or "It's just a temporary derailment" will keep you moving forward. 

Whether you begin the New Year with goals in mind.... or just take the days as they come... I hope 2015 brings you peace, good health and joy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Toys for Depressed Kids

Shopping for toys during the holiday season always takes a bit of resourcefulness. You need to learn what’s new, what’s out, what’s flying off the shelves - and then carefully consider whether your purchase will add to your child’s entertainment stockpile. But if you have a child with special needs, especially one who is struggling with depression, finding the right toy can feel even more daunting.
Though there are many different kinds of games and toys, here are 8 categories that I teach parents to consider thinking about when holiday shopping. These themes help with healing and are also super fun too. 
  1. Seek out toys that teach about feelings. Though most children find it a challenge to label feelings, depressed children struggle even more in identifying and expressing them. Toys like Eggspressions, Kimochis and Moody Monsters Memory Game invite depressed kids to see the subtle differences between and among emotions. They also teach how actual expressions look on others’ faces as well as their own. Playing with these toys will help your child learn how mad is different than irritated. How sad is different than lonely. Once children learn these subtle differences, they can better label what they’re feeling and talk about it.
  2. Get artsy. Research shows that the expressive arts, like drawing, painting and creating music not only lift mood, they help children express and manage feeling states. Old-school toys that encourage artistic expression like crayons, paints, clay are great items. So is getting your child a musical instrument. And don’t forget the new-school digital ways of getting art and music into your child’s life with downloadable apps and computer software like Toca Band, MoMA Artlab, Garage Band or iDraw, for example.
  3. Choose problem solving toys: Depression can cause distractibility, lower reasoning and interrupt flow of thinking – parts of the brain area called “executive functioning.” Toys and games that challenge your child to find solutions, tap judgment or use logic will help sharpen these important cognitive skills. Classic games like Chess, Othello, Battleship and Trimonos are terrific board games. Digital ones like Star Wars Pit Droids, Angry Birds, and Bubble Ball are fun and educational too.
  4. Pick games that build resiliency: Games that teach depressed children how to be resilientunder pressure can improve self-esteem and reduce hopelessness. Consider classic toys like Jenga, Don’t Break the Ice, Don’t Spill the Beans, Topple, Kerplunk, Crocodile Dentist, Flinchand Hot Potato. Shop for educational and gaming apps for your child that likes tech-y things over old-school games by searching online at stores like Amazon or Toys-R-Us.
  5. Toys that relax: Toys and games that incorporate color and lights increase feel-good endorphins and are instant mood lifters. Classic toys like Lite Brite, Melissa and Doug’s Light Box, Rain Tubes, Sand Windows, Water Volcanoes, Sand Play and Lava Lamps are home run toys. Even a simple jar of bubbles can teach children how to deep breathe, offering a space for fun and relaxation skill building. Night Lights like Cloud B Tranquil Turtle, Rainbow Bulbs or Uncle Milton’s Shooting Stars are soothing as are Aromatherapy Stuffed Animals like Sonoma Lavender Bear or Cozy Plush Microwavable Animals.
  6. Don’t forget the cape: Any toys or games that encourage pretend play are wonderful ways to encourage imagination for emotional and physical release. Research shows that pretend play reduces anxiety and depression, reduces pain, improves coping and regulates feelings states. Be it Disney princesses or Marvel Avengers, girly dolls or action figures, playing house or walking on the moon, pretend play is great, healing fun.
  7. Go for silly over seriousLaughter is great medicine, and scientific studies show that having silly experiences raises the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. Some of my favorites are Duck Duck Bruce, Pass the Pigs, Slamwich, Gooey Louie, and What’s in Ned’s Head. And never underestimate the giggle power of miniature hats and stick on mustaches. They rank top of the list for children I work with.
  8. Games that spark storytelling: Getting depressed children to talk about their struggles isn’t always easy. But the built-in rules of certain games allow children to safely share. For your depressed child games like Tell Tale, MadLibs, SketchIt, Ravensburger’s Tell-A Story Games, IlluStory’s Make Your Own Story and Rory’s Story Cubes can be a springboard for emotional expression.
These special categories of toys and games give depressed children a healthy way of distancing themselves from sadness. 

When you sit and play with your depressed child, your time and attention helps with their healing.

Remember, for children, toys are their words and play is their conversation.