5 Breathing Exercises to Use For Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response to stress and is part of the fight-or-flight response when faced with physical or emotional threats. Anxiety can become overwhelming that can cause unease, distress, or dread. Experts recommend breathing exercises as a coping mechanism for anxiety. It will help slow heart rates and feel calm. We will go over five different breathing exercises and how to do them, as well as other ways to deal with anxiety.

  1. Deep breathing
    You can do this exercise while sitting, standing, or lying down. To deep breathe:
    1. Relax your tummy
    2. Place one hand just beneath the ribs
    3. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, notice your hand rising
    4. Breathe out through your mouth, notice your hand falling
  2. Quiet response
    This method combines deep breathing with visualization to help reduce stress and anxiety. Start by relaxing all of your muscles in your face and shoulders. Imagine having holes in the soles of your feet.
    1. Take a deep breath, visualize your breath as hot air entering your body through the holes in the soles of your feet
    2. Imagine the hot air flowing up your legs, through your tummy, and then filling your lungs
    3. Relax each muscle as the hot air passes it
    4. Breathe out slowly, imaging the air passing from your lungs back to the tummy, then the legs, before leaving your body through the holes in the soles of your feet.
    5. Repeat until calm
  3. Mindful breathing
    Mindful breathing helps people focus on the here and now. To practice mindful breathing, you should sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes open or closed.
    1. Inhale through your nose until the tummy expands
    2. Slowly let the breath out through the mouth
    3. Once settled into the patter, focus on the breath coming through your nose and our through your mouth
    4. Notice the rise and fall of your tummy as the breaths come in and out
    5. As thoughts come into your head, notice that they are there without judgment, then let them go and bring your attention back to your breathing
    6. Carry on until you feel calm, then start to be aware of how your body and mind feel
  4. Diaphragmatic breathing
    Doctors usually recommend using this breathing exercise to those with lung conditions called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Start by either sitting up or lying down.
    1. Place one hand on your tummy and the other on your upper chest
    2. Breath in through your nose and focus on your stomach rising
    3. Breathe out through pursed lips, focusing on your tummy lowering
    4. Repeat the cycle
  5. 4-7-8 breathing
    This is a simple way for you to relax anywhere. Start by sitting down with your back straight and the tip of your tongue on the back of your upper front teeth.
    1. Breathe out through your mouth, making a whooshing sound
    2. Close the mouth and count to 4 while breathing in your nose
    3. Count to 7 while holding your breath
    4. Count to 8 while breathing out through your mouth, making the whooshing sound
    5. Inhale and repeat three times

Other things you can do to reduce anxiety:

  • You can also try slowly counting to 10 or imagining a calming scene like a meadow or a beach
  • Seek out Psychiatric help
  • Accept that there are some things you cannot control
  • Do your best rather than aiming for perfection
  • Learn your triggers and the anxieties that come with them
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Try only eating well-balanced meals
  • Try to get plenty of sleep
  • Get some exercise daily

You should seek a doctors help if you:

  • Find that your anxiety is becoming overwhelming to deal with
  • Have frequent or excessive anxiety that gets in the way of your daily activities
  • Deal with your anxiety by misusing drugs or alcohol
  • Notice changes in your sleeping, eating, or personal hygiene habits
  • Have irrational fears
  • Are self-harming or thinking about self-harming
  • Have suicidal thoughts
  • Feel out of control

Affiliated Family Counselors have multiple providers that specialize in anxiety and tools you can use to calm yourself down in situations where you feel out of control. If you or a loved one are in the Wichita, Kansas area, and need help, please feel free to give us a call at 316-636-2888 or visit our website at http://afcwichita.com/

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327007#hotlines

Articles used in this post:

Here Is Why Uncertainty Feels So Terrifying

With everything opening back up after most states had shut down main government buildings and non-essential businesses, the future has many people on edge thinking about “What now?” As life continues during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still so much we don’t know about the virus. People ask, “will things ever go back to normal? Will life be completely changed for good?” The truth is that scientists and health officials offer suggestions and predictions, but almost nothing about the pandemic is certain except that it could last a long while. Many people who struggle with anxiety find uncertainty to be incredibly challenging, and isolation is causing a peak in depression.

According to New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist Jessica Linick, our brains are designed to evaluate threats and risk, and uncertainty can feel incredibly unsafe. The brain looks for patterns, and the mechanism is suitable when circumstances are predictable. Still, in times of change and unpredictability, our nervous systems are on high alert, always looking for risks. When your nervous system is activated in that way, it can produce a fight or flight response. During the pandemic, people have lost their jobs, which means they lose their source of income to pay for essential everyday things. We are not only worried about ourselves, but also about those around us and how they are going to make it through. Some people may be on the brink of losing their houses, cars, insurance, getting ill, or don’t have any money to buy groceries to feed their families.

The majority of us have never been through an experience like the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are struggling with the “what ifs” scenarios due to the growing list of possible unfathomable outcomes. If we latch on to those triggers and feelings of uncertainty, we will be in constant despair and anxiety. It is good to remember that in chaotic times like today, we can control how we treat each other, which is why kindness can be so important. Keep in mind that everyone accepts and adjusts to change at different rates and have different comfort levels with uncertainty. Another good coping strategy is to engage in activities that make you happy, like cooking, gardening, listening to music/podcasts, meditation, journaling, exercising, or talking with a therapist/friend/loved one. Try not to think about the things that you don’t know, and spend more time focusing on possible things you do know.

Here are some other things you can do to keep a positive state of mind:

  • Make a list of things you are grateful for each day.
  • Look for the positives in things. “How is this a good thing?”
  • Maintain physical distancing, but stay connect to others by phone, email, and/or other social apps.
  • Get outside
  • Practice affirmations by writing positive or reassuring phrases on a piece of paper and put it where you will see it.
  • Breathing exercises
  • Choose to have a positive impact on people around you and help others by volunteering in your community.
  • Look for personal growth and become more self-aware.
  • Practice self-care

For children, try the following:

  • Reassure them that they are safe.
  • Let them talk about their worries.
  • Share your own coping skills.
  • Limit their news exposure.
  • Create a routine and structure.
  • Encourage creativity and fun.

If you or someone you know is having panic attacks several times a week, they may need more support. The current pandemic has also created an increase in depression. Look out for changes in appetite, sleep, tearfulness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide. If you feel like your distress is more than what you feel OK with, that is enough to ask for help. Some people may be in homes with unsafe people and are at risk for more safety-related anxiety and depression. Affiliated Family Counselors (316-636-2888 or www.afcwichita.com) have multiple therapists that specialize in anxiety and depression. We accept most major insurances, and the providers also have rates for those who do not have insurance. If you do not have access to a therapist or are in a crisis, you can contact your local crisis center. You can also get in touch with the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by 1-800-273-8255

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Feel Anxious About Supermarket Trips? Try These Tips

It is a strange time in our world due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Going to the supermarket may spark some severe anxiety for people, seeing customers wearing masks and gloves to buy food; nothing feels “normal” right now. As if that wasn’t enough to drive someone with anxiety to not wanting to leave their house for any essential errands, supermarkets are “potential hotspots” for the virus to spread. Nobody should feel silly about those worries of going into public grocery stores and supermarkets during a pandemic. Your fears are valid.

You cannot control what goes on outside of your body, but you can control what goes on inside of your body. Try thinking of it as “going to the supermarket/grocery store is a manageable risk.” Use the new measures at the grocery store or supermarket like following the tape on the ground and queuing at the checkout to make the trip as positive as possible. They are there to keep you and others safe. Remind yourself of the process you will take after your visit, such as washing your hands for 20 seconds. Remembering times when you have felt relaxed and in control at the supermarket/grocery store can be helpful as well. It can help prevent negative thoughts from spiraling out of control. Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist, suggested to “do a mental rehearsal of going to the supermarket/grocery store and imagine yourself feeling calm, grounded, and self-assured as you do your shopping. Imagine this with all your senses: see yourself looking relaxed, fee it in your body, notice your body posture, the sounds and smells – and imagine it going well.”

If you start to feel the panic start to rise as you approach the store she also suggests using positive affirmations like “I can’t control what happens outside of me, but I can control how I respond” or “I choose to hold on to my determined calm, all is well, I’ve got this.” Practicing controlled breathing can help reduce stress hormones from being released at the perceived threat. Stand still, fill your lungs fully by breathing through your mouth. Count to three while holding air in your lungs and breathe out while counting to four. Repeat the exercise for a few minutes until you feel calmer. You can also try counting to 60 while you are walking through aisles to help maintain your sense of calm, but try not to get too side-tracked from your shopping list. 

If you get panic attacks concerning weekly shopping, you are not alone. Social media is full of others sharing their experiences as well. Panic attacks are scary, but it may help remind yourself they aren’t dangerous. Writing in a journal every day to nurture resilience may reduce the frequency of attacks, according to psychologist Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell. It is a way to declutter your negative and anxious thoughts and feelings that, in turn, can help you be less likely to be triggered. You should always journal positive experiences in your day to show gratitude and keep those at the forefront of your mind. 

Keep in mind that these tips were designed by professionals to make panic and anxiety more manageable, but feeling nervous is almost inevitable. Do not judge yourself for it. Reassuring yourself and staying positive can make all the difference in taking control of your anxiety in order to moderate and process it.

Articles used in this post:

Can Isolation Affect Your Mental Health?

It has been proven that social distancing is effective in slowing down the spread of viruses. It can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially in older adults. With the pandemic that is going on, people are practicing social distancing and isolating themselves to contribute to their part of keeping people safe and healthy. However, isolation can have a significant impact on your mental health, contributing to conditions like anxiety, depression, and dementia. For this reason, The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages others to keep socializing, but at a distance by phone or online platforms. 

Effects of Isolation
Social support networks have a positive effect on mental health. Many countries are treating loneliness as a health priority at this time. Social connection is important for both physical and psychological health. Research has even shown that relationships are a biological need and vital to our well-being and survival. Some of the risks associated with loneliness and isolation can include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • schizophrenia
  • suicide
  • dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Some researchers have identified links between loneliness and some physical conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer.

Who is at risk?

With the world currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, health organizations (like WHO) around the globe are urging people to continue to practice social distancing. Older adults are the leading age group to likely to the effects of isolation. Before the pandemic, researchers estimated that more than 8 million older adults were affected by isolation. One of the reasonings that older adults are more at risk of loneliness is that they experience the most life changes that can break social ties and make it more difficult to socialize, such as:

  • Retirement
  • Widowhood
  • Children leaving home
  • Age-related health problems

People with health conditions or disabilities that limit physical activity may find it challenging to socialize outside the home. Age and underlying health conditions are both risk factors as well for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Other nations — including Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom — say that they are also facing a loneliness epidemic. Societal trends may also cause social disconnection. For instance, the average household size has decreased, more couples are deciding not to have children, lower attendance in social groups, lower participation in religious groups, and a decline in the average size of social groups in the U.S.. Some other factors that may make it more likely that someone would experience loneliness include:

  • divorce
  • living alone
  • being single

Some signs and symptoms to look for

Signs and symptoms that suggest isolation is affecting a person’s mental health can include:

  • feelings of depression and anxiety
  • aggressive behavior
  • passive attitude
  • poor sleep quality
  • cognitive decline
  • altered memory
  • poor self-care or self-neglect

Researchers believe that loneliness and isolation can have different consequences depending on a person’s age. For example, someone aged 18-49 years old may struggle to focus or eat more frequently, while children and young adolescents may experience more cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties.

Finding ways to stay connected

There are many different ways to reach out to loved ones, friends, and those in need in today’s world. We have many different platforms you can choose from to connect with others, such as:

  • mail
  • phone and text
  • email
  • social media
  • video chat platforms

With the pandemic going on worldwide, it is a good idea to keep in contact with others in the community that may be at risk of isolation, loneliness, and health complications. Some good ways to remind them that there is always nearby support are:

  • Calling them on the phone
  • Knocking on their door and staying a safe distance away
  • Setting up regular phone calls or video chats
  • Sending care packages (groceries or medication drop offs)

When to seek help

People who are experiencing loneliness should seek help from their doctor or a therapist if they have noticed any of these signs of anxiety or depression:

  • restlessness or irritability
  • persistent worry
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • an inability to concentrate
  • suicidal thoughts

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327007#hotlines

Articles used in this post:

PONOMARIOVA_MARIA/GETTY

How To Cope With OCD During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience constant or recurring thoughts that can cause anxiety and may try to cope with those thoughts through compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels that they must perform. With what is going on right now in the world with COVID-19, some aspects of the virus can trigger anxiety and OCD behaviors like frequent handwashing and constantly checking the news. Here are some ways to take precautions and other coping techniques for OCD tendencies during the pandemic.

Contamination
Contamination is one of the most common fears among those with OCD. It can be difficult for someone to cope with under normal circumstances, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can become even more of a challenge.

The real possibility of illness for people with OCD can cause them to take extreme measures to keep themselves and their families safe, like repetitive handwashing, cleaning, or being afraid to even leave their homes.

Harming Others
The worry of possibly harming others, either by accident or on purpose, is a common fear of OCD. During the pandemic, people with OCD may worry that they will transmit the virus to another person, and may go to extremes to try avoid doing so.

Hoarding
Researchers consider hoarding as a separate disorder from OCD, but many people with OCD also struggle with hoarding. People who hoarder usually collect things that are not useful, however during a pandemic, they may hoard things like medications, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and toilet paper.

OCD Triggers During A Pandemic
There are many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that may trigger OCD-related fears and behaviors like:

  • The advice to wash hands more often
  • The emphasis on proper handwashing techniques
  • The need to clean hands every time a person returns home
  • The advice to only leave the home for food and necessities

Those triggers can contribute to behaviors like:

  • Widespread panic-shopping that can trigger hoarding (which we have seen with the toilet paper and cleaning supplies shortage)
  • Frequent reminding family members to wash their hands
  • Searching for information on how long the virus stays active on certain surfaces
  • Normalizing frequent washing and/or bathing

Sensible Precautions to Take
Most people with anxiety feel pressure to follow rules to the T, and as a result of this, someone with OCD may find it difficult to tell the difference between sensible precautions against COVID-19 and excessive or perfectionistic behavior. Many therapists suggest that those with OCD have a safety plan in place for themselves based on official public health guidelines. By following that plan, people with OCD will know if they are taking reasonable steps.

Therapists also encourage people to think about their cleaning and hygiene habits. If they did not go outside and no one came into their home, then they do not need to disinfect anything. However, disinfecting commonly used surfaces once a day is a reasonable plan.

When washing your hands try limiting your handwashing to 20 seconds each time and only wash them:

  • After going outside
  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

If you have OCD and find yourself adding extra steps to your plan and find it difficult to stop, you may consider seeking support.

Limit News and Social Media
Many news outlets offer free live streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic and publish news updated frequently. The American Psychological Association (APA) advise that people that notice they are checking the news more than usual set a limit on how many time a day you check the news updates or watch the live streams.

Seek Online Support and Teletherapy
To limit the virus from spreading, many therapists have stopped offering in-person sessions and allow access for people to have teletherapy online or over the phone. Online support groups, such as the International OCD Foundation’s My OCD Community, may also help others cope with OCD during a pandemic.

When To Seek Help
Pandemics do not have biological or medical implications. They also impact many people psychologically and socially, including people with mental health conditions. During a pandemic, those with preexisting mental health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing a relapse, stopping their medication, not engaging in self-care, or having suicidal thoughts. If you or a person you know with OCD is struggling with their symptoms during this pandemic encourage them to call us or:

  • Their doctor or therapist
  • A mental health helpline (Suicide Prevention Lifeline has talk and text options)
  • Their local public health center

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327007#hotlines

Featured Image: PONOMARIOVA_MARIA/GETTY

Articles / Research:

LEPUSINENSIS VIA GETTY IMAGES

PTSD In Civilians

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after a traumatic experience. Many people think of military combat and war veterans when they think about PTSD since PTSD has been portrayed as a combat issue from what we could find, dating back to ancient Greek warriors. Homer Iliad’s stories from the battles and events between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles are still used today for military men and women transitioning back into civilization. The truth is, PTSD is not only a military issue. PTSD can develop from experiences with natural disasters, serious accidents, life-threatening illnesses, physical abuse, and sexual assault during childhood or adulthood. Therapists and researchers have developed PTSD symptoms into four subgroups: intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity. Most individuals with PTSD have reported experiencing at least one intrusion symptom, one avoidance symptom, two cognition and mood symptoms, and two arousal and reactivity symptoms. It is also common for people with PTSD to express symptoms of depression.

Intrusion Symptoms:

  • Unwanted, distressing memories of the traumatic event(s)
  • Recurring trauma-related nightmares
  • Flashbacks – involuntary and vivid re-experienceing of the traumatic experience(s)
  • Intense emotional distress and/or noticeable physiological reactions to trauma reminders

Avoidance Symptoms:

  • Persistent avoidance of thoughts and memories related to the trauma
  • Persistent avoidance of external reminders of the trauma (e.g. the location at which the trauma occurred or people that remind you of the trauma)

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood:

  • A complete lapse in memory of or a feeling of blacking out for parts of the trauma
  • Perpetual negative expectations of the world
  • Continuous, misattributed blame of self or others about the traumatic event
  • Persistent negative emotional state and/or the inability to experience positive emotions
  • Loss of interest or participation in significant activities or activities once interested in
  • Feelings of detachment from others, as well as feeling like others cannot relate or understand the trauma and emotional burden

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity

  • Easily irritable or angry
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • More alert
  • Easily startled
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulties sleeping, including falling asleep and/or staying asleep

Treating and coping with traumatic experiences is undoubtedly difficult. Talking about one of the most disturbing experiences of an individual’s past can be extremely difficult. Seeking help takes courage and willingness for them to vulnerable, which may be difficult for some. Three common types of therapy have proven to help with PTSD.

  1. Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) is the gold-standard for PTSD treatment. Generally it consists of 10-15 therapy sessions. The two core components are imaginal exposures (repeated confrontation with the traumatic memories) and vivo exposures (systematic confrontation with avoided trauma-related situations). Other components include processing of the imaginal exposure experience, education about common reactions to trauma, and anxiety management (controlled breathing).
  2. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) targets irrational thinking and cognitive distortions in therapy to help patients process their trauma memories. The four main components of CPT are learning about your PTSD symptoms, becoming aware of thoughts and feelings, learning skills to manage the thoughts and feelings, and understanding the changes in beliefs that occur because of the traumatic experience. Self-blame and feeling powerless against all danger are two common examples of distorted thinking. Patients will write out their trauma narrative and work with a therapist to uncover cognitive distortions.
  3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR) exposes an individual to traumatic memories with varying stimuli, such as eye movements.

There are other treatment options available, but these three are more frequently used for PTSD patients. Whether you are a veteran, military service member, elementary school student, or salesperson PTSD can develop in any of us. If it does please know that help is available and you don’t have to face it alone.

Featured Image: LEPUSINENSIS VIA GETTY IMAGES

Original posts:

Anxiety And Your Loved Ones

Most people come wired to respond to situations with the fight, flight, or freeze response. By understanding and paying attention to how anxiety manifests itself in your loved one, you will learn their patterns and be able to help them. It is essential to listen to them non-judgmentally, and if they are wondering why you are inquiring about them, tell them you are concerned and what signs you have noticed. Usually, asking them what type of support they prefer is better than guessing. Two common ways can include displays of concrete practical support or emotional support depending on whether they prefer specific options for how to deal with difficult situations, or respond better knowing they are a part of a strong team. It is also important to make sure they are included in giving insight into their own anxiety. People suffering from anxiety often tend to think about worst-case scenarios. If this is the case, ask them these three questions:

  1. What’s the worst that could happen?
  2. What’s the best that could happen?
  3. What’s most realistic or likely?

Try not to overly reassure your loved one that their fears won’t come to pass, instead emphasize their coping ability. An excellent example from greatergood.berkeley.edu is “if they are worried about having a panic attack on a plane, you could say that would be extremely unpleasant and scary, but you’d deal with it.” If your loved one is anxious about someone being angry or disappointed in them, it is often useful to remind them that they can only choose their own actions and cannot control other people’s responses. Sometimes we feel the need to “help out” by doing things for our loved ones and feed their avoidance. Do not take over their feelings or actions; let them make their own choices and decide on how to proceed with a situation that is making them uncomfortable.

For those who suffer from more severe issues such as panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking, you can still be supportive in many ways. It can be helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasn’t changed, they are not broken, they’re still the same person, and the issue they are facing is just a temporary problem. Mental Health First Aid states to encourage them to try some self-help and other support strategies such as relaxation training, meditation, self-help books based on cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise.

Original articles: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_help_someone_with_anxiety
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2018/12/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shyness-is-nice/201706/loving-someone-anxiety-disorder

Featured Image: Gemma Correll

Mental Health Day As An Excused Absence For Students

Some schools are allowing teens to take mental health days off. Last year Utah started allowing students to take mental sick days. This year, thanks to a couple of student activists, Oregon is now allowing students to take days off for mental health as well. Since there has been a rise in depression, anxiety, and suicide rates for young people, this may not be a bad idea for other states to jump on the bandwagon with this idea. A lot of the young activists have encountered many skeptical lawmakers worried that some students would use them as an excuse to skip school or that it would coddle young people.

The idea started in Oregon by a couple of students at a summer camp for student leaders from high schools throughout the state. They do understand the push back they received, but want student voices to be heard. In an article by The Washington Post, high school senior Derek Evans makes a great point in that “the bottom line of it is there will always be students that will abuse the system, but there will be students that this will save.” He goes on to talk about his struggles with anxiety and depression while trying to maintain his longtime 4.0 student status. He was warned by administrators that he would FAIL if he did not return to school immediately after taking four days off for mental health. It is dumbfounding that students are forced to go to school with little regard to their mental health, while most schools have issues dealing with bullying. Not to mention students having to juggle piles of homework and projects, grades, college applications, extracurricular activities, work if they are of age, and some students do not get to go home to a loving and safe environment at the end of the day. With all of these factors, it is easy to see why it should be considered that students be able to take mental sick days.

Some people think it can be a big help for our young people since studies studies shown by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that the rate of suicide increased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017 among the ages of 10 to 24. The Washington Post also stated that in recent years, suicide has become the second most common cause of death among teens and young adults. That is a considerable age gap, yet they are all suffering from the same issue. There can be many different causes that can explain why mental health issues vary in ages. It could be a lack of community, bullying, social media use, lack of sleep, and many other factors. 

Allowing students to take mental sick days can also help parents and counselors to take notice when something is wrong or seems off and can start conversations. Since the law has been signed, Oregon students have been helping other student leaders in other states to get similar laws passed, and have moved on to try and get a second bill passed that would incorporate mental health into physical-health checkups every year. One thing is for sure, this issue is not just in one state; it is nationwide. The sad fact is, there is still a stigma around mental health and talking about it that we still have a long way to go.

Original post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/schools-now-letting-youths-stay-home-sick-for-mental-health-days/2019/10/21/15df339a-e93b-11e9-85c0-85a098e47b37_story.html