DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware

DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware

A huge thank you to Malia Boone, Brandy Beatty, and Sara Heinicke for representing DGS at the AKA Zeta Omega Mental Health Forum on the Delaware State University campus.

AND, Michael Hoffa and Sammi Becker met with community members at the Food Bank of Delaware‘s Resource and Job Fair in Milford.
DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware
Their enthusiastic outreach ensures the services and opportunities provided by DGS are easily available to #Delawarians. Thank you all for representing DGS so well!
Walk With Us

Walk With Us

Join the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and it’s Delaware Chapter for the annual ‘Out of the Darkness Walk. Raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. Funds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its Delaware Chapter.

  • September 22 – Wilmington Walk at Delcastle Recreational Park. Register Here
  • October 19 – Milford Walk at Bicentennial Park. Register Here
Students cite mental health struggles as they opt out of college

Students cite mental health struggles as they opt out of college

Especially students from LGBTQ+ and marginalized communities

A new survey shows one-third of students cite mental health concerns for dropping out of college, or never going.

What creates a safe, supportive learning environment

What creates a safe, supportive learning environment

Want to make sure your child’s school is safe? These are the questions parents should ask.

With gunfire in schools at an all-time high, though still rare, back-to-school season begins this year with many parents more concerned than ever about school safety.

While many schools and states have turned to physical safety measures such as extra police presence and metal detectors, others rely on social-emotional learning to improve school climate.

“You have these two genres – the zero-tolerance policies and making each school look like a little prison on one side. Ironically, you have – at the same time – the opposite vision of making school’s a more loving and caring and supportive place,” said Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He noted that schools are increasingly leaning on both methods simultaneously to address school safety – a route he said might not work.

“Are both of these views compatible? Can (students) feel like they belong … if their school is doing both? We don’t know for sure,” Astor said. “These are really, in some ways, scary times in our country, because it’s not a simple list that parents should think about. They have to balance all these issues.”

Experts, educators and advocates offered USA TODAY some of the questions parents should consider when assessing the safety of their children’s schools.

What is social-emotional learning?

School climate, which refers to students’ feelings of acceptance, appreciation and value in their school, is the most important factor for maintaining safety, said Aaron Kupchick, professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

To maintain a positive school climate, experts stress the importance of teaching social emotional learning (SEL) – which prioritizes the development of social and emotional skills in students, including self-awareness, empathy and resilience. Over the past few years, SEL has been linked to critical race theory, and conservatives have said the practice as a form of “woke indoctrination.”

SEL at school is crucial for student safety and success, said Heather Reynolds, a professor of teacher education at State University New York, Empire State University.

“It impacts not only safety, but academics. It improves mental health and students feel safer. They’re more engaged, more likely to come to school and have a positive perception of school.”
Read full article  |   Itzel Luna  |   Cincinnati Enquirer
Legislation to improve mental health resources in Delaware signed into law

Legislation to improve mental health resources in Delaware signed into law

Delaware Governor John Carney has signed in to law three pieces of legislation meant to improve mental health resources in Delaware.

“My highest priority is making sure we give students everything they need to be successful,” said Governor Carney. “This package of legislation strengthens our mental and behavioral health services so that we can identify, support, and help students in and out of the classroom. I want to thank Speaker Longhurst and the members of the Delaware General Assembly for their advocacy and hard work on behalf of our students.”

“Today we took another critical step forward, not just in policy, but in our commitment to creating a future where every Delawarean has access to the mental health care and resources they need,” said House Speaker Valerie Longhurst. “The bills Governor Carney signed today will help to deliver the compassionate, comprehensive mental health support residents need and deserve, but we’re not stopping here. Just as we have for the last several years, we’re going to continue to address the mental health crisis in our state with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.”

Legislators say the first bill, House Bill 3, helps students by allowing them excused absences for mental or behavior health reasons. As a part of this bill, any student who needs more than two of these absences be referred to a school-based mental or behavioral health specialist.

The second is House Bill 4, which is also aimed at students. Legislators say that it makes sure students have access to behavior health support in school after a school-connected traumatic event, which is defined as the death of any student, educator, administrator, or other building employee, or any other traumatic event that effects a significant portion of the students at the school.

“During my 25-year tenure as a public school teacher, I saw firsthand how mental health played a crucial role in a student’s ability to meaningfully learn and develop,” said Sen. Laura Sturgeon, chair of the Senate Education Committee and Senate prime sponsor of HB 3 and HB 4.

“With House Bill 3 and House Bill 4, we are ensuring Delaware’s youngest minds have access to the mental and behavioral support they need to thrive both in and outside of the classroom.”

As a part of House Bill 4, officials say the Delaware Department of Education will develop guidance, best practices, and written resources for school dealing with school-connected traumatic events. They say the department will also be responsible for covering the costs of grief counseling offered to students for up to 45 days after the event, with an option to renew for another 45 days.

“We’re grateful to Speaker Longhurst for, once again, taking important steps to support youth mental health in Delaware,” said Angela Kimball, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at Inseparable. “This year’s legislation showcases the Speaker’s leadership and dedication to youth mental health, which not only makes Delaware a better place to grow up but also is putting Delaware on the map as a national leader in mental health.”

Both bills are part of a larger package called “the 2023 Delaware Behavioral Health Package.” They say the measures are part of a holistic approach to improving the way mental health care is given to children in Delaware.

The third house bill, 160 (S), is about creating a way to fund the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 National Suicide Designation Act was passed by Congress in 2020, but legislators say states were independently responsible for setting the lifeline up. 988 would be the universal three-digit calling code for it, like how 911 is used for public safety emergencies.

The bill generates income to fund the lifeline through a 60-cent monthly surcharge on all phones and landlines, as well as a 60-cent fee on prepaid services. Legislators say these fees mirror fees already collected to support 911.

The bill has the money go to the Behavior Health Crisis Intervention Services Fund, which would fund the lifeline and a plan for a variety of services meant to help Delawareans experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

House Bill 160 (S) also creates a 20-member board, says legislators, that will develop a comprehensive statewide crisis intervention services plan and recommend to the governor and general assembly how to use the money from the surcharge. They say the board will be made up of state health officials, behavioral health experts, medical professionals, law enforcement and others.

“The creation of the 988 hotline wasn’t just a symbolic gesture — this has been a critical tool to help people get the same level of urgent and individualized care that they would if they were to call 911,” said Sen. Poore. “I’m proud to work alongside Speaker Longhurst to make the 988 hotline a more sustainable resource here in Delaware. We must continue to invest in our state’s mental health infrastructure, and I thank Governor Carney for signing this next important step into law.”

Credit WRDE | Benjamin Rothstein

Social Media Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?

Social Media Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?

U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon General 's Advisory: Social Media and Youth Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued an advisory about social media’s impact on youth mental health. It notes that while social media can provide benefits for some children and youth, there is a growing body of research about potential harms social media use poses.

Children and adolescents on social media are commonly exposed to extreme, inappropriate, and harmful content and frequent social media use can contribute to poor mental health, including depression and anxiety. The advisory outlines action steps that policymakers, technology companies, researchers, and families can take to mitigate the risk of harm and make social media safer and healthier for children and youth.

OJJDP, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), provides resources to keep youth safe online, including NCMEC’s NetSmartz program.

In addition, OJJDP’s mentoring programs support youth mental health and its National Mentoring Resource Center is dedicated to enhancing mentoring practices that support positive youth outcomes.

Download the Advisory

Youth Suicide Rates Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Youth Suicide Rates Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the United States. Rates of youth suicide deaths were rising before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began, so it is critical to understand how the pandemic impacted this public health crisis. In a new study supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers examined national youth suicide trends and characteristics in the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A research team led by Jeffrey Bridge, Ph.D., Donna Ruch, Ph.D., and Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., MPH, analyzed national suicide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers first identified all U.S. youth aged 5 to 24 years with suicide listed as the cause of death over the first 10 months of the pandemic (March 1, 2020–December 31, 2020). They calculated the total and monthly suicide deaths overall and by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and suicide method. Then, they examined how many young people died by suicide during the first 10 months of the pandemic and compared it to an estimated number of suicide deaths during that same period had the pandemic not occurred (calculated using data from the previous 5 years).

The researchers identified 5,568 youth who died by suicide during the first 10 months of the pandemic, which was higher than the expected number of deaths had the pandemic not occurred. Higher than expected suicide rates were found a few months into the pandemic, starting in July 2020.

The increase in suicide deaths varied significantly by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and suicide method. During the pandemic, there were higher than expected suicide deaths among males, preteens aged 5–12 years, young adults aged 18–24 years, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native youth, and non-Hispanic Black youth as compared to before the pandemic. Suicide deaths involving firearms were also higher than expected.

The significantly higher number of suicide deaths reported for certain racial and ethnic groups, specifically non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black youth, highlights ongoing disparities in rates of suicide that the pandemic may have exacerbated. The increase in suicide deaths among preteens also suggests that more attention may need to be paid to this age group, who tend to be understudied in suicide prevention research and have different developmental needs than older adolescents and young adults.

This research is only a first step in examining the pandemic’s impact on youth mental health and points to several areas for further investigation. First, it is possible that other events or factors unrelated to the pandemic that occurred during the study’s time frame contributed to the rise in youth suicide deaths but were unmeasured. Second, research is still needed to identify the underlying causes of the increase in youth suicide deaths, both overall and for specific groups. Third, the COVID-19 pandemic period analyzed in this study was limited to 10 months in 2020 and does not reflect longer-term trends in youth suicide that may have changed as the pandemic wore on. Last, suicide deaths for some groups may have been underreported due to inaccurate or misclassified data; ongoing monitoring of suicide rates will help clarify the suicide risk faced by young people in the United States.

This study shows that the pandemic impacted youth suicide rates, but the impact was not the same for everyone and varied based on sex, age, and race and ethnicity. As such, the authors suggest that it may be helpful to broadly implement suicide prevention efforts in settings that serve young people, while also tailoring those efforts to address the disparities faced by specific groups. Moreover, given the extended duration of the pandemic and its ongoing impact on young people in the United States, it will be important to monitor long-term trends in suicide rates associated with COVID-19 and identify factors driving the increased risk for suicide among some people.

Source: May 22, 2023 • National Institute of Mental Health

The Kids Aren’t All Right—but Hope Can Help

The Kids Aren’t All Right—but Hope Can Help

Colleges have a role in cultivating hopefulness in a generation of young people suffering the mental health effects of the pandemic and political conflict, Sian Beilock writes.

Sian Beilock | published February 22, 2023
image source: HowLettery/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
The events of the past few years have literally changed the brains of our young people, prematurely aging them in ways we used to primarily see in children suffering from violence or neglect. And while the brain is capable of healing itself, especially through treatment, it’s hard to undo trauma altogether, leaving the COVID generation with historic rates of depression, anxiety and also hopelessness.
In psychology, we define hope as the belief that you can achieve your aims coupled with the motivation to do so. It’s easy to see, then, why hope—or its absence—can deeply impact areas like academic achievement, success at work, the quality of one’s relationship and even health outcomes. What’s more, studies have shown that hopelessness perpetuates depression and anxiety—a link we desperately need to break.There’s no quota cap on crisis, and we can safely bet this won’t be the last time young people face upheaval and uncertainty. They’ll need hope to weather whatever disruption comes next, and we can help them grasp it by teaching them to see themselves as capable agents of change.Unfortunately, increased political partisanship and the ongoing culture wars we’ve allowed to infiltrate our educational system are pushing hope further from reach. Studies have shown that exposure to charged political events, which have become commonplace on K-12 and college campuses alike, are directly connected to experiencing negative emotions and increased stress. Just witnessing partisan politics is enough to activate a fight-or-flight nervous system response.

It’s hard to feel hopeful in a world where we (the grown-ups) can’t even agree on basic facts. Rather than being ground zero for political discord, our schools and colleges at all levels need to be places where students learn that even seemingly impossible challenges can be overcome and that different viewpoints that make us uncomfortable can help us get to a better outcome—that there is a path forward.

The good news is, our brains are malleable and can learn (or re-learn) through strategies or interventions to become more hopeful and optimistic. In fact, many strategies we already use to support overall well-being have also been shown to strengthen a hopeful mind-set. Unfortunately, well-being initiatives for students—while being widely accepted as a necessary step to ending the mental health crisis—have also become another political target, which is making it hard for schools to find middle-ground solutions.

Full article here


DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

We’d like to thank all who came out to celebrate our partnership (and new space) at the Community Building. This new collaboration only strengthens our ability to provide quality behavioral health services for our Delaware youth and their families.
DGS receives American Gift Fund donation

DGS receives American Gift Fund donation

Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth, Inc. (DGS) received a donation of $25,000 from the American Gift Fund. The funds will be used to support critical behavioral health services for children and youth in Delaware.

In a press release Jill Rogers, executive director of DGS said, “We are so grateful to the American Gift Fund for their generous donation. Children and families are facing unprecedented challenges as they learn and grow. Now more than ever, donations such as these will help us serve more children who are struggling or who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.”

DGS is Delaware’s largest provider of outpatient behavioral health services to children and families. With offices in Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Lewes, and Seaford, DGS clinicians treat a wide range of diagnoses including depression, anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, traumatic stress-related disorders, and suicidal ideation. DGS serves children and youth up through age 18 and provides care to anyone in need, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay for care.

Courtesy: Delaware Business Times | Sabrina Gonzalez  | October 18, 2022

Experts weigh in on best ways to protect kids from cyberbullying

Experts weigh in on best ways to protect kids from cyberbullying

recent survey by the RCMP found that 31% of Canadian youth say they have been cyberbullied before. That’s an increase of 17%, which can be blamed on the pandemic, a time in which kids’ screen time soared.

With kids back to school, cyberbullying will become a hot topic once again.

You can’t make a mean person less awful so how can parents, teachers and other concerned adults keep their children safe?

We spoke with experts Dr. Howard Pratt, a psychiatrist and behavioral health medical director at Community Health of South Florida Inc., and Dr. Sara Goldstein, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware, who specializes in bullying during childhood and adolescence.

“Because so much of what we do is online, there’s always that space available for someone to message someone negatively online or in a public space and bully another person,” Dr. Pratt tells the Toronto Sun.

“It’s really not a matter of staying safe but rather how to say safer,” he explains. “So, if there is a platform or space online that you learn is a place where bullying is taking place and affecting your child, then much in the same way you do when you learn there is a geographic location where crimes take place, you know you don’t want your kid there and you don’t let them go there.”

That’s easier said than done since parents and teachers can’t protect kids at all times. But adults can watch out for signs. Like bullying, the signs of cyberbullying are similar.

“Often there is a sense of embarrassment by the victim and the kid will try to hide that the bullying is going on,” Dr. Pratt says. “You may notice signs of withdrawal, symptoms of depression and anxiety despite the source coming from someone who is not physically present in your child’s life.”

Depending on the situation — and every situation is different — there are plans that can be implemented for an effective intervention.

“If the bullying is happening on a particular platform, you have to consider risk versus reward when it comes to eliminating it,” suggests Pratt, but warns that parents have to be very sensitive when making these decisions.

“When kids are bullied, whether the bully is someone they know or is a complete stranger, it calls into question so many things for that child,” he explains.

“The kid may ask themself, ‘Is this the way the world is?’ ‘Is this normal?’ ‘What’s wrong with me that this is happening?’

“So, you want to minimize exposure to bullying whether it’s coming from someone they actually know, or whether it’s coming from a complete stranger.”

As far as protecting kids as best as possible, Dr. Goldstein suggests setting clear guidelines and parameters for online behaviour, limiting time online access to devices, and maintaining positive, open relationships with them.

“When kids feel that they can open up to the important adults in their lives, they are more likely to share with them when something challenging is happening,” she says.

“You can never really be 100 per cent safe from cyberbullying,” admits Dr. Pratt. “Bad people are out there who will say and do bad things and we don’t have control of them.”

He suggests getting spyware to find out what your children are up to online.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says. “You want to know who is communicating with your kids, what they are saying, and most critically, discern the intent behind that messaging, which a child may not be able to fully grasp.”

Full Article HERE  |  Denette Wilford    Publishing date: Sep 10, 2022