April 2022

Monthly Archives

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    Sip ‘n’ sizzle

    Is there anything better than spending time al fresco with friends and family? If you haven’t already, take advantage of the glorious spring weather by firing up your grill, uncovering the outdoor furniture and planning some backyard get-togethers. Whether you’re invited to a party or hosting one of your own, you’ll want to provide a […]

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    Kid-friendly Pigtails & Crewcuts takes the scare out of the barber chair

    A child’s first haircut can be an intimidating experience, but with the right atmosphere, it doesn’t need to be.  Enter Pigtails & Crewcuts, a children’s hair salon franchise that originated in Atlanta and specializes in providing a stress-free haircutting experience for the whole family. In February, Tacie Lane and her husband, Greg, opened a Pigtails […]

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    The May Day Project 2022

    For the third year, we at Gulf Coast Woman have partnered with the leading mental health experts on the Coast to bring you the May Day project — a resource we hope will guide and inspire you in your mental health journey. We hear you, and you don’t need to suffer in silence. Overcoming caregiver […]

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    Mental Health Resource Directory 2022

    Adrienne’s House

    (228) 762-8267


    Adrienne’s House is the secondary domestic violence shelter of the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, offering temporary emergency shelter; individual counseling for adults and children; group counseling for residential and nonresidential clients; case management; legal/court advocacy and a civil legal services legal clinic.


    Advanced Psychotherapy Associates

    (228) 897-7730


    Specializes in psychology and psychiatry.


    Alexa Morales clinical social work/therapist LCSW, ACSW

    (228) 331-3310


    Morales is a social worker and therapist specializing in social work, psychotherapy and more.


    Ascend Counseling Services

    (228) 351-9484


    Ascend Counseling Services offers individual and family counseling services in numerous areas of treatment.


    At the Root Counseling and Wellness

    (315) 317-2537


    At The Root Counseling & Wellness takes a holistic approach to individual, couples and group counseling.


    Back Bay Mission

    (228) 432-0301


    Back Bay Mission offers many ministries serving the poor and marginalized people of the Coast, including emergency assistance and supportive housing.


    Biloxi Treatment Center

    (228) 207-1248


    Biloxi Treatment Center provides opioid addiction treatment and recovery services to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


    Bloom Wellness

    (228) 382-3107


    Bloom Wellness offers individual, couples and family therapy and specializes in working with tweens, teens and adults.


    Bolt Counseling Services

    (228) 382-3138


    Bolt Counseling Services offers individual counseling, couples counseling, family counseling and EMDR therapy.


    Bridgewater Psychiatry

    (228) 331-3310


    Bridgewater Psychiatry is a private outpatient facility that works with children, adolescents, and adults to treat most major mental health disorders; services include medication management, psychological testing and both individual and couples psychotherapy.


    Bruce Professional Counseling Services LLC

    (228) 207-0725


    Bruce Professional Counseling Services LLC offers services for adults and children.


    Bryan Keith Ballard, LPC

    (228) 594-9010

    Bryan Keith Ballard offers professional counseling services.


    Building Behaviors Counseling Services LLC

    (228) 424-3427


    Building Behaviors serves children, adolescents and adults through counseling, anger management and parenting skills training.


    Building New Tomorrows LLC

    (228) 374-7854


    Specializes in helping individuals, couples and families during times of stress and turmoil.


    Canopy Children’s Solutions

    (228) 863-4992


    Canopy Children’s Solutions is a nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions.


    Caring Hearts Counseling Services

    (228) 591-1442


    Caring Hearts specializes in treatment of children, adolescents and families who are experiencing mental, emotional and/or behavioral issues.


    Catalyst Counseling and Therapy Services

    (228) 284-2644


    Catalyst Counseling and Therapy Services is a strengths-based mental health counseling service that helps individuals, couples and families get back on track with their lives.


    Charla Wilson Counseling Services PLLC

    (228) 456-3222


    Charla Wilson Counseling Services PLLC offers counseling services for individuals, couples, families, adults, adolescents and children.


    Choices Coordinated Care Solutions Inc.

    (318) 613-7026


    Choices Coordinated Care Solutions, Inc. is a national non-profit organization committed to supporting youth with significant behavioral and emotional challenges.


    Claveau Counseling Center

    (228) 222-5858


    Claveau Counseling Center offers services for individuals, couples and families for a variety of emotional, behavioral and psychological disorders.


     Co-ACTive Families

    (228) 337-0084, (228) 313-3106


    Co-ACTive Families is the independent private practice of Dr. Donna Burrowes, who specializes in evaluation and treatment for children, adolescents and families. Her practice is located inside Colorful Minds, a therapy program that provides Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) to children with autism.


    Coastal Family Health Services



    Coastal Family Heath Services offers mental health assessments, brief counseling and/or referrals for more intensive levels of treatment, substance abuse assessments, brief counseling and/or referrals for detox and more intensive levels of treatment.


    Dr. Conrad Anderson

    (228) 365-3552

    Dr. Anderson is a counselor specializing in counseling, clinical social work and more.


    CONTACT the Crisis Line

    (601) 713-4099


    CONTACT the Crisis Line is a 24/7 helpline/crisis line/warm line that has been providing free confidential, compassionate help to anyone in need of emotional support since 1971.


    Crossroads Recovery Center

    (228) 213-5909


    Crossroads recovery center offers alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention services and substance abuse services.


    DreamTree Enterprises, LLC

    (228) 239-4193


    DreamTree Enterprises, LLC offers services for children and youth.


    Elizabeth McQueen LPC

    (228) 897-7730

    Elizabeth McQueen specializes in counseling.


    Dr. Ethel W. Hetrick

    (228) 467-2424


    Dr. Hetrick has extensive training and experience in the assessment of learning disorders of all types, as well as ways to treat and remediate the problems.


    Dr. Gerald Steve Barrilleaux

    (228) 863-1132

    Dr. Gerald Steve Barrilleaux specializes in clinical psychology.


    Gulf Coast Behavioral Sciences LLC

    (601) 850-8663


    Gulf Coast Behavioral Sciences LLC offers professional counseling and applied behavioral analysis services to individuals and families.


    Gulf Coast Family Counseling Agency

    (228) 875-6113


    Gulf Coast Family Counseling Agency is private, nonprofit counseling center that is United Way affiliated.


    Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence 

    (228) 435-1968 (Harrison County), (228) 762-8267 (Jackson County/Adrienne’s House), (228) 252-1999 (Hancock County), (800) 800-1396 (crisis line)


    The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence offers services and programs for children, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, loved ones of homicide victims and others.


    Gulf Coast Mental Health Coalition

    (251) 404-3924

    The goal of the Gulf Coast Mental Health Coalition is to bridge the Gulf on mental health through a process of “communicate, educate and legislate.”


    Gulf Coast Play Therapy Clinic LLC

    (228) 224-2258


    Clinic specializes in play therapy, which lets children express difficulties and resolve life challenges through the language of play.


    Gulf Coast Psychotherapy

    (228) 388-2900


    Gulf Coast Psychotherapy is a full-service mental health and substance abuse counseling center providing a wide range of mental health and substance abuse services.


    Gulfport Behavioral Health System



    Gulfport Behavioral offers treatment programs and services designed to stabilize patients’ emotional or mental health issues and promote long-term recovery and mental wellness.


    Home of Grace



    The Home of Grace, a Christ-centered recovery program, helps individuals battle various types of addiction.


    Imagine Counseling Center

    (228) 452-6023


    Imagine Counseling Services offers counseling services for children, adolescents and families.


    Islands Counseling


    Offers confidential, therapeutic and professional services provided by licensed professional counselors or licensed clinical social workers.


    Dr. James Edward Hightower

    (504) 613-6835


    Dr. Hightower offers a variety of counseling services for individuals, couples and families.


    James Hite, LPC

    (228) 696-9224

    Hite offers licensed professional counseling services.


    Jim Soriano LMFT, LPC

    (228) 547-6459


    Soriano offers individual counseling services, addiction counseling, marital/family counseling, trauma counseling and more.


    Kimila R DeFlanders, therapist/licensed clinical social worker

    (601) 651-4804


    DeFlanders uses a unique and individually tailored blend of cognitive behavioral and client-centered therapy to provide therapeutic services to children, adolescents, adults, and families.


    Kari Rusnak Counseling

    (228) 860-3727


    Offers relationship counseling online in Mississippi, Colorado and Utah.


    Leah Gaddis, LPC  

    (228) 696-9224

    Leah Gaddis offers professional counseling services.


    LSL Psychological Services

    (228) 265-5144


    LSL Psychological Services provides a range of evidence-based treatments, including psychological assessment/testing services and diagnosis/treatment for a wide variety of issues for children, adolescents, adults, and families.



    (228) 868-5112 (Long Beach), (228) 474-7589 (Moss Point)


    Millcreek provides care for emotionally disabled and developmentally delayed children and adolescents.


    Mental Health Association of South Mississippi

    (228) 864-6274


    The Mental Health Association of South Mississippi works to support and empower people who suffer from mental illness with resources and support services.


    Mindful Matters

    (228) 284-4651 or (228) 284-4652


    Mindful Matters services include adult psychiatric evaluations, pediatric psychiatric evaluations, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders and mental health support groups.


    Mississippi Behavioral Health Services

    1-800-834-9348, Gulfport location (228) 897-7465, Pascagoula location (228) 712-8024


    Mississippi Behavioral Health Services offers a network of providers across the state to provide counseling services and treatment resources for children, adolescents and adults suffering from mental illness, emotional and/or behavioral disturbances.


    Mississippi Centers for Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities

    (228) 396-4434


    MCARDD exists as a service provider and referral source for those individuals and families impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and as a clearinghouse for all who work with them.


    Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

    (855) 334-6120


    Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center offers individual care with emphasis on family healing, with residential, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs available.


    Mississippi Sound Counseling Services

    (228) 547-2250


    Mississippi Sound Counseling Services offers help for those with problems with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, self-esteem, teen issues, family conflict, co-parenting , anger management, codependency, addictions, eating disorders and crisis management.


    Myrtis Austin

    (228) 437-5653

    Austin specializes in marriage and family therapy.


    NAMI – Mississippi

    (601) 899-9058 or (800) 357-0388 (non-crisis line); 1-800-950-NAMI (NAMI national information hotline)


    National Alliance on Mental Illness – Mississippi is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy.


    New Life Harmony

    (228) 223-7115 or (228) 860-3002


    New Life Harmony is a unique clinic based on a mind, body and spirit perspective, offering counseling and transformational therapy.


    Nurturing Wellness Group Foundation

    (734) 992-7211


    Terri Brinston RN, MA, CLNC, is the chief executive officer of Nurturing Wellness Group Foundation, which serves teens and young adults ages 12 to 25 who are struggling in school and in life due to stressors.


    Oasis Mental Wellness LLC

    (228) 456-3116


    Oasis Mental Wellness provides individual and family counseling to those who feel overwhelmed.


    Oceans Healthcare/Oceans Behavioral Hospital

    (228) 324-0474, (228) 388-0600


    Oceans provides a range of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric counseling and treatment options, with individual and group programs available.


    Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources 

    Harrison Mental Health Center: (228) 213-5888, Hancock Mental Health Center: (228) 220-5454, crisis stabilization unit: (228) 213-5900, Crossroads Recovery Center: (228) 213-5909, Gulf Coast IDD: (228) 284-5525, Biloxi satellite offices: (228) 207-8617


    Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources has offices in 13 Mississippi counties and provides a range of mental health services from 68 locations.


    Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services



    Since 1984, Pine Grove has offered a continuum of services ranging from outpatient to inpatient and residential treatment.


    Practical Solutions Counseling and Consulting PLLC

    (228) 314-3626


    Practical Solutions provides mental health and consulting services to the local community.


    Premier Professional Counseling Services

    (228) 220-4226


    Premier Professional Counseling offers family therapy, couples therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, supervised visits/child exchange program and more.


    Psycamore LLC Psychiatric Programs

    (228) 385-7744


    Psycamore is a licensed, private, freestanding psychiatric intensive treatment program for highly functional individuals suffering from serious mental disorders, resulting in psychosocial, work or school impairments.


    Ray of Light Counseling Service

    (228) 260-0675


    Jennifer Mayne, licensed clinical social worker, and her therapists have over 20 years of experience treating adolescents to adults. They specialize in developing tailored solutions for their patients that educate and support them in the most effective ways to take care of body and mind for a well-rounded life. Appointments are available in person and via telehealth.


    Renew Counseling Services

    (228) 219-4738


    Renew Counseling Services provides mental health counseling rooted in Christian beliefs for individuals and couples, addressing issues ranging from depression to marital struggles.


    Resilience Psychotherapy PLLC

    (888) 464-1811


    Resilience Psychotherapy works with clients to set personal goals, explore their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors, and work through painful memories and trauma.


    Restoration Counseling Services LLC

    (601) 385-1235


    Restoration Counseling Services LLC, owned by Lynne Sabin, offers therapy services for children and adults.


    Right Track Medical Group Mental Health Clinic

    (228) 232-0890


    Right Track Medical Group offers help for a number of mental health disorders, including anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, depression and postpartum depression.


    Rivers Psychotherapy Services

    (228) 206-3632


    Rivers Psychotherapy offers therapy to those struggling with numerous issues, ranging from anxiety and depression to grief and interpersonal trauma.


    Safe Harbor Clinic

    (228) 200-0720


    Safe Harbor Clinic offers services for addiction treatment, psychiatry, counseling and therapy and state-of-the-art depression treatment using transcranial magnetic stimulation, TMS (coming soon).


    Seeking Other Solutions LLC

    (601) 806-5593


    Seeking Other Solutions offers cognitive behavioral therapy to address a variety of needs.


    Serenity Coast Counseling

    (228) 860-9302


    Serenity Coast Counseling works with clients to address an array of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, grief and PTSD.


    Shanti Yoga & Counseling LLC

    (228) 284-2337


    Shanti Yoga & Counseling is a holistic center providing integrative healing services combining psychology, yoga and meditation, for mind-body balance and emotional wellness.


    Simone and Associates PLLC

    (228) 604-0099

    Simone and Associates PLLC offers individual therapy for adults, adolescents and children, as well as couples therapy, family therapy, group therapy/classes and psychological evaluations.


    Singing River Behavioral Health


    Singing River Behavioral Health provide both inpatient and outpatient care for a number of mental illnesses and conditions.


    Singing River Services

    (228) 497-0690; mobile crisis line, 1-866-497-0690


    Singing River Services offers aid for children and adults. Teams consist of mental health professionals who can provide support to those experiencing a mental health, alcohol and drug, or intellectual and development disabilities crisis. Teams are available in all 82 counties in Mississippi 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


    Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Inc. 

    (228) 896-1228


    Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Inc. serves and equips vulnerable children and youth, assisting them in the process of becoming self-sufficient and contributing members of society.


    South Mississippi Regional Center

    (228) 868-2923


    South Mississippi Regional Center supports those with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.


    Specialized Treatment Facility

    (228) 328-6000


    Specialized Treatment Facility (STF) provides psychiatric residential services for Mississippi adolescents who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder.


    Supportive Services for Veteran Families


    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program awards grants to private entities, which help eligible veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other benefits.


    Teri L. Gaethe LPC

    (614) 477-5467

    Teri L. Gaethe offers mental health counseling services.


    Victoria L Scott, LPC

    (228) 900-9962


    Scott helps clients struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, relational and self-esteem issues and more.


    Will’s Way LLC Pediatric Behavioral Psychology

    (228) 731-3500


    Will’s Way provides behavioral solutions for at-risk children and their families throughout Mississippi.


    Youth Villages

    (228) 354-9700


    Youth Villages offers home-based services for children and families through MYPAC: Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock.

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    When anxiety takes over

    By Jocelyn Gavin-Lane

    I have experienced some level of anxiety for as long as I can remember. In grade school, I recall being extra nervous at test time or when big events happened. That’s common, and in some instances, it can be classified as good anxiety. 

    It wasn’t until my father’s death that my anxiety level changed drastically. Suddenly, things felt very different. When anxiety starts to interfere with daily living, professional help is warranted. 

    Good anxiety helps us to be responsible. It prompts us to stop at red lights and watch for cars and motivates us to not procrastinate when we have a looming deadline.  

    Bad anxiety can send you down a rabbit hole of worry. Once anxiety starts impacting your daily life, it’s time to seek help. Here are some ways anxiety may affect you:

    • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
    • Feeling easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
    • Irritability
    • Social isolation 
    • Muscle tension
    • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
    • Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
    • Constantly imagining the worst-case scenario

    Anxiety disorders generally are treated with psychotherapy, medication or both. Many options are available for treating anxiety, and people should work with their doctors to choose the treatment that is best for them.

    Jocelyn Gavin-Lane is owner of Premier Professional Counseling. Reach her at (228) 731-8800 or premiercounselingservices@gmail.com.


    Understanding anxiety

    “Occasional bouts of anxiety are a normal and healthy response to certain fearful situations, like public speaking, asking for a raise, going to large social events or even waiting in line to ride a rollercoaster. If the anxiety feels overwhelming, erratic or severe, you may be suffering from a specific type of anxiety disorder.”

    From Gulfport Behavioral Health System

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    The importance of self-esteem

    By Nicole Bedsole

    We are our own worst critics and our own best cheerleaders. Self-esteem plays a vital role in how we see ourselves, not only when we are alone, but when we are at work or with friends and family. Wherever we go, there we are — with our self-esteem in tow.

    We learn what to feel about ourselves and develop thoughts and opinions about ourselves early in life, from family, friends, teachers, co-workers, clergy, strangers, etc. If a person has low self-esteem, it can be difficult to change the way he or she thinks. However, change is possible.

    The first thing someone may want to know and keep repeating to himself or herself is that no one person is better than the next. We may live different lives and have different values, but we are all human. We all share good and bad experiences, causing us to have periods of high and low self – esteem.

    Keeping our self-esteem balanced is key. Psychology Today shares some signs that a person has the right amount of confidence:

    • Knows the difference between confidence and arrogance
    • Is not afraid of feedback
    • Does not people-please or seek approval
    • Is not afraid of conflict
    • Can set boundaries
    • Can voice needs and opinions
    • Is assertive, but not pushy
    • Is not a slave to perfection
    • Is not afraid of setbacks
    • Does not fear failure
    • Does not feel inferior
    • Accepts who he or she is

    What if you need help boosting your confidence? So many techniques are available that you might get overwhelmed. Here is a brief list of what I do to combat low self-esteem: 

    • Stay away from all-or-nothing thinking and seeing things as only good or bad.
    • Stay away from negative thoughts. If I start to have negative thoughts, I replace them with an affirmation.
    • Identify my feelings and talk to someone about them.
    • Stay away from negative people. I tend to avoid people who have a problem for every solution.
    • Journal — when I get my thoughts and feelings down on paper, they become real to me, and I can focus on what changes I need to make.

    These tips are just the tip of the iceberg. Finding what works best for you will set you on the right track. Always remember to do the best you can and give yourself a break. You are only human, and you can do it!

    Nicole Bedsole is a certified peer support specialist with the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi. Reach her at nbedsole@msmentalhealth.org.

    Self-harm: fact versus myth

    “If you or someone you know is engaged in self-harm, don’t suffer in silence. Start by talking to a trusted adult, friend or medical professional who is familiar with the subject. Several types of therapy are available to help those who are struggling, and this can allow them to establish healthier coping mechanisms.”

    Kay Daneault, executive director of the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi 

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    A letter to parents of teens

    After losing son to suicide, Deborah C. Anthony hopes his story will save lives

    Dear parents, 

    As I reflect on the events that led to my son’s death, I ask these questions every day: “Son, what did you want me to know? What message did you want to convey that was so difficult that at your deepest moments of pain, you could not tell me, and I could not hear?”

    I will never forget the weekend of Nov. 5, 2021. I was out of town for work. On Saturday morning, Nov. 6, I woke up hearing a strong voice saying, “Go home!” I said to myself, “OK, I will leave on Sunday instead of Monday. I can just change my flight.”

    The Lord’s voice repeated the command: “Go home!” I began the process of changing my flight and managed to return Saturday evening. Throughout that day, I was sick to my stomach and could not understand why. I prayed and asked the Lord for clarity, yet I could not discern what was happening. I knew something was wrong. 

    When I arrived, my eldest daughter picked me up with all the girls. I said to myself, “Well, everything appears to be fine” and felt relieved. Everyone was exhausted, and I asked the girls where John was. They told me he was at the game with friends. John was now 18, so I didn’t worry and went to bed.

    On Sunday mornings, my normal routine is to attend church. However, on Nov. 7, I heard the Lord say, “Spend time with your children.” I woke everyone up and said, “Let’s go to breakfast.” My eldest was home from college, so I thought it would be fun to have a meal with all six of my children. 

    ‘The day felt very different’

    At the restaurant, there was the usual fussing among the kids. John was very quiet. He wore a hoodie and seemed extra tired, which I assumed was because he had a long night. He ordered his usual French toast. We shared a love for some good French toast with a side of bacon.

    John was an amazing big brother to his five sisters. They loved him dearly. He was their protector and confidante, and he showed his love to each one in his own special way. 

    After breakfast, the day felt very different. As usual, we had to take my daughter back to school, which was about an hour away. John, affectionately known as “John Boy,” did not want to come with us, saying he was tired. 

    As we pulled away from the house, halfway down the road, John’s dad said we had to turn around; he was not feeling well. When we returned to the house, I told John Boy he would have to come with me to take Jada. He was so angry at that moment. Later, I realized I had interrupted his initial plan to terminate his life while we were gone. 

    Looking back, I could see he was struggling. I knew of his depression, and I had planned appointments for him that week to meet with a counselor.

    Little did I know this drive would be his last time seeing his big sister. While we were headed back home, I had a vision of someone dying, and it brought such a fear upon me that I began to pray. It was a very strange moment, and I was uncertain who it was.
    We returned home at about 2:30 p.m. I was exhausted from my trip and decided to rest in bed the rest of the day watching movies. My normal routine on a Sunday afternoon was to tell the big kids to clean their rooms, wash their clothes and prepare for Monday. All seemed normal, and at about 8 p.m., John Boy picked up Wendy’s for the family. With no fuss, just like always, he willingly got us some food. 

    Isolation, poor communication, disconnection 

    When he returned at about 9 p.m., he came into the bedroom to wish me goodnight. This was the final time I would ever hear his voice, and the words run through me over and over. He said, “Goodnight, mommy, I love you,” reached down to my bed and hugged me tight. I’ll never forget this moment because I now know he wanted me to know the loved me and this was not about me.

    As I reflect on the last four years of his life, I see signs. I can see that as a mother with six children, trying to divide my time, that I missed how very sad John was. I did not move fast enough to get him help. I was convinced that his mood swings were just adolescence. I know now that COVID was a destroyer to many children socially, emotionally and educationally. John W. Anthony was a senior in high school, and he was very frustrated by the thought of an uncertain future he felt he was not ready for.

    John was my only son, and I allowed him to spend his time in the gaming world. If I am completely honest, I did not monitor that world. I did not see the harm, although I fussed all the time about the lack of sleep he was getting. John was a kind soul and not very outspoken. I remember in the last few months of his life, I spoke to him about being better at communicating. Little did I know that his cutting communication was a part of his depression and disconnecting from me and his family.

    If I could share anything I’ve learned with other parents, it would be three things to fight against happening to your children:

    • Isolation
    • Poor communication
    • Disconnection

    As our family fell asleep on Nov. 7, 2021, no one knew that in the other room, John was sending texts to all his friends, the people he cared about, to say goodbye. He watched the Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why,” something I feel gives kids courage to commit suicide. 

    At 11 p.m., John Wesley Christian Anthony took his own life in his room in his bed. My younger daughter entered my room and said, “Mommy, did you hear that sound?” I replied that maybe a picture fell off the wall and went back to bed. At 1 a.m. on Nov. 8, police were banging on our door saying, “I think you should check on your son.”

    A mother’s cry

    I ran to his room to find my baby boy laying there still. All I could see was his lifeless body lying there. It hurt me so much to know that I could not rescue him. I wanted one last goodbye, another moment to let him know how much I believed in him and how I thought he was the coolest person I knew. But I couldn’t wake him, and the pain I felt inside still lingers, causing me to realize I missed so many moments — moments I feel I should have known what to do to help him.

    This is the first time I’ve shared my story publicly. I want to tell parents not to be so busy that they ignore, overlook or disregard the pain their children may be experiencing. John at 14 struggled with depression. My solution was to keep him busy, thinking he would overcome his challenges. He was a basketball player; he loved the game on the court and off, yet he suffered from insecurities about being short and on a team with tall boys. He wanted to build muscle and look like “ballers” who trained in college. He worked on this, but I don’t think things moved fast enough for him. He had a job working after school that kept him exhausted, but the restlessness inside made him suffer from a silent killer — depression. I often tried to get into his heart and head, but he wouldn’t open up. I felt that he was just being a boy.

    Don’t allow your children to shut down on you. It’s not normal for children to completely stop communicating. If they do, seek a support group, counselor, minister or other help.  Although they may not be able to communicate their pain, when you see signs of them shutting down, don’t allow them to consume themselves with games and phones, creating a world you are not a part of. It is not OK.

    Pay attention when you see them disconnecting from friends and family. Notice when they no longer want to spend time with you or their friends. Create interventions and seek professional help that will give your child the tools needed to dig out of the rut in which they find themselves.
    As a mom of a son who committed suicide, I now can see the warning signs that I could not see while he was here. We cannot ignore pain; It is an indicator that something is wrong and must be addressed. I probably will carry the guilt I feel throughout my life, but in this moment, I want you to know your story doesn’t have to end the same way. You can get your child evaluated and peer into his or her world. Become part of that world even when they try to reject you.

    John Wesley Christian Anthony is in the arms of Jesus resting because his fight with the world became too difficult. My hope is that his story will save many lives.

    Deborah C. Anthony is a branding strategist, coach, author, speaker and CEO of Anthony Strategies Group. Reach her at deborah@deborahcanthony.com.

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    Seven signs your child is calling for help

    By Terri Brinston

    Parenting is hard! I remember the overwhelming fear I had when they handed me this small, fragile and delicate little baby, wrapped tightly in a thin blanket. I immediately fell in love but thought, “How do I do this?” Everything comes with an instruction manual of some sort, step-by-step directions for how to make it work, prevent injury, and so on — everything, that is, but parenting. 

    As I reflect on raising my children, I think my best description of my parenting approach was trial and error. It was rewarding when I got it right, but extremely frustrating when I got it wrong. 

    I consider it an extreme honor to have played a part in raising two wonderful children, but while doing so, I often wondered if I was doing enough and paying attention to the right things. I always thought, “I have one opportunity to get this right, and my choices could have a major impact on their lives.” — no pressure (yikes!). But I quickly realized that no one is perfect, and I don’t always get the last say. All any parent can do is his or her best and pray everything turns out OK.  

    Doing your best includes educating yourself on how to support your child. As parents, we have an important duty to monitor our children and their activities. This allows us to decipher what paths they are heading down. When you just focus on punishment and not the root of the issue, you could be missing a call for help. It is important to recognize when your child needs help. When you know there is a problem, you are more apt to assist and get your child back on track.  

    Here are some of the common signs that your child may be in trouble:

    1. Declining grades

    If you notice your teen has lower grades one semester compared to previous semesters, you should take notice. It may mean that he or she is going through a challenging time, or it might not be anything to worry about. On the other hand, having lower grades for consecutive semesters might indicate something more significant. For instance, teen depression, anxiety, ADHD and ADD are characterized by of lack of concentration. This can influence a teen’s ability to do well in school and establish a healthy relationship with his or her peers.

    2. Abnormal desire to be alone

    A lack of social interaction in childhood may result from a variety of causes, including social fear and anxiety or a preference for solitude. From early childhood through adolescence, socially withdrawn children are at risk for a wide range of negative adjustment outcomes, including socio-emotional difficulties (e.g., anxiety, low self-esteem, depressive symptoms and internalizing problems), peer difficulties (e.g., rejection, victimization, poor friendship quality), and school difficulties (e.g., poor teacher-child relationships, academic difficulties, school avoidance).

    3. Extreme mood changes

    Everyone experiences occasional moodiness. Teenagers with exploding hormones are especially prone to emotional highs and lows. Frequent and unexplained fearfulness and sadness, alternating with an overly expansive and happy mood without apparent reason, are a potential concern and need watching, particularly if the mood cycling is frequent within a day. 

    Various causes can be relevant, ranging from the onset of mental illnesses (like bipolar disorder or depression) to a response to adverse experiences (like sexual or physical trauma) to, perhaps in some cases, “normal” identity crises.  How can you tell what’s what? Trust your intuition. If the behavior feels abnormal, it probably is. The most common mistake in our culture today is for parents to dismiss behavior as a phase. It usually isn’t, as many learn when it is too late. 

    4. Increased disciplinary actions in school

    If your teen is getting many detentions or even some in-school suspensions, take note. School is a stressful time. The American Psychological Association states that school is the biggest source of stress for teenagers. The pressure on young adults to perform well in a variety of academic, sporting and extracurricular activities is grueling. Test anxiety, exhaustion, bullying and conflict with teachers all play a major role in a teen’s academic success and behavior. It is a simple fact that if teenagers are tired, hungry, unhappy, anxious or ill, their behavior and academic performance likely will suffer.

    5. At-risk behavior

    Despite your best parenting efforts, unfortunately, sometimes teens engage in risky behaviors. Most teens know plenty about the dangers of risk-taking behaviors like drinking, smoking and taking drugs, but they tend to ignore what they have learned. Research on adolescent brains suggests that teenagers seek out risk-taking behaviors because their brain systems involved in decision-making mature at different times. The section of the brain most involved in emotion and social interaction becomes very active during puberty, while the section most critical for regulating behavior is still maturing into early adulthood. This explains why teens are so susceptible to peer pressure and why education and prevention efforts designed to keep teens from engaging in risky behaviors don’t work very well.  

    Certain behaviors can be dangerous, if not deadly. Drug and alcohol usage, vandalism, shoplifting, truancy, promiscuity and other behaviors are cause for concern if they occur more than once. It is imperative that you seek help and guidance to support your fears and guide your intervention.

    6. Changes In Sleep and Eating Habits

    Being a child can feel turbulent and unstable. To deal with stress, eating disorders can emerge. With these dysfunctional coping strategies, food can easily be replaced by drugs, alcohol or cutting as a way to control feelings of fear, anxiety and insecurity, and immediate attention is needed. 

    7. Personality changes

    Puberty is bound to bring on some personality changes. Shifts in behavior, attitudes, likes and dislikes may happen throughout childhood, but the biggest changes occur when kids enter pre-adolescence and adolescence. Be aware of the rapidity of that change. When a generally upbeat kid becomes more pessimistic, or an outgoing kid becomes quieter, something is driving the negative shift. These are the sudden changes that may stem from trauma and substance abuse.   

    If substance abuse is involved, behavioral changes can occur very quickly— perhaps within a week or two. Bullying also may prompt personality changes. When your child is a victim of ridicule and rejection, it can be very traumatic. You also can see a teen’s behavior change when they have been sexually abused by a stranger or someone familiar. This personality change is often drastic. Children who have been molested often become more isolated and withdrawn. Their grades go down, and they become more fearful of people and places. Although personality changes are common in teens, don’t ignore their implications. 

    The teenage years can be the most difficult for a parent, especially without an instruction manual. During this time, many changes occur that make it hard to know how and when to intervene. It may even be difficult to identify when there is a problem and when your teen is just being a teen. Listen to your instincts, and get involved. Ask questions, and act if you feel your teen is struggling. Early intervention is the key to success; prolonging the problem may lead to more difficulties.

    Terri Brinston, RN, MA, CLNC, is chief executive officer of Nurturing Wellness Group Foundation. Reach her at myschoolnursellc@gmail.com.

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    Mastering the lost art of parent-child communication

    The parent-child bond is a unique experience that lasts a lifetime. This experience may be both positive and negative to the parents and the children. Your daily interaction is important, especially how you as the parent communicate with your child. Yes, mom and dad, effective communication may be a new language for you, but the more time and patience you take in positive parenting, the more effective communication becomes in creating a positive mental health effect in your children.

    The good news is that effective communication methods and techniques today are no different than parenting experts from decades ago shared with your parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. The four consistent keys are being calm and loving, taking time to explain, taking time to listen and being a good role model. 

    Being calm and loving is a choice in your behavior. The tone and delivery of your voice in talking to your children can determine whether they really listen to what you are saying. Do you hear your own voice when you speak to your children? Speak in calm tones, even during the heat of a disagreement or discussion. Sometimes your voice must be more commanding, but 95 percent of your verbal interactions with your children do not require an authoritarian approach. How would you feel if the only voice you heard repeatedly was your parents’ loud, forceful one? How did you interact and respond when your parents spoke to you in such commando style?

    Communication in my household always was like a foreign language. My mother spoke to me in commanding tones from early childhood to adulthood. Her forceful, condescending voice instructed me to “tell my father dinner was ready,” yet he was within earshot and could hear her. This type of communication did not work well in forming a loving, kind relationship.

    Also recognize that not every interaction with your children is an opportunity to teach a lesson. Take time to stop and just be in the moment with each of them, one at a time. What a joy to get to know your child’s gifts and talents and the struggles they really want to share with you.

    Finding time can be a challenge in our fast-paced times, but families always have been busy; the type of busy just changes. As technology progresses, one-on-one verbal and non-verbal interactions decrease. It really is beneficial in the lifetime mental health script you write for and with your children to practice what you preach. Children learn their communication skills from you, their parents. 

    Above all, listen! More specifically, become an observer listener. This means stop and sit down at your children’s level to talk with them. Give them your full attention. Turn all electronics off. Observe your children’s non-verbal behavior. Listen to your children’s ideas and show you care about them and their point of view.  

    Communication does not always come easy and is not perfect all the time. The mental health of the family requires consistency in conversation, both verbal and non-verbal. Smile lots. Hug your children. Tell them you love them in words and actions. They do not always ‘know’ how their parents feel about them. Yes, even millennials want time with their parents and family members one-on-one.

    It is not a new language; it is a lost language. 

    Sher Graham is co-chair of the Gulf Coast Mental Health Coalition. Reach her at gulfcoastmhc@gmail.com.

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