Be ready to talk as children go through changes

Children go through a flurry of changes as they grow. As parents we must be there for support and guidance. The best parents not only provide guidance and discipline, but they model good habits. They show how important healthful practices are at every stage of life and do their best to be knowledgeable.

Let’s review the basics:

A healthy mind

One of the key things for good mental health throughout life is maintain good sleep habits. Making sure children have good sleep is one of the key responsibilities of parents. The brain needs to rest. The rest is needed for learning, memory and attention. While we don’t strain the brain like a muscle, the brain does become fatigued. With fatigue, the ability to concentrate suffers. When children get their rest, they can do their best.

Let your children know they are loved. Encourage them to talk about life, their troubles and their joys. Share your values and surround them with people, books and experiences that reinforce those values. Talk about what is important but seek ways to have fun.

As always, structure vs. free time is a hot topic. With structure comes discipline, character building and accomplishment. With free time, comes the opportunity to explore the world and see where curiosity leads. Remember a mix of discipline and dreaming can complement each other.

A healthful body

As we all know, good habits in eating are extremely valuable and should start early. Birthday cake and ice cream are expressions of love. However, too much of this type of love week-in, week-out can be harmful. Making decisions about how to address sugar and processed fast food early in life is important. Simply put, balance your child’s meals and snacks with fruits, vegetables and protein sources.

Keep moving. Combining exercise with smart eating is the tried and true winning duo. Exercise strengthens bones and muscles. This increases coordination and confidence. Exercise and brain health go together as well.

Moving forward

These basic ideas help children to be physically and mentally fit. The right mix gives them the positive perspectives they need to conquer other eventualities as their bodies and brains develop – and there are plenty of challenges.

Social skills and behavior evolve quickly through the teen years. A child starts to develop skills in planning, problem-solving and self-control and with this may test boundaries. This brain development will continue into adulthood. Everything starts to look different: Bones, organs and body systems continuously change. As children advance through puberty, they may become clumsy and feel not so comfortable with their bodies. It’s a challenging time.

Learn and be ready to talk

As teens go through these changes, be ready to: listen, validate their feelings, show trust, give praise, control your emotions, do things together, share meals, say “I was wrong,” and be observant.

If you would like to learn more, Community Reach Center is offering a live webcast titled “How to talk to your kids about body image, gender identity, sexuality, etc.” This is the third presentation in the Center’s REACH for Wellness series.

The presentation will feature three psychology interns at Community Reach Center: Julia Core, who is a clinical psychology candidate at Azusa Pacific University in southern California; Loraine Fishman, who is a doctorate student at the University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology; and Alec Vicenzi, who is a doctorate intern who attends the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

The live webcast will be 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, June 25. To sign up, please visit the Community Reach Center Facebook link. Please join us!

Around the clock

Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. We are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

 

We Stand with Black Lives Matter

The nationwide collective expression of grief and frustration over the senseless killing of George Floyd by four police officers in broad daylight in Minneapolis on May 25 is overwhelming. I’m at a loss for words to convey the sadness and anger I feel about the murder of Mr. Floyd, as well as Ahmaud Arbery on February 23. Undoubtedly countless more incidents of racial violence and mistreatment occur throughout the nation daily, and those stories go untold. We know about the Floyd and Arbery tragedies thanks to video footage spreading worldwide on social media. Gil Scott-Heron was wrong, the revolution will be televised after all.

These tragedies are compounded by the stress of COVID-19, and the disproportionate rate of contagion and inequitable financial impact it has exacted upon people of color in the U.S.

Don’t think racial inequality and injustice is someone else’s problem. This is everyone’s problem. Inequitable access to quality K-12 education impacts access to higher education and training. Inequitable access to higher education and training impacts income and holds generations of families in poverty. Poverty contributes to crime; crime attracts law enforcement and provides the opportunity for those officers with racist hearts to perpetrate unwarranted violence on people of color.

According to the Sentencing Project, “…White Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by Blacks and Latinos, overlook the fact that communities of color are disproportionately victims of crime, and discount the prevalence of bias in the criminal justice system.” According to the Marshall Project, “When it comes to drug and property crimes, Black people are serving increasingly more time, growing at a rate of 1 percent or more on average every year, as the time served in prison by White offenders dropped.”

We must commit to comprehensive reform of our nation’s justice system, develop procedures for removing racially biased police officers from service and demand accountability from law enforcement agencies. We must diversify state and local governments to include policy makers informed by viewpoints of minorities as much as majority viewpoints.

These killings should serve as a call to action for every one of us to do everything we can to address bigotry in a deliberate and systemic way. Exercise your right to vote and vote for the change you demand to see. Please do what you can to genuinely express extra care and compassion for everyone within our community and remember Community Reach Center is here for you.

Black Lives Matter

Getting the care you need via telemedicine

Keeping on top of your healthcare needs is now more important than ever, but due to the COVID-19 virus, you may be asked by your healthcare system or local physician’s office to avoid in-person visits.

Avoiding in-person visits helps control the spread of the virus and ensures that the most critically ill receive frontline care. But just because you may not be able to see your healthcare provider in person does not mean that you should not seek out medical care.

Telemedicine is a new reality for all of us. To make it easier to connect with your healthcare team, the federal government has temporarily expanded telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries to cover virtual visits. Virtual visits currently include various modes of interaction with your healthcare team including video chats and phone calls.

We’ve put together four key tips to help make your telemedicine visit as beneficial as possible:

Prepare for the Visit

  • Write down a list of your symptoms and concerns. Be specific.
  • Practice what you want to say. That way, you won’t leave anything out.
  • Write down a list of all medications (prescription and non-prescription).
  • Check your technology. (If you do not have a computer, tablet or smart phone, ask a family member or friend for help.

Find a Quiet Space

    • Turn off background noise such as TVs, radios and smart speakers.
    • Ask others in your home to keep the noise level down.
    • Allow yourself 10-15 minutes before the video/phone call to collect your thoughts.
    • For privacy, consider using headphones during the call.

    Tell Your Provider Everything

      • Summarize your condition, list all symptoms, and explain your concerns.
      • Share any changes in your medical history and any major life changes.
      • Provide any vital signs that you can such as blood pressure, pulse and temperature.

      Agree on a Treatment Plan

        • After your doctor tells you something, repeat it back in your own words.
        • Take notes and ask questions such as: What are the risks/benefits of treatment? Are there other ways to treat this? Will insurance pay? Will I need medication?
        • Agree on the treatment plan and any additional tests/medications.
        • Ask your doctor for resources and about follow-up visits.

        As with any physician visit, it’s ideal if you can have a friend or family member by your side. That person can be responsible for taking notes so that you can focus fully on your conversation with your doctor.

        Senior Reach at Community Reach Center is also utilizing this telemedicine model to ensure that the behavioral and emotional health of older adults are met during this time.

        If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please contact the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657 or visit www.communityreachcenter.org.

        Here for you

        This column was contributed by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable.

        If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours.

        To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

        Depression is not a normal part of growing older

        (Way Stations: Staying on Track in Older Adulthood series columnists are Jim Kuemmerle and Nicole Hartog, shown above.)

        Depression is a diagnosable and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. Depression is not just having “the blues” or the emotions we feel when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a treatable medical condition, like diabetes or hypertension.

        How is depression different for older adults?

        Older adults are at increased risk. We know that about 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose functioning becomes limited.

        Older adults are often misdiagnosed and undertreated. Healthcare providers may mistake an older adults’ symptoms of depression as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes that may occur as we age, and therefore not see the depression as something to be treated. Older adults themselves often share this belief and do not seek help because they don’t understand that they could feel better with appropriate treatment.

        Special concerns for older adults

        Of course, some older adults do develop clinical depression. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, the following characteristics or conditions may put older adults at a higher risk for depression:

        • Being female
        • Having a chronic illness
        • Having a disability
        • Sleeping poorly
        • Feeling lonely or socially isolated
        • Having a personal or family history of depression
        • Using certain medications
        • Having a brain disease

        A number of medical and neurological conditions have high rates of depression associated with them, including stroke, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

        Missed diagnosis

        Depression in older adults is often not diagnosed. That's because of stereotypical beliefs among family members, caregivers and even healthcare providers that older adults are depressed in general. Older adults may hide their depression by complaining about a physical problem. This makes it harder to diagnose.

        Common signs of depression include:

        • Sleep problems, including too little or too much sleep, or getting up earlier than desired
        • Less pleasure and interest in previously enjoyed activities
        • Less energy or focus
        • Increase or decrease in appetite
        • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
        • Thoughts of death or suicide
        • Self-destructive and suicidal behavior

        Statistics

        According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the highest suicide rate (20.2) was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age. The second highest rate (20.1) occurred in those 85 years or older. . Of every 100,000 people age 75 and older, 16.3 died by suicide. This figure is higher than the national average of 11.3 suicides per 100,000 people. Non-Hispanic white men older than 85 have the highest suicide rates, 55 per 100,000 people. Many of these men visited their healthcare provider in the last month

        If you see signs of depression in yourself, a friend, or a family member, don't wait until it becomes severe. Please reach out for assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Also visit the website for information about Mental Health First Aid courses for adults.

         

        We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for their insights. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. We provide treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield.

        Consider social exercise to improve mental health

        Mental health issues are increasing on a global scale, especially in teenagers. It is estimated 25 percent of teens experience anxiety and at least 20 percent experience depression before adulthood. In response, researchers are focusing on finding activities and lifestyles to promote mental health. From their research, they have discovered those who participate in team sports or social exercise have lower anxiety levels and experience less depression than those who participate in individual sports or no sports at all.

        Why are team sports effective?

        It is well-known that exercise is beneficial for mental and physical wellness, but why are team sports more helpful for reducing mental health issues than other forms of exercise?

        The following factors contribute to the positive state of mental health found in team sports participants:

        • Socialization
        • Social status
        • Social support and accountability

        These social elements found in team sports are beneficial for combating symptoms of depression. For instance, social isolation is a common symptom of depression eliminated through the social elements ingrained in team sports.

        Team sports or social exercise?

        When most people think of team sports, they usually think of sports like football, basketball, baseball or soccer. However, these sports are not suited for everyone seeking social exercise.  Here are some examples of exercise activities that can be engaged in socially:

        • Running or cycling
        • Hiking
        • Group fitness classes (i.e. yoga, martial arts, kickboxing, cycling, etc.)

        Countless activities and forms of exercise can be engaged in socially. Essentially, if an exercise activity includes the fundamental social elements of team sports, it will provide similar benefits to mental health.

        What if I play individual sports?

        If you are an individual sport athlete, don't sweat it. Any form of exercise has mental health benefits, although may not be as extensive as social exercises. Nevertheless, if you are interested in obtaining the mental health benefits associated with social exercise, consider finding a balance between individual and social exercise.

        Positive self-talk

        Research has shown that positive self-talk can improve mental health, as well as performance in sports. This is because positive-self talk decreases performance anxiety and increases an athlete's confidence in their abilities. Although – whether you play sports or not – positive self-talk is a great practice to consider due to its mental health benefits. To develop a habit of practicing positive self-talk, take the following steps:

        • Choose a positive affirmation or motivational phrase to repeat, such as “You got this” or “I can do this.”
        • Once repeating this phrase becomes a habit, create more phrases that apply to specific areas of life.
        • Once you’ve created multiple phrases, attach positive mental images to them for effective visualization.

        Something to consider

        Keep in mind that athletes experience mental health issues too, regardless of the sports they play. Additionally, exercise alone is not sufficient treatment for serious mental disorders. In that regard, people struggling with their mental health should seek professional help.

        Finding ways to cope with mental health issues can be challenging. If you or a loved one has a mental health concern, we are happy to consult with you at Community Reach Center. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Broomfield and Brighton.

        This blog was contributed by Brice Pernicka, a Westgate Community School student who is also an intern at Community Reach Center.

        Take heart for mental health

         

        February is American Heart Month. Although the relationship between good mental health and heart health is certainly complex, it is a proven fact that good blood flow from the heart to the brain is important for overall wellness.

        Certainly, when someone has a heart attack, heart surgery or stroke, the immediate concern is physical health. At the same time, research has shown cardiovascular disease can trigger depression and the need for counseling and medication.

        With these thoughts in mind, consider lifestyle changes and good habits to maintain a healthy heart.

        Here are a few tips

        Let’s talk about the American Heart Association’s seven risk factors as areas for improvement to live longer and healthier lives:

        • Manage your blood pressure: When you keep your blood pressure within healthier ranges you reduce stress on your heart. There are five blood pressure ranges to consider that clearly indicate a normal blood pressure or one of the elevated levels. Find out your blood pressure and consider if you need to make changes.
        • Control cholesterol: High cholesterol can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. In short, reducing saturated fats and trans fats helps and focusing on foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber can help. Consider your eating habits and what may need to change.
        • Reduce blood sugar: High levels of blood sugar damage the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Drink plenty of water and cut down on carb intake. Seek a low carb diet to reduce blood sugar.
        • Get active: Physical activity improves the length and the quality of life. Sometimes finding ways to enjoy exercise with others increases success. Good goals include 20 to 30 minutes a day or three times a week.
        • Eat better: A healthful diet is one of the best ways to fight heart disease. Among the many books on healthful eating is the “Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat well. Enjoy life, Lose weight.” It’s a playbook for solidifying healthful eating habits, and it is well researched.
        • Lose weight: Losing weight takes stress off your heart. Find tried and true methods, such as the Mayo Clinic book, which focuses on changing lifestyle habits to lose weight for the long term.
        • Stop smoking: Smoking increases likelihood of having heart disease. The warnings about the dangers of smoking are well known. Smoking generally increases the risk for coronary heart disease by two to four times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC. Similarly, consider the dangers of nicotine in vaping.

        For starters, take some steps

        So maybe the best advice for American Heart Month is to take a walk. While you are on your walk think about the seven risk factors and where your best opportunities for improvement may exist.

        It could be learning to live with lightly salted foods or gulping the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Or maybe it amounts to choosing new types of exercise and gearing up the gym bag.

        It’s always a good time find opportunities to improve your health.    

        Learn more

        While our expertise is in mental health, we are happy to advocate for the importance of American Heart Month. Just as many physical health challenges can be healed, mental illnesses are often treatable, so please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please call the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

        Understanding the realities of mental health challenges

        “I just haven’t felt like myself lately.”

        We all hear this phrase – or something similar – now and then.

        Such candid sharing means that the person trusts you and feels comfortable telling you how they feel rather than bottling it up. Intimate sharing like this illustrates healthful, supportive relationships that are enriched by compassionate listening. Are you one of those compassionate listeners?  Imagine how much more helpful you could be if you knew more about mental health challenges, treatment options and resources available right in your community.  

        The face of mental illness

        Everyone has a bad day now and then.  When symptoms are intense and present for longer than two weeks, a string of bad days may actually be an emerging mental health concern.

        Here is what to watch for:

        • Is the person’s symptoms disrupting their work, ability to carry out daily activities or engage in satisfying relationships?
        • Is it affecting their thinking, emotional state or behavior?

        When symptoms are causing a persistent disruption in someone’s life for two weeks or longer, it may be time to extend your compassionate support and help connect the person with professional help. Keep in mind that a mental disorder or mental illness is a diagnosable illness sometimes caused by trauma, chemical imbalances in the brain and other biological and environmental factors. A little professional help can go a long way.

        The landscape of mental health

        While Colorado is a phenomenal destination state that offers ample winter sporting venues and endless options for entertainment and social engagements, the state has its mental health pitfalls.

        Consider that:

        • Colorado ranks 16th in the incidence of mental illness. A total of 20.6 percent of Coloradans experienced some form of mental illness last year (approximately 750,000 Colorado adults).
        • Colorado currently has the 10th highest suicide rate in the nation. About 13 people of every 100,000 in the United States died due to suicide in 2016. That same year, Colorado lost more than 20 people per 100,000 residents.
        • Suicide is leading cause of death among young Coloradans age 10 to 24.
        • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.
        • About 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 young people experience a mental disorder each year; less than 50 percent receive treatment.

        Learn the basics

        Equipped with the right information, it’s easier to help others or yourself.  For example, did you know that anxiety disorder is the most commonly diagnosed mental health challenge in the U.S.?  Symptoms associated with anxiety disorder are broader than just feeling “on edge,” and can include headaches, muscle aches, chest pain and a huge variety of other physical ailments. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a specific form of anxiety, hallmarked by nightmares, emotional flatness, depression, anger, irritability or a tendency to be easily startled.

        Be in the know

        A free presentation titled “Understanding the Realities of Mental Illness,” will be offered 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at Community Reach Center, 11285 Highline Drive in Northglenn. The presentation will cover signs and symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses, treatment options and helpful local resources. Ample time will be provided for questions as well. Please visit www.communityreachcenter.org to register.

        It is vitally important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know mental illness is treatable. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please call the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

        Encouraging wellness in older adults

        We all know exercise and physical activity is extremely important, and we know exercise has proven benefits for older people. It reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer and breast cancer. It also decreases the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. 

        Like everyone else, older people may know that exercise is good for their health, but they may not have the motivation or encouragement to do it. One way you can help is to guide those around you by asking about their daily activities and whether they engage in any kind of regular exercise or physical activity. 

        There are several ways to encourage older adults to exercise:

        • Let them know that regular physical activity – including endurance, muscle-strengthening, balance, and flexibility exercises – is essential for healthy aging.
        • Help them set realistic goals and develop an exercise plan. 
        • Work together to write an exercise outline, and make it specific, including type, frequency, intensity, and time; follow up to check progress and re-evaluate goals over time.
        • Refer to opportunities in community resource listings, such as mall-walking groups and senior center fitness classes.

        Nutrition

        Older adults may develop poor eating habits for many reasons. These can range from a decreased sense of smell and taste to teeth problems or depression. Older adults may also have difficulty making their way to a supermarket or simply standing long enough to cook a meal. And, although energy needs may decrease with age, the need for certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12, increases after age 50.

        Try these strategies to encourage healthy diets:

        • Emphasize that good nutrition can have an impact on well-being and independence.
        • If needed, suggest they seek information about liquid nutrition supplements, but emphasize the benefits of solid foods.
        • If needed, suggest multivitamins that fulfill 100 percent of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals for older people, but steer clear of mega doses.
        • Encourage the older adult to have conversations with their primary care providers.

         

        Too old to exercise? Studies say no!

        Consider these facts:

        • Together, exercise and lifestyle changes, such as becoming more active and eating healthy food, reduce the risk of diabetes in high-risk older people. In one study, lifestyle changes led to a 71 percent decrease in diabetes among people 60 and older.
        • In another study, moderate exercise was effective at reducing stress and sleep problems in older women caring for a family member with dementia. 
        • Older people who exercise moderately can fall asleep quickly, sleep for longer periods and have better quality of sleep.
        • Researchers also found that exercise can improve balance and reduce falls among older people by 33 percent.
        • Walking and strength-building exercises by people with knee osteoarthritis help reduce pain and maintain function and quality of life.

        Sometimes it’s hard to get moving, but oftentimes when a person gets up and around, he or she suddenly feels gratified and inspired. Let’s rally for that outcome with all older adults.

        We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for their insights. During this time, and all year long, it is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. We provide treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield.

        Dangers of teen drug use

        Many teens experiment with various substances to experience mental and physical effects. Some will experiment with peers in moderation with little significant long-term impact while others will develop a Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

        A SUD is defined as a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior, characterized by the inability to control use and is detrimental to meeting daily responsibilities and activities you obligated yourself to participate in.

        The three most common substances used by teenagers are alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, and their use can sometimes lead to developing SUD.

        Alcohol

        Alcohol is the most abused substance by adolescents.

        Many young people do not perceive alcohol as a dangerous substance due to its widespread use among adults and peers, and from appealing marketing seen on television, internet ads and billboards.

        Although alcohol use is prevalent among teenagers, underage drinking can have significant consequences to daily life such as:

        • Decreased school performance and attendance
        • Lack of participation in daily activities and responsibilities
        • Increased risk for legal problems and engagement in risky behavior

        Using alcohol heavily during adolescence may also cause cognitive impairments and physical damage to the brain. 

        Adolescent alcohol use is also linked to an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life, which should be considered by adolescents when deciding whether to drink.

        Nicotine (e-cigarettes)

        Tobacco products have always been highly-abused by teenagers due to the addictive chemical nicotine. However, the number of teen smokers has significantly decreased in recent years due to the rise of e-cigarettes.

        The following factors contribute to e-cigarette abuse among teens:

        • Cheaper than traditional tobacco products
        • High amounts of nicotine can be provided
        • Flavors that are preferable to tobacco can be used
        • Minimal odor during use
        • Easily concealed and used

        Many teenagers do not realize that vaping nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful. Actually, use during adolescence can impact parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Teenagers should consider these factors when deciding to use nicotine from an e-cigarette or other tobacco products.

        Marijuana

        Marijuana has been used by teenagers for decades, although the following factors contribute to high use among modern teenagers:

        • Easily accessible in states that have legalized marijuana
        • Glorification in many genres of music and by influential people
        • Peer pressure and social influence

        The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes led to many young people perceiving it as harmless. While this is a common misconception, adolescent marijuana use can cause impairments in the following areas of mental and physical functioning:

        • Memory
        • Concentration
        • Attention
        • Decision making
        • Physical coordination

        Like other drugs, it is important to remember marijuana can be abused and is harmful to brain development during adolescence.

        Risk Factors

        Risk factors for developing SUD include using drugs to cope with stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. Genetic factors can be traced to family members that have a history with these disorders.

        Also, about 82 percent of adolescents with substance use disorder have a mental health challenge, according to "Mental Health First Aid USA: For Adults Assisting Young People."

        General information and finding help

        Drug use of any type during development of the prefrontal cortex, which commonly extends to age 25, can have significant long-term consequences on cognitive functioning and abilities.

        To find information on helping an adolescent who is suffering from drug addiction and finding proper treatment methods, visit these articles:

        https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-addicts-22238

        https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323468.php#self-help-groups

        Finding additional help

        Finding ways to cope with mental health issues can be challenging. If you have you or a loved one is experiencing drug dependence, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, and Brighton. Remember that our Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in Adams County, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500.

        This blog was contributed by Brice Pernicka, a Westgate Community School student who is also an intern at Community Reach Center.

        Identifying warning signs for suicide

        A person who may be thinking about suicide likely does not want to die but is in search of some way to make pain or suffering go away. Older people who attempt suicide are often more isolated, more likely to have a plan, and more determined than younger adults. Suicide attempts are more likely to end in death for older adults than younger adults, especially when attempted by men. But suicide is 100 percent preventable.

        Use the checklist to determine if you or someone you know may be showing warning signs of suicidal thoughts.

        Risk factors and warning signs

        Suicidal thoughts in older adults may be linked to several important risk factors and warning signs. These include, among others:

        • Depression
        • Prior suicide attempts
        • Marked feelings of hopelessness; lack of interest in the future
        • Feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose
        • Medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy
        • Impulsivity due to cognitive impairment
        • Social isolation
        • Family discord or losses (i.e. recent death of a loved one)
        • Inflexible personality or marked difficulty adapting to change
        • Access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, other weapons, etc)
        • Daring or risk-taking behavior
        • Sudden personality changes
        • Alcohol or medication misuse or abuse
        • Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
        • Giving away prized possessions

        Preventing suicide

        It is crucial that friends and family of older adults identify signs of suicidal thoughts and take appropriate follow-up actions to prevent them from acting on these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of depression and should always be taken seriously.

        Passive suicidal thoughts include thoughts of being “better off dead.” They are not necessarily associated with increased risk for suicide but are a sign of significant distress and should be addressed immediately.

        In contrast, active suicidal thoughts include thoughts of acting toward hurting or killing oneself. An example of an active suicidal thought would be answering yes to the question: In the last two weeks, have you had any thoughts of hurting or killing yourself? These thoughts require immediate clinical assessment and intervention by a mental health professional.

        If someone you know has a suicide plan with intent to act, you should not leave them alone – make sure to stay with them until emergency services are in place.

        Key takeaway

        If you or someone you know is experiencing passive or active suicidal thoughts, or has described a plan with intent to act, it is essential that you intervene and get help from a mental health professional immediately. A timely and appropriate intervention can prevent suicide and addressing issues sooner rather than later often results in better treatment outcomes.

         We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for these insights during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this month, and all year long, it is important for people suffering from mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance.

        Remember that our Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in Adams County, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides leading Denver mental health centers to visit. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.