By Kathy Rivera
This column appeared in January 11, 2023 issue of Anton Media newspapers
All of us have experienced unprecedented challenges in the last three years, resulting in heightened levels of anxiety and stress. So much is out of our control, and that can feel overwhelming. But there are steps you can take to safeguard your wellbeing and that of your family.
As you welcome in 2023, take the opportunity to put into place some of these eight resolutions to start the New Year off right.
- Tune in and turn off: Sure, your kids need to be told to put the phones away at the dinner table and when they’re doing homework. But they’re not the only ones who overuse the tech gadgets. When you are with your kids, be fully present. The years really do fly by.
- Be a role model: Believe it or not, your children and teens look to you as their example of how to act in the world. For your sake and theirs, eat healthfully and exercise, spend more time outdoors, and be sure to…
- Put self-care in your list of priorities: As parents, we sometimes think our job is to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our children. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have nothing left to give them. Take the time to engage in activities that make you feel happy, confident and healthy.
- Don’t compare yourself to other parents or your kids to other kids: Facebook and other social media platforms make it look like every parent has the perfect child—the honor student, star athlete, community volunteer, etc. But these are just self-selected pieces of information and don’t paint a true picture. Every parent faces challenges, and no one is perfect.
- Don’t take the bait: Kids push our buttons, there’s no doubt about it. But when you respond to your tot’s tantrum with a tantrum of your own, it doesn’t help the situation and only creates more chaos. When they are acting up, take a deep breath and remember that the goal is to respond thoughtfully, not react impulsively. One way to hone this skill is to…
- Practice meditation. Numerous studies show that even a few minutes a day of meditation will help reduce your stress. Not sure how? Google “how to meditate” and you’ll find lots of helpful tips and videos. You can also google “meditation on Long Island” to find a group. And invite your kids to try it out, too! Let them know supercool celebrities and athletes like Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Derek Jeter and LeBron James are big meditators.
- Listen closely and talk less: When our children come to us with problems, it’s our natural inclination to try to fix things for them. But the reality is, often what they need is just to be heard. Make a promise to yourself that you will listen to your kids and not jump in right away to solve the problem. To open the lines of communication, simply ask, How are you feeling?
- Pay attention and give praise: The way you communicate with your child not only teaches them how to communicate with others, it shapes their emotional development and how they build relationships later in life. Giving your child positive attention for good behavior can boost their self-esteem, improve your relationship and help your child understand the behaviors you like and want to see more often.
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!
Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, the Executive Director/CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading non-profit children’s mental health organization. To get help for your child or to support the Guidance Center’s lifesaving work, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.
Newsday, By Bart Jones
Nonprofits on Long Island say they are offering affordable mental health therapy for teens and young children — without long waiting lists — as the region faces a shortage of psychologists serving those age groups.
Many families in Nassau and Suffolk counties have grown frustrated trying to find private therapists, who often don’t take insurance and have waiting lists months long — or no available appointments at all.
The nonprofits are encouraging parents to contact them at a time when depression, anxiety and suicide rates among young people are rising due to a confluence of factors including isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy social media use.
“Right now, we have capacity to take on cases,” said Kathy Rivera, executive director and CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, with offices in Manhasset, Roslyn Heights and Westbury.
“We turn no one away for any inability to pay,” she said. “We are grassroots, and we are committed to equity in mental health regardless of what your ZIP code is, what your bank account looks like. Everyone deserves to have access to care.”
The agency has 50 therapists on staff, along with other workers and a department that deals solely with insurance companies, she said.
Nonprofits such as North Shore said they can help fill a gap as families struggle to find therapists for their children. Some parents are taking their kids to private therapist appointments during school hours — the only time slots available — while others are getting saddled with thousands of dollars in bills because their therapists don’t take insurance, experts said.
Meanwhile, the number of people between the ages of 12 and 17 nationwide who experienced at least one major depressive episode increased by 306,000, or 1.4%, year-over-year, according to an October 2021 report from the Mental Health America nonprofit. At the same time, nearly 61% of New York youths with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment, the report said.
Finding trusted therapists
Adrienne LoPresti, executive director of YES Community Counseling Center in Massapequa, said her nonprofit also generally has capacity to provide therapists for young people in a timely manner.
“There is a comprehensive system of care for youth and families, which includes YES, that provides affordable services regardless of income and health insurance status,” LoPresti said. “Unfortunately, many community members are unaware of these networks and resources.”
LoPresti cautioned that families should make sure they connect with reputable agencies, since there is a proliferation of people offering “telehealth” appointments who are not always qualified.
“It’s important to find access to a vetted mental health provider you trust in your community,” she said. Local schools, ones that have their own psychologists and social workers, can help identify reputable therapists, she added.
While telehealth services offer some advantages, “it is often the financial gains rather than quality care” that is the priority, she said. In-person counseling is generally more effective than on-screen, she added.
Besides YES and North Shore, agencies families can contact to help find a community-based therapist include the Nassau County Helpline, at 516-227-TALK (or 8255), and the Long Island Crisis Center‘s 24/7 hotline, at 516-679-1111, LoPresti and Rivera said.
Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services based in Hicksville also has therapists available, and works with families on a sliding scale if they have financial difficulties, CEO Jeffrey Friedman said.
Adapting to diversity
Some agencies are seeking to adapt to Long Island’s increasingly diverse population.
North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has intake staff who speak fluent Spanish and other staff members who can translate Creole and Arabic, Rivera said.
Another agency, the Hispanic Counseling Center, with offices in Hempstead and Bay Shore, focuses on Latino children, youth and adults. Its Mental Health Clinic offers bilingual and bicultural mental health counseling, and refuses services to no one, CEO Claudia Boyle said.
In response to the growing demand, the group is boosting its efforts to hire more therapists, she said.
In Suffolk County, the nonprofit Rise Life Services in Riverhead opened a mental health clinic in November 2021 that includes treatment for children after it saw a growing demand for therapists for that age group, said Tracey Anderson, operations director of clinical services and behavioral health.
Their anticipation of “a high demand for mental health services for youth was certainly on point,” she said. “The demand is even higher than we expected. “
The nonprofit Family Service League, which works throughout Suffolk County, has seen the need for more therapists first hand and through its DASH hotline helps families connect with them, said Kathy Rosenthal, senior vice president at the group.
“We are finding youth with higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, and, tragically, an increase in young people attempting and dying by suicide, she said.
The number of teenage suicides her group responded to in Suffolk tripled between 2020 and 2021, going from four to 12, she said.
Families can contact FSL’s hotline DASH at 631-952-3333. They can also contact the Suffolk County Response Crisis Center at 631-751-7500 for help in finding a therapist.
Groups representing private therapists said families should not give up on seeking their help. The Suffolk County Psychological Association‘s website allows families to plug in their hometowns, insurance and other information to try to match them with a therapist, said Ann Eckardt Erlanger, past president of the group. The Nassau County Psychological Association has a similar website mechanism.
Rivera also said families should keep trying to get their children help, despite the obstacles.
“There is hope and an opportunity for healing,” she said.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Families in Nassau and Suffolk say they have become frustrated while seeking private therapists who often won’t take insurance and have wait-lists or no available appointments.
- Long Island nonprofits say they offer affordable mental health therapy for teens and young children — without long wait-lists.
The nonprofits are encouraging parents to contact them at a time when depression, anxiety and suicide rates among young people have climbed because of the pandemic and heavy social media use.
Newsday, January 4, 2023
Thank you for highlighting the crisis in access to mental health services among our youth as rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking are at all-time highs in your cover story of December 27, 2022.
While the pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of children and teens, the difficulty in finding timely and affordable quality mental health care isn’t new. In 2017, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center conducted extensive research, spotlighted in our Project Access report, shining a light on the longstanding problem and advocating for strategies to effect change.
Throughout our 70-year history, we have been providing mental health services to the children and families of Nassau County within just days of receiving their call, and no one is ever turned away for inability to pay. Kids in crisis can’t wait weeks or months for help.
North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center
Roslyn Heights, NY