Lisbeth Riis Cooper Appointed to N.C. Governor’s Commission on Mental Health

Lisbeth Riis Cooper, co-founder of CooperRiis Healing Community, has been appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve on the N.C. Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.

As a Commission member, Riis Cooper joins professionals, consumers and family members from across the state working to promote excellence in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs for persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse disorders in North Carolina.

Riis Cooper is Vice Chair and Co-Founder of CooperRiis, a residential mental health treatment community with campuses in Asheville and Mill Spring. She and her husband, Don Cooper, established the community in 2003 in response to their frustrations finding appropriate care for a loved one with mental health challenges. Since then, CooperRiis has helped hundreds of people with mental illness heal and return to productive and fulfilling lives.

“I’m so honored by this appointment and excited to be serving alongside people who are working every day to help individuals affected by the challenges of mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities,” she said.

Created in 1973 as part of the N.C. Executive Organization Act, the Commission has the authority to adopt, amend and repeal rules to be used in the implementation of state and local mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse service programs. Its 32 members include medical and legal professionals, addiction specialists, consumers, and family members representing the state’s 13 congressional districts.

Riis Cooper’s appointment is as a family member representative from N.C. District 10. Her term ends in June 2020. CooperRiis is a residential healing community in the North Carolina mountains for adults living with mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, major depression and anxiety. CooperRiis residents work toward their highest levels of functioning and fulfillment through a personalized recovery approach that combines trusted clinical therapies, community work & service, education, and integrative wellness practices.

Arts and Community Service Flourish at the Glenholme School

Now in its 51st year, the Devereux Glenholme School in Washington, Connecticut Glenholme accepts youngsters from ages 10 to 21 with high functioning autism, depression, anxiety, Tourette’s, OCD, ADD/ADHD and other learning differences. The Glenholme School provides a panoply of data-driven and evidence based clinical, behavioral and educational interventions individualized to meet each student’s needs.

Two exceptional programs round out the treatment goals in a holistic manner: The Arts Program and the Community Service Program.

First, the Glenholme’s Arts Program involves most of the students. A four-person team comprised of a music teacher, the Arts Director, a movement teacher and an acting teacher work together.

In keeping with the Glenholme school’s  strengths-based, all inclusive ethos, everyone who shows up at auditions will get a part. There are additional slots in lighting, sound, costumes and scenery. Sometimes there are so many of the students in the cast and crew, there are not many students left in the audience.

At rehearsals, the children are kind and supportive of each other. Matthew deLong, Arts Director since 2000, ventured, ”There is a remarkable depth of empathy in the youngsters that we see elsewhere in the school. The kids step up for each other. If a child makes a mistake in rehearsal, the others will clap for them and encourage them to try again.” Staff may need to provide support to get them to show up, when they are not in the mood. Students are sometimes stressed and fearful. Staff and other students encourage them to go on and work through their fear. The end result is that they get through it, have fun and learn a generalizable lesson, that success can come despite fear. When the finished product goes on, staff and parents alike are often amazed at the transformation of the students. In day to day life they may be anxious and shy. On stage they shine and belt out their lines and numbers and one would never suspect this child was ever anxious!

Through the arts program, students pick up many things. Students want a good product and learn just how much practice it takes to achieve one. The hours of practice, and work on a common goal makes for friendships among the performers.

The children learn to accept feedback from each other. Some children have poor relationships with cottage mates.  They become curious about their characters. In learning how to embody their characters, they self-reflect on how they are coming across. This adds an ability to introspect to the youngster’s skills. It is non-threatening when done in the service of the play. This budding skill circles back and assists youngsters in their peer relations. Mr. DeLong has seen students gain poise, self esteem and confidence. The child’s success sees them become more interactive and willing to try new things.

The arts aren’t the only thing that boost Glenholme students in their development. For 15 years, on Wednesdays, a group of children run Bingo games at the Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center. Children are paired with residents who need help hearing numbers or seeing their cards. Other students call out the numbers and wheel the prize cart around.

Chrissy Steward, the Community Service Coordinator likes to take the more challenging students. She has found that when these youngsters become “caregivers,” their exterior toughness softens. This infuses the students with a sense of competence and mastery. Many  of the youngsters have grandparents that are far away, or don’t have grandparents. The residents at Candlewood are like surrogate grandparents; showering kindness, approval and appreciation.

The nursing home residents support the Glenholme students as well. When students perform theatrical productions, the Candlewood residents are in the audience. For the last event, the Lion King, the seniors brought flowers to give to the actors.

At the end of this month, Candlewood residents are returning to the Glenholme campus, where the students in the food program will cook and serve lunch.

The convergence of treatment goals in these programs thread through the all encompassing milieu at Glenholme.

What Toll is Social Media Taking on Today’s Teens?

Snapchat. Instagram. Google Hangouts. Facebook. There are endless ways for today’s teens to stay connected. Ask any parent and they’ll tell you social media plays a huge role in their teens’ lives. It can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing digital world and monitor all the social media platforms that are available.

Consider these statistics from a recent survey by Common Sense Media:

  • 89% of teens have a smartphone.
  • 70% of teens use social media several times a day.
  • 57% of teens agree using social media often distracts them when they should be doing their homework.
  • 54% of teen social media users agree it often distracts them from paying attention to the people they’re physically with.

The pressure to be available 24/7 on social media posting a status, a selfie, or checking likes and comments is a very real challenge for teenagers in this era.

Should parents be worried about the potential impact on their child?

Dr. Stephanie Eken, Rogers’ regional medical director and child and adolescent psychiatrist, says it’s important for parents to be proactive and intentional about the use of technology and recommends the following:

  • Evaluate your child’s maturity.
  • Insist on being friends with your child on social media.
  • Determine up front how much time your child can spend on technology.
  • Have an action plan for dealing with inappropriate or uncomfortable material.
  • Establish technology-free times and zones in your home.

Behaviors that could be cause for concern

If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors, it could be a sign to seek help:

  • Isolating more
  • Communicating less with parents
  • Increased irritability
  • Talking about self-harm
  • Avoiding activities they used to engage in
  • Spending excessive amounts of time on appearance for pictures to post on social media

How Rogers can help

From inpatient and residential care to specialized outpatient treatment, Rogers helps kids and teens rise above their mental health challenges. Call 800-767-4411 or request a free screening online.

Latham Centers Produces Inspirational Video

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“And they said my child would never…” is available online

BREWSTER (Cape Cod, Massachusetts) – Students from Latham School and their families featured in a newly published video, “And they said my child would never”, would like the special needs community near and far to hear their stories of hope. The three-minute video, produced by Latham Centers in collaboration with Shoreline Media Productions of Hyannis, Mass. highlights the experiences of families of children diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). PWS is a complex genetic disorder affecting appetite, growth, metabolism, cognitive function, and behavior. The hallmark characteristics include insatiable hunger and a slowed metabolism that can lead to excessive eating and life-threatening obesity.Video collage

“When you first receive the diagnosis of Prader-Willi syndrome, you may be told that there are things your child will never do,” begins Patrice Carroll, LCSW, Director of PWS Services at Latham. Ms. Carroll works with children and adults with PWS, and she is internationally known for her Prader-Willi expertise. Ms. Carroll tells parents, “Don’t accept the limits that other people place on your child.”

Latham students featured on camera include Annika, whose mother said she never thought her daughter would be in such a place of calm and confidence; Christopher, whose mother is amazed by his weight loss and said he is happy, thriving, and enjoying life; and Patrick, who works at a local library and proudly talks of his progress toward his MCAS portfolio and high school diploma. Family members reflect on the remarkable accomplishments their children have made at Latham, a therapeutic residential school in the “Cape Cod Sea Captains’ Town” of Brewster. One mother shares, “When we first got the Prader-Willi diagnosis, it was pretty scary. The person who told us about the disease gave us some very horrifying news about how he was going to be very cognitively impaired and wasn’t going to be able to function very well.” The video features moments in the classroom, on campus, and in the community in which her son is happy, achieving, and enjoying time with his peers.

Ms. Carroll’s message to PWS families is uplifting: “Your child will succeed. Your child with thrive, and love, and they will make you happy and proud. They will defy all expectations, and they will show you that perseverance and patience always pays off.”   

And they said my child would never” is available on the main page of Latham’s website, LathamCenters.org.

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More about Latham Centers, Inc.:  Latham Centers’ programs include a therapeutic residential school for students ages 8 to 22, and a residential program for adults including 12 homes and individualized supported community living settings. Founded in 1970, the non-profit organization creates opportunities for independence, self-worth, and happiness for children and adults with complex special needs. Latham is internationally renowned for its expertise and success in working with individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome. Latham Centers is accredited by the Council on Accreditation. For more information, visit LathamCenters.org.

When Teenage Moodiness Becomes a Mental Health Concern

During the teenage years, emotions can change without warning and seemingly without reason. Oftentimes a teen’s moodiness can be attributed to life changes occurring at that time, but how do you know when the ever-changing moods are just part of puberty or if they’re a sign of something deeper?

What is a mood disorder?

EmoReg_tnAccording to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 14 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 will have a mood disorder, which manifests as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability. Mood disorders typically interfere with how a person thinks and manages every day activities like sleeping and eating. Female teens are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder than their male peers. They’re also at a higher risk for emotional dysregulation, which is difficulty controlling emotional responses and behaviors, and for some, it can lead to self-destructive actions, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. Emotional dysregulation can easily be misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder or anxiety disorders, and it can also accompany many other diagnoses.

“Emotional dysregulation occurs anytime that we experience an emotion and have a difficult time effectively managing it,” says Dr. Erik Ulland, medical director of the Nashotah Program at Rogers Behavioral Health. “It’s a pattern of avoidance of the primary emotion that you’re experiencing, which we all do to some extent. But those with emotional dysregulation often do it to the point where it becomes dangerous, because it will lead to behavior dysregulation that includes things like self-injury and suicide. Those behaviors are done out of an attempt to immediately decrease their current level of emotional distress,” he adds.

Dr. Ulland says patients with emotional dysregulation can be “internalizers”, meaning they tend not to outwardly express their thoughts, or feelings, but instead they process experiences privately.

“They often feel bad about themselves rather than anger at somebody else,” says Dr. Ulland.  “Internalizing individuals often struggle with conflict. Conflict often automatically generates shame, and they’ll feel like they’ve done something wrong. They can struggle to set effective limits, so at times they can have their feelings hurt and won’t say anything because of fear of conflict. They end up judging themselves harshly later that their emotions didn’t make sense in the moment even though they were felt,” he explains.

Treating emotional dysregulation

Certain forms of psychotherapy, medications, and other interventions can be helpful if there are other behavioral health diagnoses in a person with emotion dysregulation. However, they may often continue to struggle due to the dysregulation intensifying the other diagnoses.

Dr. Ulland says, “It’s critical to help individuals with substantial emotion dysregulation master Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills to regulate their emotions, and experience emotions more genuinely. It’s not uncommon to see depression or anxiety improve once an individual is regulating more effectively most of the time.”

Rogers’ residential Nashotah Program is a fully adherent Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. It helps teenage girls recover from a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, suicide attempts, self- injury, and other behavioral patterns and diagnoses often common in individuals who have emotion dysregulation.

Rogers also provides outpatient DBT programs for both male and female adolescents.

For more information about programs for adolescents at Rogers, call 1-800-767-4411 for a free screening or request a screening online.

https://rogersbh.org/

Journey Home East Spotlights Dynamic In-house Education Liaison

Journey Home East Liaison PostAt Journey Home East, a step-down, transitional living program for young adults ages 16-21, residents have the opportunity to develop and work on their education goals while in the program with the support of an in-house Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez.

The Education Liaison’s role is to help residents with anything academic related while living at Journey Home East. This can include helping residents find community classes to take, like pottery or other art classes, guitar, and even sign language. Some residents take traditional core classes like English or math to get a head start before moving onto a larger university following the program.

As with everything resident-focused at Journey Home East, the educational options offered to residents are highly individualized. The Education Liaison will help students find classes to take, apply to college or help plan with next steps after the program, help residents manage their time, help with organization and getting school assignments completed on time, or even helping with finding tutors. Residents also form close bonds with the Education Liaison, where they often go to local coffee shops together to work on assignments or study.

Journey Home East’s Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez, has been working within the Solstice family of programs since 2015, when she then moved into a role at Journey Home East. She describes her passion for working with the young adult population, “I love working with this age group because I’ve been a young adult myself and have gone through similar experiences. I know how tough it can be, so having the opportunity to give back and help them, letting them know that I believe in them and showing them that extra support is very important to me.”

Residents at Journey Home East are provided with the support, tools, and options to help them define and pursue their goals. With the help of Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez, residents are able to have that one-on-one support needed to focus on the next steps within their education, while also building healthy relationships with program staff, other residents, and within the community.

https://journeyhomeeast.com/

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Hands-On Teacher Experience Enhances Academics

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TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher

TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher at CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy is passionate about teaching his students.  He is innovative and creative in his teaching method providing students a variety of modalities to fully experience history.  He makes learning interesting, memorable and hands-on.  TJ finds that this type of teaching is highly effective in a therapeutic learning environment such as residential treatment where students often arrive bringing a history of school refusal or a high degree of anxiety associated with academics.  TJ is continually looking for new ideas to improve his own knowledge base to provide interesting information to his students in a way that they will effectively respond to. 

TJ was recently selected as one of 28 teachers from hundreds of applicants across the state of Utah to participate this summer in the Driven 2 Teach Program.  Driven 2 Teach explains their program as such, “The Driven 2 Teach program takes History teachers who specialize in American History or historical literature out of the classroom to the very places where history happened.  The Driven 2 Teach program gives teachers an extended, hands-on learning experience unlike any other.” In order to apply for this incredible opportunity, TJ wrote a letter explaining why he particularly should participate and what opportunities he would give his students from this experience.

TJ will specifically be involved in the Civil War to Civil Rights seminar. This seminar will provide TJ with a deeper understanding of Civil Rights in American History.  Driven 2 Teach explains that this seminar, “Provides teachers with a greater understanding of the rights of citizens to political, economic, and social freedom with equality for all with a focus on the African American struggle.”  To prepare for the trip, TJ won’t just be packing his bags and buying road trip treats.  He will need to read 6 assigned books and do homework himself completing a 6-credit college course in just 6 weeks.

The itinerary for the seminar includes some of the major locations for both the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  Starting in Charleston, South Carolina, TJ will learn about and study the beginning of the slave trade, the institution of slavery and the Civil War. TJ and the other teachers will then go to Atlanta, Georgia, where they will study the history of African Americans and the role of Martin Luther King at the Martin Luther King National Museum. Tuskegee, Alabama and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will be the next stop.  The seminar will consider these pilots as pioneers of the Civil Rights movement.  TJ will also spend time in the George Washington Carver Museum. One aspect of the trip that is most exciting to TJ is the opportunity to travel to Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, Alabama to study at the Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum.  TJ will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and be given the opportunity to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with a woman who marched across the bridge with Martin Luther King Jr.

TJ explains, “I fully intend to use this opportunity to improve and strengthen our amazing Social Studies programs at both schools. I will be able to bring this experience to our classrooms and really engage our students in the curriculum of Civil Rights.”   During the seminar and as well as upon his return, TJ will be developing nationally archived lesson plans that will benefit students at both Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.