Suicide: When it Appears on Facebook

How to report suicidal content/threats on Facebook

by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention February 15, 2011 at 11:16am ·

Facebook Help: How do I help someone who has posted suicidal content on the site?

If you have encountered a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, please immediately contact law enforcement.

You can submit reports of suicidal content to Facebook by clicking:

http://www.facebook.com/help/?search=suicidal#!/help/contact.php?show_form=suicidal_content

For reports in the United States, we also recommend that you contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24/7 hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). If possible, please encourage the user who posted the content to contact the Lifeline as well.  You can view a list of suicide prevention hotlines in other countries by visiting http://www.befrienders.org and choosing from the dropdown menu at the top of the page.

We encourage you to learn about how to identify and respond to warning signs of suicidal behavior online at the following address: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/WhatifSomeoneIKnowNeedsHelp.aspx

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

  • Lifeline wants people to report to Facebook first, as Facebook has the ability to provide identifying information and the process is faster if they can report all info to the Lifeline at that time.
  • Facebook works with the Lifeline once the content is reported.
  • (If it is international, then Facebook works with the appropriate international organization.)
  • Facebook receives the notification, then provides the Lifeline with all information about the user. Unfortunately, Lifeline cannot comment on the process from Facebook’s end but believes that given Facebook’s  sensitivity to suicide risk and knowing that their safety team works on the weekends, the Lifeline believes that the process is pretty quick and that it is the most efficient and quickest method for a user to receive help.

Swinging a Weighted Bat Does Not Improve Swing

According to research published in the February Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Swinging a weighted bat before hitting doesn’t enable a baseball hitter to swing any faster.

Scientists at three universities asked 22 collegiate baseball players to take three swings each with a test bat, followed by two easy swings with each player’s game bat, unweighted. Each player then hit three balls off a tee. The tests bats included six bats variously weighted, two normal bats without weights and two underweight bats.

The experiment was repeated by the players daily for 10 days.

None of the test bats affected bat speed substantially.

The swings ranged from 87.7 to 89.2 miles per hour off the tee.

Zero Tolerance Rules and Suicide: Dr Jenna on NPR’s Tell Me More

March 1, 2011

The recent suicide of a student in suburban Washington, D.C., after being suspended from school has sparked a fierce debate on disciplinary policies.

Angry parents say “zero tolerance” rules are too harsh on kids. And a recent report by a Philadelphia youth advocacy group says “zero tolerance” policies are particularly harmful to minority students.

But administrators and teachers argue that strict rules are necessary to keep students safe.

In Tell Me More’s weekly parenting conversation, host Michel Martin discusses the issue with regular moms contributor Dani Tucker, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak and Wisconsin child psychiatrist Dr. Jenna Saul.

Tell Me More, “Moms Debate Zero Tolerance Rules in High Schools, with Host Michel Martin and featuring Dr. Jenna Saul

Daniel Amen: Big Profits Without Scientific Evidence

A recent story in the Washington Post about the infamous psychiatrist Daniel Amen reminded me why psychiatrists are poorly respected and have such a bad reputation. I am too young to remember lobotomies, or treatments for “hysteria”, but I have read about them. I also had a distant cousin who spent many years in an asylum for “retardation” when, it turned out, she was merely deaf. In recent years, as even the Post article pointed out, we have learned that a many studies of antidepressants were unpublished–specifically those that showed little benefit to of their use.

Despite knowing psychiatry’s sordid history, I have been offended at the many different ways my work has been scrutinized. I resent the insurance companies force me to seek permission to prescribe certain medications from pencil pushers without any medical degree who ask me “And, will the patient be medically monitored while taking this medicaiton?”   [Isn’t that a part of the practice of medicine?]

The profiteering and opportunism I believe Dr. Amen has engaged in are specific examples of why our field is so heavily distrusted –and  why psychiatrists face so many barriers when trying to practice medicine with honesty and integrity.

I recall a number of years ago when a family of above average (but still middle class) means came to me for the first time. They presented to me a piece of paper from one of Dr. Amen’s clinics, where this child was diagnosed with “ADHD”. That’s fine. I do believe that ADHD exists. And that it usually responds well and robustly to appropriate treatment. HOWEVER, this paper also indicated that this child had a “variant” of ADHD that should NEVER be treated with stimulants, and advised that he be treated only with an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are often used to treat depression and anxiety.)  This was shocking and preposterous! Nowhere in any literature search in any peer reviewed journal could I find ANY information to support this claim.    I worked hard to talk with the family about what exists in the literature about treatment of ADHD, how to treat it, and with what, and about how ADHD is diagnosed.  I found myself in the uncomfortable situation of having to prescribe what Dr. Amen advised, or to be cast off as the child’s clinician.

Since then I have seen a handful of other youth with similar reports, whose parents have presented with similar instructions as to how their children should be treated for ADHD. These SPECT SCAN reports have cost families upwards of $3500 apiece, and have no scientific basis except the collections of scans that Dr. Amen himself has, but that have not been introduced to the scientific community for review or assessment.  At that price, I could complete a tremendous number of very short medication trials of virtually every agent utilized to treat ADHD, and determine the best agent before even reaching that dollar value.

The Post Article indicates that Dr. Amen has an excellent bed side manner and presence. And that is important. It improves the likelihood that patients and their families will adhere to treatment recommendations, and it increases the likelihood, therefore of a success. But that same great presence and bed side manner can also be used to unduly influence patients and families to embark upon inappropriate treatments–and there are many examples of this:   chelation therapy that is actually dangerous and without any positive evidence base, secretin therapy which was expensive and proven to be ineffective, homeopathic treatments which have repeatedly been debunked, and–once again going back to what should be the “dark ages” of psychiatry, “ice baths” to treat psychosis.

Even without intending to, we can become so convinced that something is effective for patients that we lose sight of what scientific evidence tells us. This is why it is important for physicians to continue to attend conferences, to consult with colleagues, and to submit their “data” to the scrutiny of the scientific community. Many people do not know this, but the psychiatrist, Walter Freeman, who performed many of the early lobotomies in the United States was so convinced of the effectiveness of his intervention, that he worked very hard to provide the procedure at minimal cost–simplifying it to an office procedure so that patients who would not otherwise be able to afford it could benefit. In contrast to what appears to be the case with Dr. Amen, who will serve only those capable of paying his exorbitant fees, Dr. Freeman was working hard to be mindful of the needs of even the most displaced and poor patients!

It is shocking to me, that in this era of increased awareness of the undue influence of drug company lunches and dinners on physician prescribing, that Dr. Amen’s multimillion dollar business has not been examined at all by any regulatory authorities. Certainly, even a well-meaning physician can become convinced that something so financially successful–due to patient/family “satisfaction” that his treatments are effective–even when they are not.

Unlike many physicians who are presented with documentation from Dr. Amen’s clinic, I have a fairly significant amount of experience with SPECT scans. They were used at a VA Hospital where I was a student, in an effort to research the progression of Hutington’s Disease in  the brains of affected persons.  SPECT scanning is complicated, and the subjects must be prepped in a dark room, lying still, and devoid of stimulus, because otherwise, the results are terribly inaccurate.  During a SPECT scan, a patient is given an IV that contains certain binding agents that enter the brain and bind areas of high activity.  The problem is, that if anything happens while a person is lying in the dark, waiting for the agents to bind, the study can be very misrepresentative about what is going on. Thus, it is impossible for me to fathom that SPECT scans have any capacity to be specific enough to provide useful information about SUBTYPES of ADHD.  As the Post article pointed out, SPECT’s limitations have resulted in a number of other types of imaging studies being used more often–particularly PET Scans as they have become more readily accessible and as the technology has become more affordable.

Overall, I think the most important take home messages here are, that:

  • Patients and parents of patients who struggle with dysfunction from emotional and behavioral disturbances can often be very very desperate. We often have few answers. We often can ameliorate but not cure symptoms. It is important that we be mindful of the vulnerability of the families that we work with.
  • It is important to help maintain hope, but not to promise miracles.
  • It is important to remain aware of current evidence-based practices. Physicians must maintain an awareness of the current scientific evidence, must consult with colleagues, and must submit their “data” to the scrutiny of the scientific community–which the Post article points out that Dr. Amen has not done.
  • It is important for practicing psychiatrists to be have a current understanding of neurobiology  and to relate this to clinical presentations and behaviors–so that people like Dr. Amen cannot go on saying that the rest of us do NOT understand the brain.
  • It is our obligation to help families have as much data as they can to be able to make informed decisions.
  • It is also our obligation to help them know when, perhaps, their vulnerability is being taken advantage of.
  • It is REASONABLE to discuss with families interventions that have less evidence, or that are fringe or alternative. When doing so, we MUST help them weigh the risks and benefits, and help them consider a cost-benefit analysis: Is the cost of the treatment that is unlikely to produce harm with the dollars of investment? Or is the family better off to utilize those funds in other ways?

ADHD Medications Do NOT Increase Cardiac Risk

Drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (stimulants such as Ritalin/methylphenidate or Adderall/ amphetamine) for ADHD, don’t appear to put kids at higher risk of heart problems or death.

Scattered reports of sudden deaths among children on the medications have caused concern among parents and doctors in recent years, and several of the drugs now carry warnings about heart complications and behavioral side effects.

New research findings are reassuring.Funded by Shire, the researchers examined claims data from Medicaid and a commercial insurer. The study includes more than 240,000 kids ages three to 17, who received ADHD drugs and were followed for 135 days on average.

The researchers then compared those children to more than 965,000, who didn’t take the drugs but were of similar age and gender and came from the same states as the users.

That weasy officially for the researchers, because often the claims data didn’t match the hospital records.

Based on the data they could calculate, investigators estimated that there would be six sudden deaths or cardiac arrests per 1,000,000 kids taking ADHD drugs for a year.

That’s slightly more than the four per 1,000,000 kids in the comparison group. But because the numbers are so small, the difference could easily have been due to chance.

There were no strokes or heart attacks in the ADHD group, and the researchers estimate it’s very unlikely that the true rates would exceed 24 cases per 1,000,000 per year.

Rates of death “from any cause,” which were the most reliable numbers in the insurance data, were 179 per 1,000,000 kids per year in the ADHD group and 300 per 1,000,000 in the comparison group.

“For kids who would benefit from ADHD medications, the potential cardiovascular risks should not dissuade physicians from prescribing the drugs,” Hennessy told Reuters Health.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, are in line with two previous reports that didn’t find evidence of a link between sudden death and ADHD drugs.

However, they run counter to one small 2009 study that found stimulant use was more common (1.8 percent) in children who died suddenly from cardiac arrest than in those who died in car accidents (0.4 percent).

One expert who was not involved in the current study said the results were hard to interpret due to the small number of deaths and heart problems.

“The new findings confirm that if there is an association between stimulants and cardiac events, it is quite rare,” Almut Winterstein, of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in Gainesville, told Reuters Health.

But she added that at this point, there is no telling how the millions of kids on ADHD medicines will fare down the road.

“We will need to wait another decade to understand whether even slightly increased blood pressure and heart rate over several years during childhood results in increased cardiovascular risk in later life,” she said in an email.

The risk of death is certainly no higher in children who take ADHD medications than in children who don’t,” said Sean Hennessy, a pharmacist at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania, who led the work.

Hennessy acknowledged that studying cardiovascular events using insurance data in youth is complex, and that he awaits the results of The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s large safety study on stimulants.

Antidepressants: Do They Help? Or Don’t They?

The Controversy

The media has continued to highlight the high-stakes battle that pharmaceutical companies have waged to make a profit by convincing doctors to prescribe antidepressants. Recent articles have focused more on the fact that pharmaceutical companies were not made to release studies that failed to demonstrate effectiveness of their products. Some articles have focused more on the failure of manufacturers to reveal potential adverse reactions or side effects.

This unbalanced media coverage has the potential to undermine effective treatment of psychiatric disorders. While the pharmaceutical companies stand to profit by convincing people that mental health conditions are medical conditions, the potential to profit does not necessarily mean that their facts are wrong.

Depression as medical illness

Depression is a medical condition. Studies of the brains and the biology of persons with depression have proven that there are real functional and physical changes that take place when a person is struggling with depression.  Depression, and 7 other mental health conditions, are identified by the World Health Organization as among the top 10 most disabling medical conditions worldwide.

Depression can be treated effectively. Studies have consistently shown that medications can treat depression. It is not a one-drug-suits-all approach. Treatment requires some trial and error. But the same is true for the treatment of hypertension. In addition, much like changes in one’s life circumstances can alter a person’s severity of hypertension, so, too can a change in one’s life circumstances make depression better–or worse! Some psychotherapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness based cognitive therapy have been shown to improve depression as well.

The controversy that exists about antidepressant medications is not about whether they are effective, but instead about whether the drive for profit has resulted in overarching assertions that these medications are THE ANSWER for EVERYONE.  While the controversy continues, people continue to experience depression at alarming rates, and many people seek help to minimize the impairment that their depression produces. It remains very difficult to analyze the data to determine whether antidepressants will for an individual patient.

So, what is the depressed person to do?

Find a provider that is willing to listen, to ask for details, and to take the time necessary to assess whether an individual patient is responding to the treatment efforts.

Find a provider who is willing to provide education and answers about their treatment decisions, and to include the patient’s preferences in their decision making.

Find a provider who can be flexible and adaptive  in their approach, willing to try something different if a patient is not responding, and who is willing to obtain consultations from other experts when necessary.

Free time is not always a fun time for people with autism. Giving them the power to choose their own leisure activities during free time, however, can boost their enjoyment, as well as improve communication and social skills, according to an international team of researchers.

“For many of us, we look at recreation as a time to spend on activities that are fun and that are designed for our enjoyment,” said John Dattilo, professor of recreation, park and tourism management, Penn State. “But for some people with disabilities, particularly those who have autism, these activities can be a source of frustration, simply because they didn’t have a chance to make their own leisure choices.”

Dattilo said that a group of 20 autistic adults who participated in a yearlong recreation program that offered them a chance to choose activities, scored higher on personality tests that measure social and  communication skills than the control group of 20 autistic adults who were randomly assigned to the program’s waiting list. Participants met for two hours each weekday and could choose among several activities that promoted engagement and interactivity, including games, exercises, crafts and events.

The researchers, who released their findings in the current issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, said that after completing the program, participants showed significant improvement at recognizing and labeling emotions. The participants scored about 24 percent higher than the control group in the ability to recognize emotions in a person in a picture. The score of the participants’ ability to label those emotions correctly was 50 percent higher than the control group’s score.

Since people with autism are less willing to interact socially, caregivers are particularly interested in programs that help improve social and communication skills, according to Dattilo, who worked with Domingo Garcia-Villamisar, professor of psychopathology, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.

“The big measure for us in this program was the improvements in social behavior and interaction,” said Dattilo. “The defining quality of people with autism is that they have difficulty in social situations.”

The participants also improved their ability to carry out executive functions, such as setting goals and maintaining attention.

Dattilo said recreation programs that encourage people with autism to make their own leisure choices create a cycle of increasing independence, rather than a pattern of reliance on caregivers to provide recreational activities.

“While people are learning, you can also give them choices,” said Dattilo. “And as they make those choices, they are also learning and are empowered to make even more choices.”

The works of University of Rochester psychologist Edward Deci and author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi inspired the researchers to pursue the experiment, Dattilo said. Deci and Csikszentmihalyi emphasize self-determination as a critical component of human fulfillment.

SOURCE: http://live.psu.edu/story/51689

Antidepressants NOT Linked to Suicide

In 2005, the FDA issued a black box warning for antidepressants and suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and young adults.

  • Many clinicians felt that this warning was inconsistent with their clinical experiences, and that it was not consistent with the data.
  • In Wisconsin, the rate of prescribing these agents to children did not decrease after the black box warning was issued, and the rate of suicide did not change. In other states, where the rate of prescribing of antidepressants decreased, there was an observed increase in suicidality.

Researchers have now completed a study intended to determine the short-term safety of antidepressants by standard assessments of suicidal thoughts and behavior in youth, adult, and geriatric populations and the mediating effect of changes in depressive symptoms. They used data from intent-to-treat person-level longitudinal data of major depressive disorder from 12 adult, 4 geriatric, and 4 youth randomized controlled trials of fluoxetine hydrochloride and 21 adult trials of venlafaxine hydrochloride.

They extracted data from the suicide items of the Children’s Depression Rating Scale–Revised (CDRS-R)  and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale  as well as adverse event reports of suicide attempts and suicide during active treatment. Data were analyzed from 9185 patients (fluoxetine: 2635 adults, 960 geriatric patients, 708 youths; venlafaxine: 2421 adults with immediate-release venlafaxine and 2461 adults with extended-release venlafaxine).

An analysis of the data showed that suicidal thoughts and behavior decreased over time for adult and geriatric patients randomized to fluoxetine or venlafaxine compared with placebo.  No differences in suicidality  were found for youths on fluoxetine or effexor compared to placebo. In adults, reduction in suicide ideation and attempts occurred through a reduction in depressive symptoms. In all age groups, severity of depression improved with medication and was significantly related to suicide ideation or behavior.

Study authors concluded that

  • Fluoxetine and venlafaxine decreased suicidal thoughts and behavior for adult and geriatric patients by decreasing depressive symptoms.
  • In youths, depression responded to treatment, but no significant effects of treatment on suicidal thoughts and behavior were found.
  • No evidence of increased suicide risk was observed in youths receiving active medication.

See the published article:

Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior With Antidepressant Treatment

Reanalysis of the Randomized Placebo-Controlled Studies of Fluoxetine and Venlafaxine

Robert D. Gibbons, PhD; C. Hendricks Brown, PhD; Kwan Hur, PhD; John M. Davis, MD; J. John Mann, MD

Arch Gen Psychiatry. Published online February 6, 2012. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2048

Pursuit of Happiness May Actually Make Us Unhappy!

The relentless pursuit of happiness–when defined as the experience of pleasure or positive feelings–may be doing us more harm than good. Researchers have found that  this sort of happiness does less to improve our  important  physical health than the type of well-being that comes from engaging in meaningful activity, termed “eudaimonic well-being.” “Eudaimonia” is a Greek word associated with Aristotle and often mistranslated as “happiness”—which has contributed to misunderstandings about what happiness is. Some experts say Aristotle meant “well-being” when he wrote that humans can attain eudaimonia by fulfilling their potential.

Before the world wars, psychologists were interested in the study of psychological health in addition to psychological illness. The intense needs of populations adversely affected by war, meant that most research dollars that were available were available for the study of psychological illness.  Now, “positive psychology” is a rapidly growing area of science once again.

Positive psychologists study “happiness”, “resilience” and human strengths. Some of their research  suggests that people who focus on living with a sense of purpose as they age are more likely to remain cognitively intact, have better mental health and even live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of happiness.

In fact, in some cases, too much focus on feeling happy can actually lead to feeling less happy, researchers say.

The pleasure that comes with, say, a good meal, an entertaining movie or an important win for one’s sports team—a feeling called “hedonic well-being”—tends to be short-term and fleeting. Raising children, volunteering or going to medical school may be less pleasurable day to day. But these pursuits give a sense of fulfillment, of being the best one can be, particularly in the long run.

Today, the goal of understanding happiness and well-being, beyond philosophical interest, is part of a broad inquiry into aging and why some people avoid early death and disease. Psychologists investigating eudaimonic versus hedonic types of happiness over the past five to 10 years have looked at each type’s unique effects on physical and psychological health.

For instance, symptoms of depression, paranoia and psychopathology have increased among generations of American college students from 1938 to 2007, according to a statistical review published in 2010 in Clinical Psychology Review. Researchers at San Diego State University who conducted the analysis pointed to increasing cultural emphasis in the U.S. on materialism and status, which emphasize hedonic happiness, and decreasing attention to “community” and “meaning” in life, as possible explanations.

Since 1995, Dr. Carol Ryff,  professor and director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. and her Wisconsin team have been studying some 7,000 individuals and examining factors that influence health and well-being from middle age through old age in a study called MIDUS, or the Mid-Life in the U.S. National Study of Americans, funded by the National Institute on Aging. Eudaimonic well-being “reduces the bite” of risk factors normally associated with disease like low education level, using biological measures, according to their recently published findings on a subset of study participants.

Illustration by J.D. King

Source: Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends Project

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Participants with low education level and greater eudaimonic well-being had lower levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory marker of disease associated with cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, than those with lower eudaimonic well-being, even after taking hedonic well-being into account. The work was published in the journal Health Psychology.

David Bennett, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and his colleagues showed that eudaimonic well-being conferred benefits related to Alzheimer’s. Over a seven-year period, those reporting a lesser sense of purpose in life were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared with those reporting greater purpose in life, according to an analysis published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. The study involved 950 individuals with a mean age of about 80 at the start of the study.

In a separate analysis of the same group of subjects, researchers have found those with greater purpose in life were less likely to be impaired in carrying out living and mobility functions, like housekeeping, managing money and walking up or down stairs. And over a five-year period they were significantly less likely to die—by some 57%— than those with low purpose in life.

The link persisted even after researchers took into account variables that could be related to well-being and happiness, such as depressive symptoms, neuroticism, medical conditions and income.

Evidence suggests that HOW a person confronts life’s challenges can have a lot to do with HOW a person feels in terms of their health and happiness.

There is some evidence that people high in eudaimonic well-being process emotional information differently than those who are low in it. Brain-imaging studies indicate people with high eudaimonic well-being tend to use the pre-frontal cortex more than people with lower eudaimonic well-being, says Cariem van Reekum, researcher at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics at the University of Reading in the U.K. The pre-frontal cortex is important to higher-order thinking, including goal-setting, language and memory.

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It could be that people with high eudaimonic well-being are good at reappraising situations and using the brain more actively to see the positives, Dr. van Reekum says. They may think, “This event is difficult but I can do it,” she says. Rather than running away from a difficult situation, they see it as challenging.

The two types of well-being aren’t necessarily at odds, and there is overlap. Striving to live a meaningful life or to do good work should bring about feelings of happiness, of course. But people who primarily seek extrinsic rewards, such as money or status, often aren’t as happy, says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester.

Simply engaging in activities that are likely to promote eudaimonic well-being, such as helping others, doesn’t seem to yield a psychological benefit if people feel pressured to do them, according to a study Dr. Ryan and a colleague published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology..

There’s nothing wrong with trying to feel happy, psychologists say. Happy people tend to be more sociable and energetic, which may lead them to engage in meaningful activities. And for someone who is chronically angry or depressed, the goal should be to help this person feel happier, says Ed Diener, a retired professor at the University of Illinois who advises pollster Gallup, Inc., on well-being and positive psychology.

Surveys have shown the typical person usually feels more positive than neutral, yet it isn’t clear he or she needs to be any happier, Dr. Diener says. But there is such a thing as too much focus on happiness. Ruminating too much about oneself can become a vicious cycle.

Being happy doesn’t mean feeling elated all the time. Deep stress is bad, but the “I don’t have enough time” stress that many people feel while balancing work, family and other demands may not be so bad. THe important thing is to focus on relationships with people you care about, and to do work that you love.

Words: How you talk to your children can hurt or help them

The emotional abuse of harsh words, spoken thoughtlessly, can lead a child feeling berated, belittled, demoralized. The impact this has on a child’s emotional development is insidious. A child’s spirit can be destroyed, and they may lose any positive sense of self. Emotional abuse destroy’s a child’s ability to feel loveable, to love himself or herself, and has a negative effect on a child’s ability to care for and get along with others. Emotional abuse increases self-destructive and antisocial behavior. Emotional abuse has been linked to eating disorders, promiscuity and suicide.

None of us is perfect, and many of us can recall a time when we’ve lost our self-control, and said something hurtful and demoralizing to our children, over something minor. We might say things like: “You clumsy idiot! You can’t do anything right!”

When words like these are repeated often enough, the child’s sense of self-esteem plummets and he or she begins to agree with his parents’ assessment of him: he or she really is dumb, a jerk, an idiot, a moron. The child begins to learn that love is not without conditions. And since it seems impossible to meet his or her parent’s expectations, the child becomes satisfied with settling for the “loser” role.

In too many homes today, the lights are on but no one is there. People are home but not home. Inattentive and verbally abusive parents are producing children who seem normal but are not what they should be, what they could have been.

There are studies that demonstrate that this abusive, humiliating and demeaning parenting behavior is  transmitted from generation to generation, meaning that adults who had abusive parents tend to parent their own children the same way. This pattern will continue until a parent is willing to change their behaviors, change the dynamics, and find a way to interact differently with their own children. They must be willing to see and acknowledge that they are saying and doing to their children.

To change this pattern, treatment often requires treating the parent and the child, helping the parent feel respected and empowered, and allowing them to change the ways they respond to their child.
The problem of verbal abuse is REAL, and COMMON, but difficult to document, and, therefore, difficult to intervene to prevent. Certain stressors can increase the problem of verbal abuse, job loss, marital problems, financial concerns. Often, adults attempt to cope with these stressors using alcohol and other drugs, but this tends to make matters worse. Parents then lose their inhibitions, and may say terrible things to their children that they later regret.

How can you be sure your words build up rather than destroy your children?

† Guard your vocabulary. There are some words that people in a family should never say to each other. Words like stupid, dummy, jerk, idiot, worthless and freak have no place between parents and their children.

† Avoid absolute statements such as “You never . . . ” Or “You always . . . ” Have a sense of good manners with your family. This doesn’t mean that you must avoid all conflict or that you can’t set limits.

† Separate the child’s actions from the child. Instead of responding to a tantrum with a barrage of abusive language, let him know that you love him — but not his actions, which are unacceptable.

† When things happen that can set off an explosion, take time out. Wait. And then wait some more. When you hold your tongue until the heat of the moment has passed, it’s a lot easier to respond with love rather than anger.

† Be available. Be willing to stop and peek in on your child’s world. He or she will feel more valuable because of it. Don’t start interrogating the minute the child walks in the door.

Wait until you’re relaxed and instead of probing about his day, why not share your day? Instead of accusing, compliment. Instead of insisting, be silent.

† Active listening refers to a kind of listening and a response that does not judge, ridicule or order. And the more we listen without judging, the more we help our children to accept their feelings, we improve their problem-solving ability and increase their willingness to listen to us.

† Teach by example. Let your kids hear you acknowledge your mistakes. Risk being humble. Dare to say, “I’m sorry” to your children when appropriate. Apologizing reveals that the truth is larger than your ego and their feelings are more important than your pride.

If you can accept yourself in spite of your limitations, all the while working to be the best you can be, you’ve gone a long way to help your kids value themselves.

Based on the work of Jean Guarino, free-lance writer.

“Gay Parenting” Study Draws Criticism

By  (@carrie_gann) , ABC News Medical Unit

June 11, 2012

A new study finds that adult children of parents in same-sex relationships fare worse socially, psychologically and physically than people raised in other family arrangements.

Critics call the study deeply flawed, saying the results don’t accurately describe — or even measure — any children raised in stable households with two same-sex parents.

The study surveyed nearly 3,000 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 39, about their upbringing and their lives today, asking questions about factors such as income, relationship stability, mental health and history of sexual abuse. Of the 3,000 respondents, 73 reported that their father had engaged in a same-sex relationship and 163 reported that their mother had done so.

People who reported that their mother or father had a same-sex relationship at some point were different than children raised by their biological, still-married parents in 25 of the study’s 40 measures. And most of the time, they fared worse. The children of parents who at some point had a same-sex partner were more likely to be on welfare, have a history of depression, have less education and report a history of sexual abuse, the study found.

The study was published Sunday in the journal Social Science Research. It was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, groups that are “commonly known for their support of conservative causes,” though the organizations played no role in the design and analysis of the report, the study said.

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the report, said the study was not intended as a political statement, but simply tried to answer the question of whether children of parents with same-sex relationships are different. He said the study also isn’t designed to prove that family structure causes poor health.

“I’m not claiming that gay and lesbian adults are bad parents. This is not a parenting study,” Regnerus said. “What this shows is that there’s lots of diversity.”

Regardless, the study touches a raw nerve at a time of heated political battles over gay marriage and same-sex parenting. Both supporters and critics of the study claim to have science on their side.

Regnerus said the study is the largest to date of a random, nationally representative sample of young adults in the United States who report that at least one parent had a same-sex romantic relationship. The study included 919 adults raised by their biological, still-married parents and more than 800 who came from single-parent families, as well as children of divorced parents, stepparents and adopted families. But just a fraction of the respondents, 1.7 percent, said their mother or father had a same-sex relationship.

Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Institute, part of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, said Regnerus’s study is the most comprehensive to date of the differences between same-sex and heterosexual parents and highlights the instability of same-sex relationships, a negative circumstance for children.

“The instability of the coupling is the really big finding that I think is debate-altering,” he said.

But critics say that’s precisely what the study does not show.

“This study doesn’t really have anything to do with same-sex families of today,” said Dr. Jenna Saul, a Wisconsin-based child and adolescent psychiatrist.

The study is a snapshot of a particular moment in history. The youngest people in the survey turned 18 in 2011 and the oldest did so in 1990, growing up in a time when social support for gay lifestyles, particularly those involving children, was less established. In 2000, the U.S. Census counted nearly 170,000 households headed by gay or lesbian parents of children under age 18. In fact, only two of the respondents reported living with their mother or father and a same-sex partner for their entire childhood.

“I’d be interested in seeing this study redone in 20 years with the more intact same-sex families we see now,” Saul said.

Gary Gates, who studies the LGBT population at UCLA’s Williams Institute, said the study offers no clear conclusions about the relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and a child’s wellbeing. Instead, the results say more about the role of instability in childhood.

“To determine whether a parental same-sex relationship affects a child’s outcome, it is critical to know the length of these relationships, and whether the same-sex partners were actually living with, and parenting, the child for any length of time. The study does not assess this,” Gates said.

Other studies have found that children raised by same-sex parents are not different from children of heterosexual couples. The American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America and other organizations have issued public support for same-sex parenting.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian families, said the study has no effect on the “overwhelming body of research” that has found that children of same-sex couples do as well as those of heterosexual parents.

“It is clear that families are stronger and more stable when they can stay together,” she said. “That means what we should be doing is supporting policies that make it easier for gay and lesbian families to stay together.”

Regnerus said he has no opinion on whether the study supports or refutes the benefits of condoning same-sex marriages and parenting.

“This study really can’t answer any political questions,” he said.

Editor’s note: The original headline of this story was changed in order to reflect the nature of the piece.

Though these comments by Dr. Jenna didn’t make it into the copy of the article, they are very poignant and important:

1.The best determinant for children faring well is to have caregivers who are nurturing, attuned, and capable of healthy attachments.
2. The study looked at a population of people the majority of whom spent less than 3 years residing within same sex families; this tells us more about blended families than it tells us about children being “raised” in a same-sex household.