Summer and On: Outdoor Family Activities

As a parent, raising children through the teen years can be perplexing and difficult. Almost overnight, our sweet boys and girls morph into young adults. Unfortunately, this transition is complicated and often accompanied by slamming doors and unpredictable swinging moods. Suddenly, we are back to square one when it comes to navigating our teen’s emotions and needs.

This period of development can easily lead to a disconnect in the family if we are not careful. We need to remember that just because our kids have a deeper voice and can legally drive a vehicle, they still need a relationship with us. We need to look for new activities that can help us bond and build upon the foundation we layed when they were younger. This can be more difficult now that our kids are older, but it isn’t impossible.

8 Teen Friendly Family Activities to Try This Summer

To help us during this unique parenting phase, we have compiled the following list of eight summer and outdoor family activities to try with our teens:

Go camping. Teens may balk at leaving the modern comforts behind, namely their electronics. However, spending a few days and nights in the great outdoors provides ample opportunities for the family to connect while exploring new environments. Evenings spent around the campfire talking or telling stories will be something they remember forever, plus it gives us some one-on-one time without interruptions from friends and technology.

Embrace frisbee golf. Many local parks and state recreation areas have built elaborate frisbee golf courses for public use. On a beautiful day, take the kids out for an impromptu round and enjoy the company. If your family enjoys this game, join a league or register for a tournament together.

Grow something together. Our children are more than capable working alongside us as we grow a garden or tend a section of plants. This will give them something to nurture during the warmer months and they will reap the rewards of their efforts in the form of healthy veggies, brilliant fruits, and beautiful flowers. Use guides to choose the right plants for the zone you live in or to find flowers that have special meanings. Kids might balk at the idea of weeding or pruning, but ultimately they will enjoy sharing their harvests with neighbors, donating to the local food pantry, or canning their yields for the winter months. This will give our kids a better appreciation of knowing where their food comes from and the effort it really takes to put a meal on the table.


Hold on tight. If you have an adventurous teen, consider visiting an ATV course or try your hand at white water rafting. Just remember to learn how to safely operate the equipment and wear appropriate safety gear. This just might be the experience of a lifetime!

Create large yard versions of their favorite board games for endless fun. Help them channel their inner child and revisit classic games like Jenga, Chess, or Kerplunk for the outdoors. If you don’t want to try your hand at crafting these grown-up recreations, bring out lawn golf, croquet, or badminton for games to involve the whole family. The main idea is to get everyone outside and playing together.

Have an outdoor movie night. Revisit the nostalgia of drive-in movies with a sheet and a projector in your own backyard. If you don’t have access to a projector, your teen can put their engineering skills to work and build a makeshift projector using a shoebox and Smarthphone.  Finally, choose a classic or modern film that everyone can enjoy, buy some bug spray, and pop some popcorn for a night spent watching movies in the backyard.

Go star gazing. We always tell our kids to dream big and shoot for the stars. Literally take this sage advice and spend the summer nights gazing up at the heavens. Find a book or app to locate constellations and track the movement of the night sky. It doesn’t matter if you have a telescope or just lie on your backs, you will be taking in Mother Nature’s beauty while creating new memories.

Create a family living space outdoors. As a family, design a space outdoors that extends the family’s living space outside. Make sure you have plenty of comfortable seating and shade to keep everyone healthy. Consider adding a firepit, hammock, or water feature. This will make it a more enticing area for everyone to gather for dinner, s’mores, and games in the evening.

 

How do you plan on keeping your teen enjoying outdoor family activities this summer?

 


Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

 


 

How Pets Are Helping With Multiple Mental Health Issues

We’ve long known that animals and pets have helped us in a number of different ways, especially from an overall health standpoint. They reduce stress, lower our heart rate and may motivate some of us to exercise more. Therefore they can extend our overall life expectancy with their contribution as our companions. But they also assist in other roles that lead many of us to live better, more fulfilled lives as service dogs, especially for those who struggle with mental health issues.

Do animals possess a unique skillset that humans just can’t offer to those with conditions like depression, anxiety or even epilepsy? We’ve all heard about dogs that have “sniffed” out cancer in their masters and science simply can’t explain this ability beyond an animal’s heightened sense of smell. Is it delivered through specific breeding since some like the Norwich Terrier are better “ratters” and hunters or bloodhounds are better trackers compared to others? Does this give our four-legged friends an ability to sense something like an oncoming seizure, or does it come from a bond they form with their masters?

Teenage Trauma And A Kid’s Companion

Although usually associated with raging hormones and coming to grips with becoming a young adult, adolescents can feel separated from their peers during this difficult time in their life. Often bonding with a pet will help them to feel like they always have at least one friend in the world who is always there for them, won’t judge them and is simple available to be their companion.

Important Answers

According to sources, who have studied how animals have helped those who are suffering with depression and anxiety, some solutions are more simplistic and straightforward. For example:

  • Since animals need to be fed, cared for and exercised regularly, this can give those caregivers struck down with depression or anxiety an incentive to be more motivated.
  • Some who have mental health issues may feel easily threatened by humans, but animals offer unconditional love along with a complete lack of judgment, leaving them with a sense of ease and comfort.
  • Animals also help those who feel cut off from others due to the grip of their mental illness and the type of connection they feel with a pet helps to bridge this gap, especially given the presence of the internet and other technological forms of disconnection.
  • For those who may have problems with paranoia or the onset of panic attacks, an animal’s natural protective instincts keep those intruders at bay, regardless of certain people who may have innocent intentions.

Think of it this why, providers of service animals always warn the general public not to pet or interact with these animals while they are at work. They’re performing a job, and this type of distraction can be dangerous to the animal and their master, depending upon the circumstance.

Service With A Smile

Often when we think of a service dog, we may imagine an animal assisting someone who is either wheelchair bound or those canines engaged with a military or police career. But these larger breeds aren’t the only ones who help those in need. Regardless of their size, a larger German Shepherd in full commando mode can be just as helpful to a police officer as a tiny terrier could be to someone suffering from something like PTSD (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

As a matter of fact, when it comes to dealing with PTSD, groups like K9 For Warriors are filling a much-needed void with matching veterans with service dogs that help them tackle this type of debilitating dilemma. Sometimes a flesh wound will heal much faster than damage to a dedicated, disciplined soldier’s brain, their mental state and overall well-being.

When these soldiers return home, they may experience little support from the government, some of them feel disconnected with their families and friends. But a furry little companion will give them the hope, strength and connection they need to move forward with their lives.

Along with some recent unrealistic and bias stigmas that are often attached to those suffering from mental health problems, it’s time to put these antiquated illusions to rest. Sometimes a companion animal, a furry, happy little face, along with everyday examples of unconditional love can do wonders for people regardless of their mental state.


Author_Amy_2Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

 


 

10 Ways You Can Help – Part 2!

We’re continuing our series on 30 ways you can support Teen Lifeline during our 30th anniversary year!

This time we’re taking a look at 10 more ways you can support us, based on if you’re a teen or an adult!

10_ways_to_help_v25 Ways You Can Support Teen Lifeline (as a teen!)

1. Reach out to a friend and suggest they call Teen Lifeline!

One of the most important things you can do if you’re worried about a friend, is to reach out to them and suggest they call Teen Lifeline if they’re struggling. Check out some of previous blog posts to learn how to learn more on what to do if you’re worried about a friend.

2. Volunteer to be a Peer Counselor!

Are you the type of person everyone confides in? Do you enjoy helping others? Want to help people on a bigger scale? Then consider joining the Teen Lifeline family and becoming a Peer Counselor! Learn more HERE!

3. Invite your friend to volunteer at Teen Lifeline with you!

Signing up to volunteer? Bring your best friend along and help save lives together!

4. Buy/Sell Teen Lifeline Bracelets!

We have opportunities available where you can buy/sell Teen Lifeline bracelets in your school. Some restrictions may apply, so contact Nick at nick@teenlifeline.org if you’re interested!

5. Invite your friends to a Teen Lifeline event!

On Friday, September 9th, we’re holding a FREE community rally in support of the Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Bring your friends and stop by Tempe Marketplace where they’ll be live music from 3NATIONS, drawings, giveaways and the chance to learn more about resources in the community and how YOU can save a life.


5 Ways You Can Support Teen Lifeline (as an adult!)

1. Invite our Prevention Team to share lifesaving info at your child’s school!

IMG_7290Want Teen Lifeline in your son or daughter’s school? Contact your school administrators and encourage them to reach out to us! We provide a variety of FREE presentations to help students  with stress/coping, grief/loss, depression/suicide and a variety of other topics.

2. Place a link to Teen Lifeline in your e-signature

Whether business or personal, add “Proud to Support Teen Lifeline!” and a link to our website (www.teenlifeline.org) in your email signature!

3. Share Teen Lifeline’s info with your own mailing list

Do you own an e-mailing list? Share Teen Lifeline’s information with your recipients!

4. Show some love on Social Media!

Let people know YOU support Teen Lifeline by linking to our Facebook, Twitter,or Instagram accounts!

5. Donate your services for auction items or for use at Teen Lifeline’s facility.

Are you a graphic designer? Own your own carpet cleaning business? Drive a limo? Whatever your field of service is, consider donating some of your time and/or services for auction packages at our events! Contact Amanda Dailey at amanda@teenlifeline.org for more information!
For any other general questions about ways you can help Teen Lifeline contact our Donor Relations Coordinator, Nick Shivka, at nick@teenlifeline.org!

Back To School Anxiety and How To Help It

Back to School Anxiety

After a few weeks, summer vacation for teens across the country is coming to a close. Hopefully this summer vacation has been a good one with Pokémon Go being released and all. Many teens might be thrilled to go back to school where they are able to see their friends and pick back up in sports, clubs, or other school activities. However, for a portion of those same teens, this return to school may come with a great deal of stress and anxiety. Especially with teens that may experience bullying or have been ostracized in the past due to their appearance, style, sexuality, etc., returning back to school may be especially difficult.

Even those students that don’t experience difficulties at school and are genuinely excited to go back may experience high levels of stress as they prepare to start a new school year. A lot of these students are expected to achieve incredible things which can make them feel an increase in pressure from their parents, friends, and themselves. It’s important to note that teens that strive to achieve a lot, even if they choose to do so voluntarily, may still experience these emotions at the possibility of falling short of their goals.

Likewise, if a teen is starting a new school due to moving, transferring, or graduating, going back to school can be especially difficult. There might be a lot of unanswered questions such as: will I find friends? Will I like my teachers? Will I enjoy the school in general? Teens who are in this situation may silently agonize over the various possibilities for this year. Or, on the other hand, they might be ignoring the idea of a new school all together making it more difficult when they realize school is starting.
Back To School Anxiety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are a teen, or you know a teen, that might be feeling some stress and anxiety about this upcoming school year, here are some ways that you can help reduce those feelings.

Remember the basics

When we are stressed or feeling high levels of anxiety, it is easy to forget some of the basic things that you do to make sure that you are in the right state of mind.

First and foremost, it is important to make sure you get enough quality food in your diet, and that you get good sleep. Being hungry and sleepy does not go well with being stressed or anxious. It is only going to make you feel worse and be less prepared to handle it in your life.

Likewise, don’t forget your coping skills! As we talked about in a similar post, coping skills are things that you do for fun that make you feel better when you are feeling sad, angry, stressed out, or an array of other negative emotions. Coping skills are things such as reading, writing, listening to music, jogging, biking, playing video games, watching Vine and YouTube videos, drawing, singing, etc. Basically, if you find it fun to do and you feel that they make you feel better, they are coping skills. Don’t forget those things during this time. If you are feeling overwhelming stress and anxiety, make sure to make use of them.

Communication

If you are a teen, remember that communication is very important. It is imperative that you fall back on the people that have been your support system all along. This may include parents, family members, teachers, counselors, friends, or anyone that you trust. Go to these people and talk to them openly and honestly about the fears that you may have about this new school year. If you haven’t been at least hinting at it already, keeping all of that stress and anxiety bottled up can make things more difficult for you. A lot of teens experience a sense of relief when they talk about things like this.

If you are an adult in a teen’s life who you suspect is going through some of this, approach them and encourage them to talk to you, or someone else, about everything that is going on. Sometimes all it takes is for an adult to simply reach out and show concern for a teen to open up and talk about things they have been holding back.

Stay Positive

Your thoughts and mentality towards the upcoming year can definitely have an impact on how you are feeling. Instead of thinking about all of the bad things that could happen once school starts back up again, perhaps think about some of the good things. Instead of thinking about the fact that you might not be making any friends, think about how you made friends in the past and how you can do that again this time. Instead of thinking about all the time your extracurricular activities will take this year, perhaps think about all of the amazing places and events you will be able to go to because of these activities. It may sound simple to focus on the more positive aspects, and in practice it can absolutely be difficult to do, but those changes can have an amazing effect on you.

Call Teen Lifeline

And, finally, if you find that all of the above possibilities don’t work for you, or you feel that you aren’t able to even attempt them, call us (or in AZ text 602-248-TEEN) here at Teen Lifeline. We understand that what may work for some people may not necessarily work for you. When you call Teen Lifeline the Peer Counselors here will help you figure out what works best in your life. The Counselors will assist you in making a plan that you can follow to reduce some of the stress and anxiety that you might be feeling. The awesome thing about the people that answer the phone here at Teen Lifeline is that they are all teens just like you, between the ages of 15 and 19. They too are going back to school and a lot of them have experienced what you are feeling. So don’t be afraid of calling us thinking that whoever you talk to won’t be able to understand because, trust me, they will. Remember, you are not alone.


Luis BarceloFor the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.


 

Risk Factors of Suicide

In an earlier post, we talked about the signs of suicide. If you recall, these are common expressions that often point to the possibility that a teen might be suicidal. Today we will talk about “risk factors”. Risk factors are related to signs in that they are red flags that wave at you telling you “Hey! Watch out for this person, they have the potential to be suicidal.”

Specifically, risk factors are things, usually circumstantial in nature, which put a teen at higher risk of developing suicidal thoughts. They might come in many different forms, but they all are things that, if a teen in your life is experiencing, you should try to keep an extra close eye on for the actual signs of suicide.

Why someone might be suicidal?

There are about as many reasons to feel suicidal as there are people on Earth. However, I think it is important to understand what might be going through the mind of someone who is suicidal in order to understand what makes certain situations “risk factors”. Very rarely do people that are suicidal feel that their suicidal feelings are the actual problem. In fact, often times, suicide is the solution that they have identified to some problem in their life. Risk factors are those problems that might make a teen feel so overwhelmed that they see no other solution than taking their own life. So, when thinking about what might be a risk factor for a teen, remember that these risk factors are things that a teen might see as a problem “too big to handle.”

Risk Factors of Suicide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Risk Factors

One risk factor that is common among teens include a serious loss. A serious loss can come in many shapes. A death of a close family member, friend, or even a pet can be considered a serious loss in the life of a teen. Especially if it is a loss of something that is dear to the individual; a loss can be life-shattering. However, don’t restrict your idea of a loss to death. Loss can be many other things besides the death of a loved one.

Other types of loss include:

  • Health
    • Loss of health happens when an individual’s health prevents them from keeping the life that they currently have. For example, this would be an individual who has seen great success as a basketball player, but is now unable to continue in his career due to an injury or other health related problem. Another example is someone who enjoyed going to school and spending time with friends, but is now restricted to her home due to an illness.
  • Breakups
    • As an adult it can be easy to brush off the pain that comes with a break-up. After all, most adults have probably gone through a break-up before they see their kids have their own. It is important to remember, however, that a breakup for a teen can be as devastating as a divorce for an adult. Teens don’t have the same life experiences that most adults have and are dealing with these emotions for the first time.
  • College
    • As we discussed previously, the transition from high school to college can be incredibly stressful. If a teen is moving away to another city or state for college, this stress might be increased. This type of loss could be defined as a loss of lifestyle. College drastically changes the lifestyle that many teens have enjoyed for almost two decades. On top of that, add the fact that they might be leaving behind people that they love and it is easy to see how a young adult may feel overwhelmed by this transition.

History of suicide is another risk factor that is important to watch out for. A history of suicide means that the teen has known someone personally that attempted suicide or died by suicide. Additionally, it may also mean that the person themselves has attempted suicide before. Either of these scenarios puts the teen at a higher risk of suicide because it has now been introduced as an acceptable way to deal with one’s problems. If a teen has attempted suicide before and they still feel as trapped as they did then, it might be easy to attempt again.

Troublesome behavior may also be a risk factor. This includes alcohol as well as other drugs. Additionally, getting in trouble frequently, having disciplinary problems, and engaging in high-risk behavior are also risk factors that you should watch out for.

A psychiatric disorder can additionally be seen as a risk factor. Specifically, depression and trauma/stress related disorders are risk factors in teens. Dealing with these types of psychiatric disorders can be daunting. In fact, it can be difficult for the entire family and friends of the individual. A teen might feel that their condition or life is never going to get better, or they might fear that it might get worse if their disorder worsens. For this reason, suicide can become an option.

Some aspects of a social life can also be risk factors. If a teen is being bullied at school, the teen is at a higher risk of suicide. Bullying can be very impactful in a teen’s life, and it might seem like an unfixable problem. Likewise, a teen who has a lot of pressure to meet high standards, such as good grades, run school clubs, organize and participate in school activities, etc. may start to feel overwhelmed. Remember, no matter what “type” a teen is, there are always circumstances that can easily become overwhelming.

And finally, lack of social support (whether perceived or real) is another risk factor. If a teen doesn’t feel they have the necessary people in their life to help them through difficult times, suicide might become an option versus talking to a close family member and figuring out a different solution with a friend.

Preventative Actions

If you fear that your child or friend might be at risk, there are some things that can help prevent the teen from reaching the point where suicide becomes an option for them.

Communication is a preventative action that can be very effective. If you notice, a lot of risk factors have to do with problems that may be perceived as incredibly complex. This is part of the reason that someone might become suicidal; death might seem simpler than any solution that the teen has thought about. However, good communication and a good connection with family members and friends, promotes the idea of speaking about feelings and finding alternative solutions.

Good Family and Friends Communication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise, helping a teen garner and hone problem solving skills is another form of preventative action. Teens that have good problem solving skills are able to solve bigger problems than their peers that may not have the same skills. With these problem solving skills, they are able to think of different solutions to suicide that they might not have thought about if they didn’t have those specific skills.

Another preventative action can be restricting the teen from engaging in behavior that may put him at risk such as alcohol, drugs, and other behavior outlined above. This can keep the teen stay safe. In the same way, restricting a teen from access to highly lethal means of suicide can help.

Lastly, another preventive action is to ensure that the teen has many adequate resources to help with their mental health. If you recall, psychiatric disorders are a risk factor. If your teen has a disorder like this, it is important that they find professional help so that they can handle it better. However, resources shouldn’t be restricted to just teens that have a psychiatric disorder. Help can be found for anyone dealing with any sort of problem.

This is where Teen Lifeline comes in. If you know a teen or a friend that you fear might be at risk for suicide, they can call Teen Lifeline to talk about those problems. Our Peer Counselors are extensively and specifically trained to help. When someone calls, we are prepared to talk to them about anything that is going on in their life, and we are able to help them figure out the best way they can deal with problems.

If you know someone who could use Teen Lifeline, don’t hesitate to give them our number (602-248-TEEN) so that they can receive the help they need.


Luis BarceloFor the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.


10 Ways You Can Help!

10 Ways to Help

We get asked all the time, “How can I help?” “What can I do to support Teen Lifeline?” 

It’s true that monetary donations do keep our doors open and allow us to provide a connection of hope to teens in crisis.

But, there’s so much more!

In honor of our 30th anniversary, we’re going to take a look at 30 ways that YOU can support Teen Lifeline, starting with these 10, in no particular order:

1. Donate Prizes

September is Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness MONTH. During this time we, along with other area organizations, visit schools across the state, provide information, and showcase lifesaving resources available for teens. In order to help make it even more fun, we hold raffles and give out prizes that include backpacks, gadgets, and other school supplies. YOU can help us by donating some of these items!

2.Donate Auction Items

At our Connections of Hope gala and the annual Firetag Golf Tournament we hold live and silent auctions. Because of this, we’re always in need of great auction items! Whether it’s an all-expenses paid vacation, restaurant voucher, or professional services, we use it all! Proceeds from these auctions are what really generates the revenue that helps us answer the nearly 16,000 crisis calls we get every year! To learn more or to donate an item for an auction, contact Amanda at amanda@teenlifeline.org.

3. Donate In-Kind Items

Do you know we have a “Wish List”? It includes a variety of items that we need and/or “wish” to upgrade, but helps with the daily operations of our organization (including some incentives for our awesome Peer Counselors!).

4. Donate Unused Gift Cards

Have a gift card to AMC you just won’t use? Or maybe something to a local grocery store or shop around town? We can use those! Sometimes we use them to recognize the amazing efforts of our Peer Counselors, and sometimes we use them for giveaways when we are out in the community. So if you have a gift card you don’t want, donate it!

5. Organize a Community Awareness Event

There are still many teens and adults that don’t know about the resources available to them in the community. Start a block-party or other awareness event and help spread the message of hope to your friends, family, and community!

6. Write a review on Great Nonprofits

Have you seen first hand the positive impact Teen Lifeline has made on the community? Tell everyone about it! Head over to Great Nonprofits and write a review!

7. Connect with us on Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. LinkedIn. We’re all over trying to spread our message of hope. Connect with us and SHARE our positive message with your network. You never know, it could save a life!

8. Share Our Newsletter

Encourage your friends and family to sign-up for our newsletter! They’ll receive tons of information on teen mental health and get the latest updates on what our organization is up to!

9. Host a Parent Education Session

Host a brunch with your friends and tell them all about Teen Lifeline and our services. You can even invite us out and we can answer any questions first hand.

10. Include Teen Lifeline in Conversations

Communication is a powerful tool in helping prevent teen suicide. Talk to your friends and family about Teen Lifeline and help spread our message of hope!

If you want to learn more about these, or other ways you can help support Teen Lifeline, reach out to our Donor Relations Coordinator, Nick, at 602-248-8337 or nick@teenlifeline.org!

Signs of Suicide Your Friends May Show

As friends, we are sometimes the first people to notice signs that someone might be going through a rough patch in life. When that rough patch becomes too much to handle, we are often the only people that can suspect that our friends might be suicidal. Teens are often more likely to be themselves around their peers than they are to parents, older family members, teachers, etc. They might guard themselves closely as to not let anything show, but, to you, their friend, they might not even notice that they are letting their guard down. For this reason, it is important that you are aware of some of the signs and risk factors that you might see in someone that is thinking about suicide. Note that “risk factors” are common situations, such as a parent’s divorce or loss of a loved one, which put teens at a higher risk of suicide.

Today, however, we will be focusing specifically on signs.

warning signs photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs are things that you can watch out for that might indicate to you that someone is possibly thinking about suicide. They are sometimes very obvious things, but a lot of times they are subtle things for which you have to watch out. They don’t always mean that someone is absolutely, one hundred percent suicidal, but they are definitely signs that should concern you. They are definitely not things that you should brush off as normal. Bellow we will discuss some of the more common signs. As you learn about them, think about your friends and see if there is anyone in your life who might be showing some of these.

Direct and Indirect Statements

Direct and indirect statements are probably some of the easier warning signs to notice. Direct statements are pretty simple. If a friend tells you bluntly that they are feeling suicidal, that they are thinking about killing themselves, or things along those lines, that is a direct statement. It is a statement that is directly identifying the fact that they are feeling suicidal.

Indirect statements are a bit more subtle, but they are still easy to notice if you know what to look for. Like direct statements, indirect statements acknowledge the fact that they are feeling suicidal. Indirect statements are things such as “I wish I could go to sleep and I never had to wake up,” “I can’t do this anymore,” “I wish I weren’t here,” “I wish I had never been born,” etc. They are things that allude to feelings of not wanting to be alive without explicitly saying it.

Isolation

Isolation is another sign that you might be able to easily notice in your friends. Isolation is when someone suddenly starts to close themselves off from everyone else in their life. If you have a friend that you were used to seeing on a daily basis, who loves to go out with friends, and suddenly they want to spend time by themselves, then they might be displaying isolation due to possible suicidal feelings.

Behavioral Changes

Often times, people who are feeling suicidal don’t realize that they are exhibiting behavioral signs of suicidal feelings. Behavioral signs are changes that you might notice especially with your close friends. There are several types of behavioral changes that may point to possible suicidal feelings. If you notice that one of your friends is suddenly eating more than usual or less than usual, that is a sign. If they are sleeping more than usual or less, that is also a warning sign.

Another type of behavioral change includes extreme mood swings. If you notice that one of your friends has recently become able to go from being happy to being extremely angry, or sad, or has had any type of mood swings, then that might alert you to the fact that they might be feeling suicidal.

Lastly, if you have noticed that your friend has become depressed or has expressed feeling of hopelessness for more than two weeks that can also be a sign that your friend might be feeling suicidal. If you notice this, or any of these behavioral changes, you might want to keep your eye out for your friend.

Idolizing Death

Idolizing death is another common sign that you might notice. Idolizing death happens when someone is talking about death a lot or are making drawings about death, or writing about death. This is a common form in which feelings of suicide are displayed. Idolizing death, of course, doesn’t always mean that someone is suicidal. There are plenty of people who “idolize death” but are not at all suicidal. However, it is still important to take notice if it is out of character.

Giving Away Prized Possessions

We all have things that we hold dear to ourselves. People tend to place emotional value on certain things. Perhaps they have a book they really love, or trophy they got when they were younger, or items that were gifted by important people in their life. Or perhaps they hold dear things that are very useful to them like their computer, or their phone, journal, or jewelry. When one of your friends starts to give away some of these possessions for no apparent reason, that might show that they are feeling suicidal. Giving away prized possessions is a sign of suicide, and an alarming one at that. Often, this warning sign appears when someone is seriously considering suicide and considered a plan or is already executing one. If you notice this, it is very important that you take action and get help.

Saying Final Goodbyes

Like giving away prized possessions, saying final goodbyes is a sign that indicates the person is considering suicide as a serious option. It is something that is typically done when someone has been thinking about suicide for a very long time. Saying final goodbyes is just as it sounds. This is when someone starts to say goodbye to their loved ones, and saying things like “thank you for all you’ve done for me,” etc. If one of your friends is saying goodbye, it is imperative that you get help immediately.

Is one of your friends showing some of these signs?

If you notice any of your friends showing a couple or more of these signs, it doesn’t mean that your friend is suicidal without a doubt. However, it does mean that you should pay attention to your friend and take steps to make sure that your friend remains safe. If you have reason to believe that your friend is suicidal, it is a good idea to get help from a trusted adult such as parents, teachers, or school counselors. They will have the resources you need to help your friend remain safe. If you don’t feel like you can go to any adults, asking your friend directly if they are feeling suicidal is a good way of talking about your friend’s feelings. Often times, people that are suicidal feel alone and trapped. Talking about their feelings can come as a great relief to many people. Lastly, if you or your friend needs someone to talk to about their suicidal feelings, Teen Lifeline is here to help. The Peer Counselors at Teen Lifeline are thoroughly trained to handle calls dealing with suicide. Teen Lifeline can help you or your friend come up with a plan that can help you with your situation. You can call or text us at 602-248-TEEN.


Luis Barcelo

For the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.


 

College Move-In Stress: How to Reduce It

With graduations over, new grads are counting down the days to their first day in college. For the majority of these grads, college also serves as their opportunity to leave the nest and flap their wings. For those that are going to college out of state, and even for a lot of those that are staying inside the state, college will be where they experience living independently for the first time. It is an opportunity that is at the forefront of a lot of these grads’ mind. Admittedly, living at home can be very difficult at times. There can be many arguments, fights, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings sometimes. Likewise, a lot of people tremendously enjoy being at home. After all, home is where their family is, where they feel loved and included. Leaving away for college may seem like a dream or a nightmare come true. Regardless, moving away for college comes with a high dose of stress.

With everything going on during this transition, it is easy to overlook or willfully ignore the signs of overbearing stress. Often times, there is simply just too much that needs to be done and it is easy to forget to take care of yourself.

college stress 1

Tips for Reducing College Move-In Stress

  1. Contact Your Roommate

Students are often told who they are going to be living with a few weeks or so in advance. Thankfully, with social networks, it is very easy to find and communicate with your future roommate. It might relieve some stress to talk with the person that you will live with for the greater part of the next year. There are several advantages to talking with your roommate before move-in day. The earlier you start communicating with your roommate, the greater the rapport you will have when you meet them face-to-face. This could easily cut back on some of the uncomfortableness that comes with physically meeting your roommate which is also a common source of stress. Additionally, communication may allow you to coordinate with your roommate to ensure that you don’t bring the same stuff or and you may get the opportunity to buff out other specifics (personally, I like to sleep with the wall to my left when I lay down, so that would be a requirement for me!).

  1. Be Realistic

A common contributing stress factor is the physical act of moving in. Worrying about bringing too much stuff or not bringing enough can add a lot of stress to students and parents alike. Therefore, in order to reduce stress, it might be a good idea to think realistically. Try to bring items you know for a fact that you will need. Don’t bring extra items “just in case.” This not only increases the amount of energy and effort needed to move-in, but it also makes it uncomfortable when you are figuring out dorm space with your roommate. However, if there is something that you are confident you would use on a regular basis, don’t leave it behind simply because you think you can go without it or you can get one quickly once you are settled in. Stores are all going to be filled with college students also trying to buy last-minute items which will leave store shelves empty. Additionally, you might be too busy with classes and other college activities so you will not have time to go out shopping for things you could have simply brought with you from home.

  1. Get Help

Moving in all by yourself can seem like a daunting task, especially if you want to check out the campus instead of carry boxes for hours. There is no shame in needing some help moving in. Ask for some of your friends to come along so you can get yourself loaded, unloaded, and set up quickly in you dorm. It can even become an exciting trip for you and your friends. If done with the right people, moving can be more fun and less exhausting. Throw a pizza in the mix at the end of the day with some cold beverages and I am confident you won’t be scrambling to find people to help you.

  1. Don’t Forget Your Resources!

Schools are no strangers to the incredible amount of stress put upon their incoming students. They know that this transition in the life is no walk in the park. For that reason, a lot of colleges and universities have established resources for their students. Make sure to look at your school’s website to find where you would be able to find resources that might be useful. Arizona State University, for example, has counseling services at four locations which are available for students who may be struggling with any aspect of college life. The University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University both offer similar services to their students.  If you are moving to another state or city, make sure that you find the numbers for local resources you may need like police, firefighters, and hospitals. Hopefully you don’t need to use any of those resources, but if the need arises, you’d be happy that you are prepared.

  1. Don’t Forget Your Coping Skills!

Coping skills are very important and are often times completely forgotten in times of stress, when they are needed most. You might not know what coping skills are, but I guarantee that you have some. You probably call them hobbies, or pass-times, or time-killers, or, simply, things-that-I-do-for-fun. Coping skills can be almost anything If you like to sing, that is a coping skill. If you like to draw, that is a coping skill. If you like to play video games, that is a coping skills. Write, read, listen to music, run, walk, bike, nap, exercise, YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, Reddit, Instagram; yup, those are all coping skills! If you do it for fun and it makes you feel better when you are feeling upset, then those are coping skills for you. They are different for everyone and, by now, you should have a small or big list of things that you go to when you are feeling upset. During this period in your life, don’t forget about these coping skills. They are still as available to you now as they have always been, so don’t turn your back on them!

Hopefully these tips can help you make sure that your transition into college is far less stressful than it has to be. Remember, if at any point during this transition (or during any point, before or after you start college) you feel like everything is just too overwhelming and you need someone to help you work things out, the Peer Counselors at Teen Lifeline are here to help you as best as they can. Call or text at any point and you will instantly be connected to a teen who can help you figure out how to reduce the stress in your life!


Luis Barcelo

For the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.


 

LGBT Teens in School

As far back as 1969, June has been an important month for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) community. During the month of June, many events are held throughout the United States and the world in order to celebrate and support the LGBT community. Over the last few decades, the LGBT community and straight allies have organized to provide safe spaces for LGBT students throughout the country.

Today, we will focus on schools and what they are doing to ensure that their LGBT students feel supported and, most importantly, safe.

LGBT Teens in School

In 1999, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) noticed that there was a lack of research about LGBT students in schools. In order to combat this lack of knowledge, GLSEN launched their first National School Climate Survey. This survey aims to understand and explore the prevalence of anti-LGBT language, victimization of the LGBT community, school policies that may be negatively impacting the LGBT community, the impact that hostile school environments can have on LGBT youth, and polices or other contributing factors that may offset any negative effects.

LGBT Teens in Schools

During the 2013 National School Climate Survey, over 7,800 students in middle school and high school were able to complete this survey.

The survey conclude that schools were unsafe and unwelcoming for teens of the LGBT community.

  • 65% of LGBT participants reported that they heard homophobic remarks frequently or often during school.
  • 30% of students reported that they missed at least one day in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable in school.
  • 85% of students were personally verbally harassed.
  • 56% of students reported that they felt discriminated due to policies at school and common practices.

Many of students in the LGBT community reported that there were policies in place at their school that restricted student expression, prohibited LGBT curricular content, and enforced traditional gender roles.

  • 18% of students claimed that were not allowed to bring same-sex dates to school dances.
  • 19% of students reported that they were deterred from wearing clothes that were deemed “inappropriate” for their gender.
  • 28% of students claimed that they were disciplined for public displays of affections which were not similarly cause for discipline towards non-LGBT couples.

GLSEN determine that the more LGBT students felt that they were being victimized and discriminated, the more severe the negative effects became.

  • Students who felt they were harassed at a high level had an average GPA of 2.8 Students who felt they were not victimized as often had an average GPA of 3.2.
  • 96% of students who reported low levels of victimization for their gender expression said that they would pursue post-secondary education. Only 92% of students who felt they were highly victimized for their gender expression reported that they were likely to pursue these avenues.
  • Students that felt they were highly victimized at school also reported having lower levels of self-esteem.

What are school doing to help?

One great way that schools are helping combat these negative effects is through the implementation of Gay Straight Alliances (GSA). GSAs are student-affiliated and student-ran clubs within schools where members of the LGBT community can go and find support from other members of their community within their school, as well as from non-LGBT students who are supportive of the LGBT community. GSAs provide a safe environment for students to discuss common problems of the LGBT community such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Members of GSAs strive to create a school environment that is free of harassment, discrimination, and intolerance.

According to GLSEN’s National School Climate survey, half of all students surveyed reported that their school had allowed the implementation of GSAs. In 2008, GLSEN reported that they had over 4,000 GSAs registered with them. This is great news for the community because it has been observed that the presence of a GSA in school is very positive for the students there.

  • 57% of students in schools with a GSA reported hearing less homophobic remarks versus 75% at schools where a GSA wasn’t present.
  • Students that had access to a GSA reported that they experienced less violence based on their sexual orientation or their gender expression. In Michigan, for example, it was noted that students who were in LGBT relationships or might be in one soon, were half as likely to experience dating violence, being threatened or injured at school, or miss schools due to fear.
  • One third of LGBT of students without a GSA reported missing school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable at school. When a school had a GSA, that number dropped to one fourth.

LGBT Teens in Schools

Across the country, teachers seem to be supportive of GSA’s themselves. Over half of teachers in secondary schools believed that the presence of a GSA would make their school safer for LGBT students. GSAs have the added benefit of allowing students to identify faculty members that are supportive of the LGBT community. In schools with a GSA, only a third of students were able to identify supportive faculty members, while half of the students were able to identify them if they had a GSA. Because of this, LGBT students who have a GSA in their school also report feeling that they belong to their school’s community more than students without a GSA.

With this in mind, it would seem that GSAs are a valuable addition to any school. It is not disputed whether there aren’t awful struggles within schools for LGBT students. Across the board, students are reporting feeling unsafe due to the prevalence of LGBT discrimination and harassment. GSAs seem to offer a way to combat the negative effects that may arise from these circumstances. If you are a student who doesn’t know if their school has a GSA, may want to join your school’s GSA, or want to start a GSA at your school but you have no idea where to start, call us at Teen Lifeline. Our Peer Counselors are trained to help you figure out the steps you need to take to feel safe at school, or help those around you feel safe.


Luis Barcelo

For the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.


 

Five Mental Health Apps

There are millions of apps available for people who want to play games, plan their days, talk to their friends, and capture their lives online. With the accessibility that comes with smartphone, and with one in every pocket, there is no limit to the power that can come from the apps ran on these devices. Thankfully, there are many apps that can help teens better handle stress, anxiety, and improve their overall mental health.

Here are 5 apps that we think you should check out and see if they can help you!

1. Pacifica

Pacifica | Five Mental Health Apps

 

Pacifica is a great app that offers many ways to handle your stress. Pacifica aims to break the cycle of fear that causes people to feel anxiety and stress. According to Pacifica’s own description, “Fearful thoughts causes physical feelings which cause actions. Your heart starts racing, so you think you’re in danger, so you want to escape. Pacifica attempts to break this cycle using tools that target each of its components via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Pacifica offers you the awesome tools such as the ability to track your mood throughout your day, listen to audio exercises when you are feeling anxiety, verbally record your thoughts so you can analyze your distorted thinking patterns, daily challenges to help you make progress, and connect privately or with helpful communities.

Pacifica is available for both iOS and Android devices. The app is free to download, but require you to subscribe to their service for $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year.

2. Stop Breath And Think

Stop Breath And Think | Five Mental Health Apps

Stop Breathe and Think is a free tool that helps you learn to meditate. Research has shown that mediation can help many people better handle their daily stress and anxiety. Stop Breathe and Think revolves around a simple process. First, stop whatever you are doing. Whether you are spending all afternoon texting with friends, playing video games, or watching funny YouTube videos, simply stop. Then, take some time to breathe. Focusing on your breathing is a good way to relax and clear your mind. Finally, think. Think about what is going on around you, what is making you stressed out, or anxious. Stop Breathe and Think can help you meditate in just five minutes!

Stop Breathe and Think is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.

3. Happify

Happify | Five Mental Health Apps

Happify allows you to choose a goal and helps you achieve that goal yourself. Happify can help you conquer negative thoughts, cope with stress, build self-confidence, and achieve mindfulness through meditation along with over thirty other options called tracks. Once you have chosen your track, Happify provides you with small games that help you along your journey. Some of the games ask you to do things like list your daily victories, while others have you stare at a beach scene for a period of time. According to Happify’s own surveys, 86% of the people who use the app report improving their life after a two month period.

Happify is available to download for free for iOS and Android devices. Happify Plus subscriptions start as low as $4.99 per month.

4. Unique Daily Affirmations

Unique Daily Affirmations | Five Mental Health Apps

Affirmations is a great way to give yourself a boost of self-esteem and to remind yourself of your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses. Unique Daily Affirmations shows you affirmations daily. When the affirmation comes on the screen, simply press the “HOLD” button as you repeat the affirmations out loud. This app is available for iOS and Android devices for free!

5. Hydro Coach

Hydro Coach | Five Mental Health Apps

Research shows that proper hydration is a great way to keep stress at bay. It is highly documented how stress can be minimized by drinking water. Studies have shown that even being two cups dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels which is one of the stress hormones. Every single part of your body needs water to function properly, and when they are highly hydrated, well, they can do their job the way that they are supposed to. This doesn’t mean that drinking enough water every day is going to get rid of everything in your life that may be causing you stress, but it will help you ensure that you are well equipped to deal with it.

Hydro Coach is an app that helps you calculate how much water your body needs based on your height, age, gender, and climate. It uses the time you wake up and the time you go to sleep to help you calculate your drinking pace and reminds you to drink throughout the day to keep drinking water. Open the app every time you finish a cup, or a water bottle so that it can add it to your log. It keeps track of your drinking habits day after day.

Hydro Coach is available free on Android and similar apps can be found on iOS.


Luis BarceloFor the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.