Author Archives: Nebraska Mental Health Centers

About Nebraska Mental Health Centers

We are a family owned and operated mental health practice that offers services for people from all walks of life. Located in Lincoln, Beatrice, and Fremont, Nebraska.

Earth Day: Worries and Anxiety over Climate Change and how to deal with both

By Canyon Skare, NMHC Undergraduate Intern

Today is Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now brings environmental awareness to the forefront of our minds each year on April 22nd. However, this awareness can also bring with it anxieties and stressors about our changing climate. This feels especially relevant this year, as just last week stories of scientists being arrested for protesting climate change reached the news cycle.

Most notably, NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus broke down before being arrested after he and another colleague chained themselves to the Los Angeles J.P. Morgan Chase building as part of a worldwide protest of over 1,200 scientists in 26 countries calling themselves the “Scientist Rebellion.” This story comes in the wake of Don’t Look Up’s recent release. A Netflix film that satirized common narratives that deny and spawn misinformation surrounding climate change, Don’t Look Up starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, a climate scientist much akin to the real-life Kalmus.

With experts like Kalmus becoming increasingly emotional in their pleas to the public to take climate change seriously, it can be easy to spiral into anxiety and worry over climate change. Anxieties about reducing our carbon footprints, recycling effectively, and limiting our fossil fuel emissions can feel overwhelming with sustainability reminders that come alongside Earth Day celebrations, especially as it gains more and more media prominence. Such personal stressors almost evaporate entirely, however, when one looks at the national and global levels of emissions, numbers that can provoke almost existential dread. What can we as individuals do against such a challenge? Are we doomed along with the climate? And if we are doomed, what’s the point in continuing to fight against the inevitable?

Fortunately, this doom-and-gloom is not the case. Since 2010, sizeable steps have been taken to prevent the worst outcomes of climate change. Scientists are confident that even if current climate policies stagnate, we’ll be able to avoid the apocalyptic level of change that provokes dread. Renewable sources of energy are becoming more and more widespread (see the increasing number of TESLA cars on Lincoln’s streets for a local example), and overall increases in emission levels have actually been going down since 2010. While the anxieties surrounding climate change are well-founded, it’s important to give ourselves grace and look at the picture with a factual view. Climate change is a serious problem that we must solve, but we’re making progress, and that itself is something to celebrate this Earth Day.

I also encourage you to watch the following video for more details on our fight against climate change!

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Important Dates for Mental Health Awareness for the Month of April

By Canyon Skare

While the coming of April often brings to mind April Fool’s pranks, this month also brings special awareness to multiple communities, services, and dimensions of well-being. Here at NMHC, we’re looking to highlight a few of them this month, reminding everyone to stay mindful of their mental health.

First launched in 1972 as “National Autistic Children’s Week,” April quickly evolved into Autism Acceptance Month, with World Autism Awareness Day itself being observed on April 2nd. Autism refers to a broad range of conditions, characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. These are just common challenges, however, as there are many subtypes of autism along a spectrum with 1 in 44 people being affected. So throughout April, we encourage everyone to keep their neurodivergent friends and family in their thoughts, remembering to be accommodating of the needs of these individuals, meeting them with kindness and understanding. 

April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. First observed by way of presidential proclamation from Ronald Reagan in 1983, Child Abuse Prevention Month has been a staple of the national conversation. In 2016, Barack Obama released an official statement during April, stating that “during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and to ensuring that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect.” His words ring true, as 2020 studies from the Children’s bureau showed that approximately two million children received Abuse Prevention services and around 1.2 million received response services. In our own efforts to “recommit to giving every child” a safe home, April should also find us keeping an eye on the children in our lives. 

In addition, the Stress Management Association first observed stress awareness month in April of 1992, and it continues to today. As a third-year undergraduate at UNL, I can certainly relate to this. This time of the semester, tests, projects, and papers start piling up, causing folks like me a lot of stress. Aside from measures of Acute Stress or types of short-term stress that go away quickly after the stressful event is over, it’s highly important to be aware of Chronic Stress this month. Chronic stress lasts for longer periods of time, going from multiple weeks to months. For those with chronic stress, they can often fail to realize that it’s a problem, and if they don’t find ways to manage stress, it can also lead to other mental health concerns like Anxiety and Depression. One great way people have kept their stress in check during April is through the 30-day stress awareness challenge. This 30-day challenge encourages people to do one action each day that will benefit their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

April is also Alcohol Awareness Month, National Counseling Awareness Month, and the first week of April is National Workplace Wellness Week! Regardless of where you’re at this month, we at NMHC encourage you to be a little more mindful of these communities, services, and dimensions of well being throughout April. And of course, find time to enjoy those April showers.

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Seasonal Affect Disorder – What it is, and What to do about it

By Jamie Monfelt, LIMHP

As we move forward to the end of the year there is so much people look forward to; the fall and winter holidays, a new year…some look forward to cooler winter temperatures and snow. But there is a reality that this time is also incredibly difficult for people. There is a misconception about the holidays that they are one big party filled with happiness, laughter, and joy. This is what we see on the television during every commercial of our favorite show; people dressed up in their fanciest clothing, spending time with their families, and giving expensive cars and jewelry as gifts. It’s what we hear on the radio in the “holly jolly” songs of past and present. If you are a shopper, you also see this in the storefront windows of every store wanting you to buy their products for your “special someones”.

Many persons find the holidays and the colder months of the year to be extremely difficult for various reasons. Some persons don’t have loved ones to share their holidays or have lost loved ones. For others it the financial burdens, and socialization of holiday gatherings (or lack of social gatherings due to cold and more recently, a pandemic). These situations and others evoke what is known as Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). About 5% of persons in the United States experience SAD (which is slightly less than the 6.7% of persons who experience Depression**).

SAD is a mental health disorder which includes symptoms similar to Major Depression Disorder (MDD). Symptoms may include the following: feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, losing interest in activities typically enjoying, changes in appetite or weight, problems with sleep, lack of motivation/energy, feelings hopeless, helpless, worthless, social withdrawal, and trouble concentrated. In most severe cases it may also include frequent thoughts of death or suicide. This particular disorder typically lasts for persons through the winter months (approximately 40% of the year), and subsides in the spring season.  Persons who experience MDD typically experience exacerbated symptoms (as described) during the fall and winter months.

Why do persons experience increased symptoms during the fall/winter months? One such reason is the lack of Vitamin D our body receives from the sun. There is a known correlation between Vitamin D from sun exposure and mental health symptoms.  Because we have less hours of sunlight in our day, our bodies naturally receive less Vitamin D which can impact our mood. Also from a scientific perspective, our bodies revert to “pre-historic times” in which our eating and sleeping patterns change. Our prehistoric ancestors also dealt with climate changes and harsh conditions which led to hibernation; eating more obtained foods if hunting was poor or unavailable, staying in shelter away from the elements. Therefore, in the winter months, you may experience craving “heavier” foods filled with more carbohydrates and starch. People also may eat more based on these factors (as the body prepares for “hibernation” conditions). You may find yourself wanting to sleep more, and go to bed earlier in evenings, or sleep later into the morning (while it is still dark).  

How does one minimize Seasonal Affect Disorder and Depression during the winter months?

There are multiple methods that may be of benefit. Traditional methods may include participation in outpatient therapy to learn effective coping strategies that work best for you. Those coping skills will likely include increasing physical activity (exercise, meditation), and maintaining social activities or contact with supports. Another traditional method may be medication management to provide biochemical benefit and hormonal balance. Research has identified multiple medications which provide mood regulation, including those that optimally impact our Serotonin and Dopamine responses. Other options include Light Therapy (to increase Vitamin D), and Aromatherapy. If you or someone you know experiences SAD or Depression, consider self-help options, talking to a therapist, or other trusted professional.

And, as always, be kind, as you never know what another person is facing in their own life.

**Information obtained from National Institute of Mental Health Disorders (NIMH)

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Talking about Suicide

I woke up this morning to read the tragic news that celebrated television personality, chef, and author Anthony Bourdain died of an apparent suicide. This just mere days after iconic fashion designer Kate Spade also completed suicide. It’s times like this that we hear a lot of people talk about suicide. Some of the discussion is helpful. Some of it isn’t.

What is important to understand about suicide is that open and honest discussion is vital, and may even save a life. Stigmatizing it by calling it a “selfish” decision or avoiding the subject entirely, for fear that discussion may “plant the idea” in someone’s head are two still very prevalent and very wrong modes of thinking.

The QPR Institute (Question, Persuade, Refer) encourages people to do the following if they believe a loved one is considering suicide.

QUESTION – Ask the person directly, but gently, if they have suicidal thoughts or are considering suicide. If they answer yes, then ask if they have a plan or means to do so. It is well-established that if asked directly, people with suicidal thoughts will answer honestly. It is very important to ask this very directly (not “Is everything okay” or “Is there something you want to tell me”) and very kindly (not “You’re not gonna kill yourself are you!?”) in order to take the next step.

PERSUADE – Now it is imperative to try and persuade this person to seek help. The key is to listen intently and offer hope. Be empathetic. Be understanding. Using forceful language or trying to guilt the person will not be productive.

REFER – Let the person know there are resources available to help them. Some of those resources will be listed at the bottom of this post.

Anything that halts this discussion or prompts someone who bay be considering suicide to stay quiet is harmful. Note that I wrote at the beginning of this post “completed” rather than “committed.” This is part of the ongoing effort to de-stigmatize suicide and encourage open and honest discussion. The discussion that starts with a very difficult question may end up saving a life.

RESOURCES

1-800-273-8255 – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

402-475-6695 – (for Nebraskans) Centerpointe Crisis Response Line

You can also call 911 at any time or seek out your local hospital

There is also a Mental Health Association of Nebraska “Warm Line” for non-emergencies. They can be reached at 402-975-2032

To learn more about QPR please go to www.qprinstitute.com. The Institute provides educational materials and trainings in the QPR process. Contact them to find out more.

 

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Sleep Awareness Week 2018

By Alex Zurek, Staff Therapist

March 2nd through the 9th is Sleep Awareness Week 2018. Initiated by the National Sleep Foundation, the theme of this year’s Sleep Awareness Week is “Begin with Sleep,” reminding us all of the importance of a restful night sleep. For more information about Sleep Awareness Week 2018: https://sleepfoundation.org/SAW.

While a proper sleep regimen is certainly a great place to begin your journey toward physical and mental health, we at Nebraska Mental Health Centers also believe that this is a good time to state the importance of self-care in general. One resource that may be helpful in beginning to think about the role of self-care in your life is Blurt. Blurt is an organization aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of depression, though their focus on self-care can benefit anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or encountering challenges in life. For more information about Blurt and how you can implement self-care in your life: https://www.blurtitout.org/resource/self-care-info/.

Of course, if you need more than a strong self-care regimen to overcome your challenges, please contact Nebraska Mental Health Centers for an evaluation. And if you are concerned that you may harm yourself, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

 

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Addressing the Stigma of Mental Health and Seeking Treatment

By Melissa Lafferty, M.S., PLMHP

As we begin October, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, I am constantly reminded in our society that mental health needs and “having sad feelings” makes people uncomfortable and scared.

But as a mental health provider, I am left asking why?

  • Why does having a mental health diagnosis scare and frighten others?
  • Why do those who struggle and survive every day feel left alone and abandoned when they share their mental health challenges with others?
  • Why do we lie to ourselves and others about being “fine” just to save face in the public?

Through our work and research at Nebraska Mental Health Centers, we strive to answer these whys and to give hope, relief, and empower adults, families, and children with mental health diagnoses.  Mental health disorders are so complicated.  They are impacted by our biological, cultural, and societal standards that are constantly telling us all “how” we should live our lives to be happy, productive people.  But life is not a one-size-fits-all dish that serves us all.  We all have different meanings for what it means to be happy and healthy.

But for those individuals who strive every day to understand their feelings of unhappiness or unrest, to understand their repetitive behaviors, to understand their constant worries, or to understand why their child can’t learn like other children can learn, we as a society need to support their goals to find answers, not shame and accuse them of being “crazy” because they are searching for the answers to find happiness for themselves and their families.  Every day should be a message to individuals with mental health needs that we are here to love, support, and encourage them to have a voice to help them find happiness and health in their lives.

Be a voice, be a supporter, be a hopeful message for everyone that surrounds you to find the happiness in their lives!

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Understanding Depression

Facts about Depression

Facts about Depression

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NMHC teaming up with SCIP, Saltdogs to Stand Up Against Bullying

NMHC teaming up with SCIP, Saltdogs to Stand Up Against Bullying

We’re proud to announce a partnership with SCIP (School Community Intervention and Prevention) and the Lincoln Saltdogs in an effort to stop and prevent bullying. Please visit our Facebook page in the link above to find out more.

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Getting There Slower

By Joanna deSupinski, M.A.

Take a deep breath. Wait, first sit down. No, really sit down and not just on the edge of your seat. Sit as if you are anchoring yourself and not the strongest wind could blow you over. Let your legs stretch out in front of you. Now let your shoulder blades spread out as you sink into the back of the seat. Your spine should straighten like an unraveling vine. Your arms should dangle at your side like arms on a puppet. Now take a deep breath from the pit of your stomach filling your lungs such that your ribcage expands fully. As you exhale notice the rhythm of your breath like ocean waves steadily tumbling in and out. Take a moment to notice any changes in your body. Did you notice any tension that has now subsided? If your breathing rate has not noticeably slowed, re-read this paragraph and follow the steps until it has and then read on.

You may now proceed in reading this blog.

In the words of John Kabat Zinn, founder of a leading stress reduction clinic and Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program (SR & RP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, “the stress in our lives is now so great and so insidious that more and more people are making the deliberate decision to understand it better and to bring it under personal control (p.2).” Recent research is following this cognitive thread and revealing that we would be a more productive society if we just tried to get to our destination point a little slower. Mednick and Ehrman (2006) encourage naps as the most efficient remedy to both mental and physical health issues. Additionally, they provide evidence of greater productivity when nap time is factored into the daily routine. In a recent article from CNN, the history of Sunday was explored revealing that a ‘stop day’ is no longer adhered to by contemporary society. Sunday used to be a day of rest when stores shut down and families retreated to their homes, enjoying relaxation and each other’s company. Most frightening however, are the effects of prolonged stress that inevitably ensues just in thinking about work each day of the week. As a mental health service provider, I am well acquainted with the resulting depression that is never a far cry from constant stress.

Research shows that work-oriented cultures, such as the US and Japan have higher levels of depression and stress-related medical conditions among employees than other countries (Mednick & Ehrman, 2006). In fact, there is a condition in Japan known as “karōshi,” literally meaning dying from overwork (Happy: The movie. 2011). Also common among these cultures is a sense of guilt when not working.

Don’t worry employers, this does not mean I condone playing hooky. I do encourage commitment to health and well-being and that includes taking an intentional and focused break. It seems then, that in order for R & R to be effective it must become a part of everyday society.

Take a second to ask yourself, should greater productivity really be the goal of self-care and mindfulness?

Sources:

Happy: The movie. The Movement. (2011). Michael Pritchard.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe of living: Using the wisdom of your body and

            mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Bantam Dell Publishers.

Mednick, S., & Ehrman, M. (2006). Take a nap! Change your life. New York, NY:

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.

Tinker, B.  (2013, January 11). The Importance of a ‘stop day.’ CNN. Retrieved from

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/11/health/sleeth-take-day-off/index.html

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Is Punishment Always the Answer?

Exploring Alternative Methods for Addressing Problematic Behaviors from Children

By Tessa Mak, M.A.

Trying to find an effective method for disciplining your child when he/she is misbehaving can be a challenge, especially when you feel like punishment is the only option (i.e. spanking and taking everything away).  Although punishment can be effective, it may not work in every situation or for every child.  For example, some children can have all of their toys taken away and still continue to demonstrate the same problematic behaviors.  In addition, spanking may result in immediate compliance with requests, but excessive disciplinary spanking can also increase aggressive behavior in children.  Therefore, it is important to have a wide variety of strategies to address your child’s problematic behaviors.

When addressing your child’s problematic behaviors, it can be helpful to first understand why your child is misbehaving and what he/she is gaining from these problematic behaviors.  For some children, their misbehavior is to gain attention from adults or peers (it is important to remember that even negative attention is still attention). 

For example, a child may start screaming because he/she wants attention from a preferred adult who is busy doing another activity or a child may burp loudly in public to make siblings or classmates laugh.  Other children may misbehave because they are trying to escape or avoid an uncomfortable situation.  An example of this would be when told to begin working on homework that the child does not understand how to complete, he/she may start to scream or cry in an attempt to not have to start the difficult task.  Still other children misbehave because their actions either feel good to them (i.e. making noises with their mouth because it feels good) or relieve internal discomfort (chewing on shirt collar because it is soothing).

Once you understand why your child is misbehaving you can start to use more effective methods for addressing his/her problematic behaviors.  When you start to utilize some of these strategies, it is important to be consistent and follow through with what you have started.  One strategy is to address the triggers that cause your child’s problem behaviors.  This may involve teaching your child appropriate ways to ask for attention as well as identifying and discussing with your child age-appropriate specific behaviors for them to do at home, school, with peers, and in public.  Another strategy is to give the child appropriate choices for their behaviors (i.e. your child can walk holding your hand or sit in the cart when at a grocery store). 

Another strategy is to utilize effective consequences for both your child’s positive and negative behaviors.  When your child behaves in a positive way, give specific praise about what you liked so your child knows he/she behaved appropriately and he/she will be more likely to do the behavior again to receive praise from you.  When your child behaves inappropriately, use logical consequences, which may involve taking away privileges or requiring the child to do extra chores.  When giving a logical consequence for a negative behavior make sure the punishment fits the crime because children who feel like the punishment will never end are less likely to feel motivated to make changes to their behaviors. 

Even when using some of these alternative strategies, addressing your child’s problematic behaviors may still be a challenge.  Therefore, it is important to use your own social support (i.e. talking with friends and family) to help decrease your emotional distress as well as help you stay consistent with your approach.  It may also be beneficial to gain some professional assistant from a mental health provider to develop, establish, and maintain effective discipline strategies specific for your child.  

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