DCHS Counseling Update
The third segment in our Anxiety series has been released! In this segment, Dr. Cypers presents his FACE model which is a fantastic tool for helping people to recognize anxiety and take actionable steps to vanquish it. Please see this link and scroll down to overcoming anxiety with Dr. Cypers to watch it. We hope you and your family are doing well!
Dr Cypers will be available to answer your questions live via this link on Tuesday December 14th at 6:00pm.
Live Session 12.14.21 6:00pm https://ucdenver.zoom.us/j/93828591466
There have been a multitude of events that have occurred in our world lately that may impact your students and staff. We are still in the pandemic. We have had yet another school shooting take place in our nation, which can be very triggering for many. People have lost loved ones. All in all it’s been a challenging semester. Seeing and hearing about events of this nature can have an impact on our children and their ability to feel safe and secure. They may have questions or want to talk.
Our families and students are always welcome to talk with their teacher, school counselor, principal, etc. about any concerns or anxieties they may be feeling. The following are some additional resources that are great to share with your staff and families should they need help talking with children about the information they may be seeing or hearing.
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (National Association of School Psychiatrists)
How to Talk to Children About Difficult News (American Psychological Association)
Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event (National Child Traumatic Stress Network).
How to Talk to Kids About Difficult Subjects (Common Sense Media)
We are very grateful for the way Douglas County comes together as a community to support one another and how we work through stressful times. Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership
Go Red Day T-shirts: Order by January 13th
Help us fight heart disease and stroke on Friday, February 4th— National Wear Red Day, when our district will GO RED! If you would like to purchase a Go Red T-Shirt and support the American Heart Association (AHA) through this event, you can donate $25 by January 13th and they will send you the 2022 AHA Go Red T-shirt. Simply text DCSDGIVES from your phone to 41444 or CLICK HERE to see the T-shirt and order online. The DCSD site with the highest employee percentage of donation participation will receive a snack basket from the AHA
2021 MENTAL HEALTH
This year reminded us of the importance of getting proactive about managing our mental health. Whether that means having a variety of healthy coping skills to deal with our stress, or it means seeing a therapist to address some underlying issues, the importance of psychological well-being has been—and will remain—at the forefront of our minds.
High School Volunteers Needed
Douglas County Libraries need teen volunteers.
Reading Buddies - A unique program that matches trained teen volunteers to readers that are struggling, grades 1-3. Buddies meet weekly for two months to read and enjoy literacy-based games.
Teen Library Council - TLC offers teens an ongoing opportunity to earn community service hours while planning library events for kids and teens and helping shape library collections for young adults.
Additional Opportunities - Volunteer for special events, birthday parties, library collection maintenance, administrative tasks, and more.
Court-Ordered Volunteers - Douglas County residents ages 16 and up can perform court-ordered restitution for minor offenses with us. Tasks usually include shelving and cleaning. Some restrictions apply. Visit Volunteer Connect Douglas County to get started.
We Turned to Social Media, for Better and Worse
When it comes to social media and our mental health, the first and second years of the pandemic are not created equal. In those early months of lockdown, we united around the collective suffering of quarantine, each one of us doing our part by staying home and learning dances to post on TikTok. We all struggled together and somehow FOMO and self-criticism melted away—but only briefly.
Once vaccinations were approved and the so-called ‘return to normalcy’ began, the highlight reels were back with a vengeance, along with the anxiety and self-judgment that came with them. What’s more, many people wanted to show that they emerged from a traumatic year looking flawless as ever, with 90% of women reporting the use of a photo filter.17 When all you see on social media are edited photos, it can promote a vicious culture of unattainable beauty standards—at the inevitable detriment to mental health.
Instagram in particular has been especially hard on teen girls, whose developing body image and sense of self-acceptance are highly vulnerable. This past September, leaked internal documents showed that Facebook (now Meta) knew Instagram was having a consistently negative effect on the mental health of teenage girls—32% of teens said that when they were feeling bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.18
Adults aren't immune from these effects, either. In a November study, social media use was associated with increased levels of depression in 9% of individuals who previously reported no symptoms of depression. Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok were cited as the biggest offenders.19
Social media isn't slowing down, so it's on us to be more intentional about our social media use, and more careful about what we consume on a daily basis.
Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation Presented Major Risks for Young People
In many ways, it feels like the world has stopped for a while. For some, staying safe at home presented an opportunity to step back, slow down a bit, and try to focus more on the things that matter most. For those already in crisis, however, isolation during the pandemic led to significant concerns of deteriorating mental health. People dealing with addictions, for example, may have lost peer support and the ability to safely partake in many of the usual coping mechanisms that helped contain their substance use.
While preliminary data shows that there has not been the significant wave in suicides that many feared during the pandemic, research shows some potential causes for alarm:
- In May, we found that 37% of Gen Z and 34% of Millennials reported thoughts of self-harm over the previous 2 weeks, while over 40% of both populations reported feelings of depression or hopelessness.
- A CDC report showed that suicide rates for males aged 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34 had increased during the pandemic by 13%, 1%, and 5%, respectively. Suicide deaths also increased for black and Hispanic males.7
- In July, our Mental Health Tracker survey found that 26% of Americans said they were using more substances than normal over the previous 30 days.
Before COVID, opioids were the epidemic of note, and while our attention has been diverted, the dangers of opioid use have not faded. In fact, overdoses have continued to rise, with CDC provisional data from April showing a 28.5% year-over-year increase in drug overdose deaths.8
Disparities in Health, Treatment, and Support Affected the LGBTQ+ Community
Isolation can be a struggle for anyone, even the introverts among us. If nothing else, life during the pandemic has proven that. For some, these effects can be even more difficult to bear. People in the LGBTQ+ communities are one example of those who have faced some unique struggles since the start of the pandemic. For LGBTQ+ individuals, restrictions on public activity meant less access to the larger community—an essential outlet for many.
COVID-related difficulties are even more drastic for others, for example, transgender individuals who have been forced to delay gender-affirming surgeries due to a lack of hospital resources or losing their job and health insurance.
Research shows that the LGBTQ+ community, unfortunately, is already at higher risk of mental health issues, and are:
- At least twice as likely to experience severe alcohol or tobacco use as straight individuals14
- More likely to be bullied, with 29% of gay or lesbian youth and 31% of bisexual youth having reported being bullied at school, nearly double the rate of straight youth15
- More likely to suffer from depression and anxiety16
- About 4 times more likely to consider suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals
Additionally, research shows that LGBTQ+ individuals are less likely to receive treatment for issues like substance use or mental health conditions, with as many as 45% receiving no treatment for a mental illness.
On top of that, sexual minorities have higher rates of conditions like cancer, asthma, and heart disease that lead to a higher risk of COVID infection and complications. The disparities that put members of this community at higher risk of physical and mental health issues made them uniquely vulnerable during this time.
When those disparities are cast aside, however, it seems that outcomes improve. An August 2021 survey from the Human Rights Campaign found that 92% of LGBTQ+ adults had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine—a treatment freely available to all. Without the barriers and biases that put LGBTQ individuals at greater health risks, potentially life-saving treatment was administered to great effect in 2021.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Suicide Death Rates
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that suicide deaths between 2019 and 2020 decreased by 3% overall (by 2% in males and by 8% in females).1 However, suicide deaths for males in three age groups (10–14 years, 15–24 years, and 25–34 years) increased. And while suicide deaths decreased amongst white and Asian males, deaths increased for Black, American Indian and Alaskan Native, and Hispanic males.
A Mental Health Pandemic
During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the US have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to one in 10 adults who reported between January and June 2019.2
"Experiences such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have been more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for youth and young adults, caregivers, frontline workers, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations," says Dr. Moutier.
But when it comes to suicide death rates, the situation is complex.
“Suicide rates are greatly impacted during times of national tragedies or major world events,” says Julian Lagoy, MD, a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry and MindPath Care Centers. For instance, four years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City analyses of death records showed there was no increase in suicide rates.3 "This may be because there was a general sense among the population of 'we are all in this together,' " Dr. Lagoy says.
Dr. Moutier adds that even when distress is high, suicide isn’t a foregone conclusion, because help seeking can also rise, and during periods of community-wide distress, cohesion and interpersonal connectedness increase, which can mitigate against suicide risk.
She also stresses that it’s important to understand that COVID-19 and associated mitigation efforts such as physical distancing alone don’t cause suicide.
"An individual's personal risk factors combined with precipitants such as evolving experiences with isolation, depression, anxiety, economic stress, suicidal ideation, and access to lethal means may lead to periods of increased risk of suicide,” she explains.
We may not understand the entire impact of COVID-19 on suicide deaths for the long-term, because suicide mortality data takes time to collect and analyze. Plus, the pandemic is not yet over. Another consideration is the time lag that often occurs in the manifestation of distress—this can be months after a traumatic or stressful period is over, says Dr. Moutier.
When implementing suicide prevention efforts, it’s important to consider various aspects of an individual's identity, such as race, ethnicity, education, physical and mental health, gender/sexual identity, and religion. "More research is needed to better understand the specific risk factors and prevention strategies that work for each community," Dr. Moutier says. "Partnerships should include diverse representation of mental health care providers and community stakeholders including people and family members with lived experience."
As we plan for post-pandemic times, Dr. Moutier hopes the new CDC data will encourage initiatives such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Project 2025 to embrace stronger evidence-based suicide prevention practices.
"For example, primary, behavioral care, and emergency departments are critical settings where coordinated suicide prevention strategies can have a dramatic impact on saving lives," she says. "Basic screening and suicide risk reducing care steps, educating providers about suicide prevention, and collaborating with key accrediting professional organizations, can improve the acceptance and adoption of screening and preventative intervention as the standard of care."