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Ask Julie: How Do I Help My Suicidal Best Friend?

Q: “A few months ago me and my best friends ex boyfriend (who still cares a lot about her) went to our school guidance councilors and told them how my best friend was suicidal. they told her parents and she had to get an evaluation from a therapist. they cleared her and she was allowed back in school. however now school isn’t in session and she’s suicidal again. I know this because she told me that I’m the only thing keeping her alive. a few years ago she was raped by a close friend and then a few days after the rape walked in on him killing himself. she never dealt with this traumatic event and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s suicidal now. we talked a little about it and she told me she feels like she messes everything up and all she does is make things worse. I tried to show her how that’s not true and how a lot of people care about her but she doesn’t believe me. I don’t want to go to her parents again because I dont think they’d believe me a second time. I want her to get help and talk to someone but I don’t know how to do it. please help me.”

A: Thank you for your email. I can feel your concern for your friend through this letter. Even though you might be putting your friendship at risk, I suggest you go talk to her parents. They need to know about the rape and that she walked in on the person who raped her committing suicide. Those are horrific traumas for a teenager to witness and she is in serious danger.  Please watch the video response for more tools to handle this painful situation.

Take good care of yourself
Julie Hanks, LCSW

JulieHanks.com listed #1 Online Depression Influencer by Sharecare

I have a passion (bordering on obsession) with using technology to blog, tweet, post, and answer questions about mental health and relationships because 1) I love what I do as a therapist 2) I want to make a difference in the world for good by educating and providing helpful resources.  So, this morning when I woke up to an email letting me know that I’d been recognized for my online efforts by an amazing national organization Sharecare it’s icing on the cake. Thanks to technology, anyone’s voice can be heard and anyone can make a difference–even a little social worker in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you’re not familiar with Sharecare.com check it out! It’s an amazing online Q&A platform website founded by Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD & Dr. Mehmet Oz, with partners Harpo Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Discovery Communications.

 

Read more about the top 10 online influencers

 

Here’s how the top 10 are selected…

“Ask The Therapist” Live Facebook Event Dec. 21

The holiday season can bring out the best…and the worst in all of us, and in family relationships. Here’s your chance to get FREE advice to help you during the holidays and those cold winter months.

I’m excited to be participating in PsychCentral.com’s Ask the Therapist Live Facebook Q & A event with Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker. We will both be available to answer YOUR mental health and relationship questions on Wed. Dec. 21st at 5:30-6:30PM MST in real-time in our Ask The Therapist Facebook Group.

Click here for details

Send you question to PsychCentral’s Ask The Therapist column anytime here

Technology Milestones For Kids | When Should Kids Have Cell Phones, Facebook, Game Consoles?: Studio 5

High-Tech Parenting: When Should Kids Have Cell Phones, Facebook, Game Consoles?

Under pressure to let your kids go high-tech? Get expert advice on when to let children have a cell phone, open a Facebook account and more. Studio 5 Contributor and therapist, Julie Hanks, has tips to help you manage kids and technology.

1) At what age should a child have a cell phone?

Age 12 is the earliest I’d recommend a basic cell phone for safety reasons.
Age 16 is the earliest for smart phones.

Tech Tip: Encourage responsibility by having them pay for monthly fee and any additional charges.
Tech Tip: Have child check in phone at night, before bedtime.

Read more

World Mental Health Day – Do Your Emotional Family History: Studio 5

I blog for World Mental Health Day

WHAT is emotional family history?

Emotional family history is the emotional and relational patterns inherited and/or learned from your parents and grandparents, which may have been passed down to you. It includes:

1. nature: predisposition to certain emotional & mental health problems or traits (i.e. depression, anxiety, addictions)

2. nurture: learned patterns of how to manage emotions in relationships (i.e. “It’s not ok to be angry” or “When there is conflict it’s best to leave the situation”).

WHY is emotional family history important?

Just like physical health history, country of birth, or personal history of ancestors, we can learn valuable information about ourselves by looking at the emotional patterns we have inherited or learned from our families. The awareness of positive as well as negative traits and patterns that have been passed down to us allows us to understand ourselves better, to be more aware of our emotional vulnerabilities, and to take responsibility for our emotional lives. Like puzzle pieces, the more pieces you have in place, the more clearly you can see the picture of where you came from emotionally. Frequently, clients will fear that doing emotional family history is somehow “not honoring” their parents and grandparents, but in my own experience I have found that the more emotional puzzle pieces I have about my parents and grandparents, the more I am able to empathize with their struggles and honor their lives.

HOW & WHERE do you find emotional family history information?

F-A-M-I-L-Y!

F – Feedback from “Outsiders”

“Outsiders” are anyone who did not grow up in your family. Spouse’s, in-laws’, friend’s, neighbor’s observations about the idiosyncrasies of your family are worth considering. As you grow up in your family, it’s easy to think that your family’s way of managing emotions is the norm because it’s all that you know. Some examples of observations are “Why does your family seem to yell at each other over every little thing?” or “Your family seems to handle conflict really well. I really like how everyone can have differing opinions and it’s O.K.” or “Why don’t you or your siblings, tell your dad how you feel about the way he talks to your mom?”

A – Ask Hard Questions

Be willing to ask the hard questions and get more curious about family relationship patterns. “Why did Grandma and Grandpa divorce in their 70’s? ” or “When did Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty stop talking to each other?” “How did Grandpa manage to remain so kind and loving even after he returned from the war?” Notice positive and difficult trends among family members. Are there family members who’ve exhibited incredible capacity for forgiveness, or tolerance of differences, or emotional resilience after traumatic experiences? Are there signs of unresolved trauma, addictions, abuse, divorces, infidelity, suicide or other problems that many families don’t openly talk about?

M – Mental Health Histories

Just as health histories are important source of information for you, mental health history of your family can also empower you to be educated, to know what symptoms to watch for, and to get help if those symptoms arise in your own life, and in the lives of your children. Mental health history allows you to be proactive and take preventative measures. Is there a history of depression, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse? Here’s an example of how mental health history is important. A new mom struggles to understand why she feels hopeless and worthless and has feelings of wanting to abandon her baby. Her mother discloses AFTER her daughter is diagnosed with postpartum depression, that she, too, suffered from postpartum depression after 3 out of her 4 deliveries. Had she shared that information with her daughter prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, they could have been more proactive in education and treatment.

I – Identify Emotional Rules

Each family has a unique way of being, managing emotions, and getting our emotional needs met. While some of these rules are explicit (i.e. “Men are always right”, “We don’t talk about feelings”, “We wear our feelings on our sleeve”, “Never admit that you’re wrong”, “It’s ok to cry when you’re physically hurt, but not emotionally hurt”), many are implicit and we follow the rules without conscious awareness. Ask yourself, “What messages did I receive about happiness, sadness, anger, fear?” and “How did my parents manage each of these emotions in themselves?” “How did my family respond when I have expressed each of these emotions?” If you were raised with parents who were sensitive to your emotions and needs, then you will likely have healthier emotional rules to live by.

L – Life Scripts

Similar to a movie script, we learn who our “character” is (the smart one, or the pretty one, or the lazy one) and how to respond in certain relational situations (i.e. when someone says you did a great job on a project at work, you are supposed to point out all of the flaws in your presentation and discount the compliment). We also live by scripts regarding our physical body, money, intelligence, worth, future, gender role, intimate relationships, sexuality, and family life. Just like emotional rules, many of the scripts you live by are implicit and never stated directly. For example, if your parents never discuss sex with you, you may be living by a script that sex is bad or wrong.

Y – Your Own Experiences

Examine and reflect on your own experiences in your family – the positive and the painful. Take the emotional family history information you receive from others and check it against your own experience in your family. Ask yourself, “Does this fit with my experiences?” The beauty of becoming aware of your emotional history is now you are free to sift through the information, keep the positive emotional patterns, and be proactive in changing the patterns that you don’t want to pass on to your family. Knowledge allows you to take responsibility for your current and future emotional life. Example: if your family has anger management issues and you find yourself screaming at your family, take anger management classes.

I’m Giving Away Therapy Oct. 3-7: Free Therapy Week In Utah County

Get free therapy & help your community

My therapy clinic is opening a Provo office!

To celebrate our grand opening of Wasatch Family Therapy Provo location we are offering free 45 minute therapy for new clients who bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Provo Community Action Food Bank.

When: October 3rd – October 7th

Where: Wasatch Family Therapy Provo Office
363 N University Ave, Suite 108A, Provo UT 84601

Participating therapists include:
Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT, Julie Hanks, LCSW, BCD, Mike Morgan, AMFT, Kate Hofer, LPC, or Christine Holding, MFT Intern

*News clients only

*Offer only good at Provo location

*Sessions are first come, first served basis

To schedule your free session: click here

 

Ask Julie: Can Adults Have Separation Anxiety?

Worried bride

Q: I’m 18, and I’ve been slightly dealing with Separation Anxiety throughout my childhood, I’ve never been to a psychologist or therapist for it to know that it officially is the disorder, but whomever I get close to, I get upset and have a fear of being alone, if they die or if I die, or if they leave and forget all about, etc. I’ve been in a relationship with my girlfriend for about 5 months now, and I fear that my childhood Separation Anxiety has turned into Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder, because, recently, for weeks on end, every single night, as if on cue, I get overly-upset and cry, and have wandering thoughts of loneliness and death surge through my head. And, last night, I made myself sick because of it and ended up vomiting and was shaking uncontrollably, and I was dizzy and had a terrible headache. And it’s always because I miss all of my close friends and my girlfriend and have a fear that she will leave me or she will die, and leave me all alone in this world, and she will be moving soon, and I fear that I won’t know how to cope enough and will have worse anxiety attacks. Could you help, please? I’m in desperate need of some advice on this subject.

A: Click on the arrow below to hear my response…

Play

Podcast: Play in new window

Here are a few additional anxiety resources on Psych Central:

Find a Therapist Here
Information on Psychotherapy for Anxiety Disorders
Psych Central Community Forum for Anxiety, Panic, & Phobia

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Creative Commons License

photo credit: spaceodissey

Ask Julie: I Don’t Feel Anything

The problem that I have is that I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Last summer, I tended to wake up without any emotion at all, then I would be all depressed and thinking I’m fat. Around 1-4 in the evening, I would become apathetic and it would feel like I didn’t have any more feelings. Then, around 6 or so, I would have emotions again. I don’t know if there is anything wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like I have no emotion at all and then out of the blue I start to have emotion. It feels like I overreached my limit to how much I can feel at one point and then I have to wait for my emotions to heal or something. Is there a limit to how much I can feel? Is there a limit to how much I can feel one thing? I feel really bored a lot of times but I still have a lot to do. Sometimes, though, it feels like I have to force myself to feel feelings and emotions. I don’t know if there is a problem or something.

A: It does sound like there is a problem, but I need more information before I can provide an answer for you. I suggest that you get in to see a therapist for a mental health evaluation for depression. Feelings of emptiness, lack of enjoyment in life, and focusing on negative thoughts may be symptoms of depression.

I’m curious what was happening around you or inside of you when you’d start to feel again. What activities were you engaged in? How would you describe the transition from not feeling to feeling? I also have questions about what it felt like to have no emotions at all.  Also, I’m curious about your relationships with family and friends and how you’re functioning in other parts of your life, like school or work.  Please write back with more information if you’d like additional advice. Until then, I urge you to seek therapy to help you get to the bottom of your confusing emotional patterns and start working toward enjoying your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: Is This Obessession Really About Food?

Q: I had naturally been apprehensive to meat when I was younger. I liked to eat, but I didn’t really like meat (aside from the taste). Then, 6th grade came along, and I started having problems: depression, (the past, not now) suicidal and many other things. Along with that, a lot of changes were entering my life: I was about to enter junior high, and I had insomnia. Then, I decided to become vegetarian and anorexic. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a complete vegan at first. I was “98% vege”, meaning that I ate hotdogs/hamburgers/chicken nuggets/bacon/top ramen soup. In seventh grade, I became full-fledged vege, and continued to have problems. In eighth grade, I turned my life around, and was the food nazi: no food additives, no meat, healthy as you can be.

Then I started running in 9th grade, that brought problems of enough energy, so I just ate more. (Oh and I have ran ever since in xc and track up until senior year 2nd semester, now I am training for a marathon). 10th grade came, and I found out that cheese had rennet….so I stopped eating it. 11th grade came, and I learned about gelatin….stopped eating it. 12th grade 1st semester: (btw, I was slower this year), I have stopped eating yeast (they eat things unlike plants, they seem too much like an animal).

Now, I am scared to eat eggs (not because anyone told me anything which I DON’T WANT TO KNOW), or anything with them in it: bread, pasta, brownies….Right now I am reduced to potatoes/rice/beans and some fruits/veges. I want to eat yeast again, and I might want to eat the things with eggs in it (because I used to LOVE pasta and bread)….thing is, I can’t. I am not that caring of a person, I am just slightly autistic and I have sensory issues and images get burned easily in my mind…. What should I do? Oh, and is this more of a mind issue or food issue?

A: Thank you so much for reaching out for help The short answer is that your food issues aren’t really about food. From what you describe, 6th grade was somehow a turning point in your emotional life and you developed depression, insomnia and anorexia. I’m curious about what happened that year. Was there an event or situation that triggered your symptoms? Were there changes in your family or environment?

You mention that in 8th grade you “turned your life around,” and yet you continue to become even more strict about your diet. Controlling what you eat and the size of your body can be a way to gain a sense of control when other parts of life seem out of control.  Focusing on food can be a way to manage intense emotions or a way to numb your emotions in general. I encourage you to get into therapy with an eating disorder specialist in addition to meeting with your doctor for a thorough physical evaluation. To find a therapist in your area click Find Help at the top of this page.

Your food obsession is a sign that you have intense unresolved emotional pain that needs attention, and that you are likely suffering from an eating disorder. Please, seek help so you can heal from your food obsessions and learn healthier ways to cope with the difficulties that you’ve experienced in your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column