News From Aldersgate

How to Talk to Your Children About the Orlando Attack

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, parents struggle with how to explain the tragedy to their children. They are exposed to intensive coverage through television, print and social media which will continue for many weeks to come. Here are some tips on how to talk with your children:

Keep it simple. Children’s responses to these traumatic events vary by age and emotional development. Ask them what they know and answer their questions simply. Listen for unspoken questions and fears.

Reassure them. Children can be overwhelmed and become fearful that something will happen to them. They practice lock-down drills in school which can fuel their anxiety. Reassure them that these events are rare and that parents, teachers and community members work hard to keep them safe. Review family safety plans.

Limit media access. Children cannot process the intense visual and audio images on the news. We are living in a 24-hour news world, and we forget that even having the TV on in the background impacts children. Also, limit your conversation with others around your children.

Acknowledge feelings-yours and theirs. Allow children to express their sadness, fear and anger. If they see you express those feelings reassure them that it is okay to have feelings, cry and be confused.

Use teachable moments. Some parents are uncomfortable about addressing the topic of gays and lesbians with young children. The events in Orlando have brought the subject to the attention of young children whose parents are not always prepared for the discussion. It is a good opportunity to talk to your children about relationships of all kinds and model respect and acceptance of others.

The most important tip is to let your children know they are loved.

Hugs are wonderful for children…… and adults, too.

Pat Wilcke, MFT
Family Therapist/Clinical Supervisor

Aldersgate offers individual, family and play therapy for children who are struggling with emotional issues related to school, family or peer relationships. For information, please contact 215-657-4545.

Depression: Signs, Symptoms & Resources

The world is mourning the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, a comic genius who battled depression and substance use for years. Fans are struggling with the reality that someone famous, successful and seemingly happy would commit suicide. In fact, depression and suicide are more common than people think; they affect people in all age groups and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, even those we think have it all.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression affects 5-8 percent of adults in the United States and only one-half will seek treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that approximately 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18. According to the Jason Foundation, suicide is the “Silent Epidemic” among youth; it is the third leading cause of death for ages 15-24.

Strong connection to family and community support, and access to effective treatment for depression are the keys to recovery for adults and adolescents.

Seek help if you or someone you love exhibits any of these signs of depression:
• Prolonged sadness.
• Energy loss; fatigue; physical complaints
• Irritability, anger or pessimism
• Nervousness or restlessness
• Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or helplessness
• Alcohol and other drug use
• Loss of interest in favorite activities
• Changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline lists the following risk factors for suicide:
• Prior history of mental health issues
• Alcohol and other substance use disorders
• Hopelessness
• Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
• History of trauma or abuse
• Major physical illnesses
• Previous suicide attempt
• Family history of suicide
• Job or financial loss
• Loss of relationship
• Easy access to lethal means
• Multiple community or family suicides around the same time
• Lack of social support and sense of isolation
• Stigma associated with asking for help
• Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
• Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
• Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media)

If you or some you care about is at immediate risk, go to the nearest hospital emergency room for evaluation, crisis management and support.

• For information or support call the Jason Foundation toll-free helpline at 1-888-881-2323
• The information Helpline at NAMI is 1-800-950-6264
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273- TALK (8255)
• Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat. Both services provide free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• In Montgomery County, for 24 hour a day crisis support contact:
• Adult Mobile Crisis Support at 1-855-634-4673
• Children’s Crisis Support at 1-888-435-7414

If you are not in immediate crisis but are struggling with depression, Aldersgate can offer supportive counseling and assistance to you and your family. Please contact Aldersgate at 215-657-4545.

Pat Wilcke, MFT
Clinical Supervisor