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The SCCoop
Words on Wellness

April 2019
From the Presidents...
At this time of year we always like to thank our volunteers, especially the 100 or so who helped us throughout March at our Sixth Grade Ethics Day events. We absolutely cannot do these events without the parents, community members, retirees, elected officials, public safety officials, and even spring-breaking college students! Thank you also to our amazing Youth Advisory Council (YAC) members who delivered Middle School Forum (MSF) successfully at both Cooper and Longfellow Middle Schools. Many of them also ushered at our Lynn Lyons event. Many thanks to ex-Board Members Valerie Lingaman and Susan Nolan for training YAC members to plan and conduct MSF. Finally, thank you to our Mental Health Committee for organizing the networking event and lunch with Lynn Lyons.

All are welcome to attend our Annual Meeting on June 4 at 7 pm, location TBD. We'll review our year, discuss plans for next year, and welcome new members to the Board.

As always,  let us know  how the SCC can help in your community, school, and home!

Brad Kuebler, President, and Elizabeth Hale, President Elect 
Administrator's Supper
 Thank you to all the FCPS administrators and school-based staff, PTA/PTSA/PTO officials, Dranesville County Supervisor John Foust, Dranesville School Board Representative, and At-Large School Board member Ryan McElveen for attending our annual Administrator's Supper this week. And thank you to Cafe Oggi for hosting us once again!

The Administrator's Supper is a spring event bringing together all of the various groups we work with to discuss issues relevant to our students. After we reviewed our activities for the year, Ryan McElveen spoke about several new areas where FCPS is addressing SCC goals: (1) With the rollout of one-to-one computing next year, FCPS is increasing staff training in digital citizenship and use of classroom screen time, while also considering moving away from the Bring Your Own Device program to keep personal phones out of the classroom. (2) Our school board was one of the first in the country to make a resolution on school safety and gun violence prevention and has conducted a systemwide audit on safety and security, including physical safety and mental health. (3) Recognizing growth in vaping and opioid use, FCPS is expanding education down to second grade and adding school-based substance abuse staff. (4) And overarching all of their programs, FCPS has added overall and special education-specific ombudsman positions to triage and address community concerns.

It was a lovely evening, and our board will use the productive discussion and attendee feedback on our year overall to plan for next year!
SCC in the Community
Lynn Lyons on Reducing Anxiety

T hanks to everyone who came out to our Spring Speaker event on April 1 with Lynn Lyons! Lynn's visit was the highlight of the SCC's yearlong focus on anxiety in families. We hope you found the talk as engaging and practical as we did.

Five key takeaways from the evening are summarized below--

1. Anxiety feeds off two things: certainty and comfort. The type of anxiety or root cause doesn't matter. When you learn how anxiety works in the brain and body and take a few steps back, you can see that worry follows a fairly consistent pattern -- you can see the traps and the exits.

2. Despite our best intentions, parents often unwittingly plant the seeds of worry. We want our child's worry to go away, so we reassure and make arrangements for things to run smoothly. Yet the more we try to accommodate and provide certainty, the more we inadvertently reinforce the fear and avoidance. Reassurance is a bottomless pit. By embracing new strategies you can alter the pattern.

3. Anxiety has a genetic component, with anxious parents up to seven times more likely to have an anxious child. There’s no anxiety gene, so how parents model behaviors around anxiety-- taking the time to notice our own tendencies to worry and how we manage stress -- sets the tone. 

4. The goal is not to prevent worries; it is to keep anxious fears from dominating families. To do that, change your reaction to it -- 

  • Expect it. Use “of course” a lot. “Of course you are going to be nervous about...How are you going to respond when worry shows up?”
  • Externalize it. For younger children, name the anxiety. If "Fred" or "Stella" shows up, talk to it. “Look, Stella. I can’t deal with you today. I want to go to my friend’s party and I don’t want you around making me worry.”
  • Experiment. Choose action over avoidance. By seeking out discomfort and uncertainty you can lessen the effects of the body's fight-or-flight alarms and lay down new track in the brain.

5. Action, not avoidance, is the key to success in helping children and teens push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy. 

Details can be found on Lynn's  website . The discussion on April 1st was based on her groundbreaking book, “Anxious Kids Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children.” 

Thanks to the New Dominion Women’s Club and TEGNA for underwriting the cost of this event. 
Ethics Day

We recently welcomed more than 700 sixth graders from seven area schools at to our annual Sixth-Grade Ethics Days. The symposium covered challenging situations faced by many pre-teens – scenarios involving issues like cheating, bullying, and stealing – and taught students how to resolve these moral dilemmas ethically using a Could, Should, Would  model. This year the SCC partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to present a special section on being an ally in a bullying situation.

The goal of the program is to help young people understand the meaning of ethics and ethical decision making, and we are proud to partner with our local elementary schools, local sponsors, and with the Anti-Defamation League to plant the seeds of making good choices and being kind to all.

The program was held at Holy Trinity Church and took place on half-days each Friday in March. Sixth graders from every elementary school that feeds into McLean and Langley High Schools, along with sixth graders from private schools in the same service area, are invited to participate in Ethics Day. 

Financial sponsors of Ethics Day include the McLean Rotary Club, the McLean Community Foundation, and the Zavela Foundation. And thanks to Holy Trinity Church for lending us their fabulous space over five Fridays in March!
Middle School Forum

In late March and early April our Youth Advisory committee met with almost 1,200 eighth grade students at Cooper and Longfellow Middle Schools to discuss what life is really like in high school and to help ease any anxiety about the transition to high school. The Middle School Forum program is designed to help knit our community together, to empower kids to help each other, to form new relationships, and to create the kind of school community in which they feel supported.

The SCC trains students from McLean and Langley High Schools to speak at these events, answer questions from the audience, and talk about their own experiences. The high school students are chosen by their school counselors and through peer referral. YAC students report that the program helps develop their leadership skills and public speaking skills. Many YAC students stay involved throughout their four years of high school and are the backbone of this strong and very unique program.

This year hot topics included clubs and organizations, grading, and stress.
Upcoming Events
How to Turn End-of-Year-Stress into End-of-Year-Success: A Roundtable Discussion

Do the impending SOLs, exams, and final projects tend to bring stress to your student (or you)? Are wondering how to get your child to better manage (or care) about their work? If so, please join the McLean High School PTSA Wellness Committee as we discuss the challenges that come with the end of the school year and ways that you can support your student through the end-of-the-year crunch .   Sign up here  t o let us know you're coming!

In this special roundtable discussion, The StudyPro’s Founding Partners, Kathy Essig, M.Ed. and Debbie Rosen will join us in a discussion about how to best support our students during this stressful time. Kathy and Debbie will share 5 key ways for parents to help with the study process without pushing our students away.

Coffee and light refreshments will be served.
Tue, April 30, 8:30 – 10 am
Location: The StudyPro, 6849 Old Dominion Drive, #200

Please Sign up Here for an accurate headcount.
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Held Thursday, May 9 this year, Mental Health Awareness Day shines a national spotlight on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and reinforces that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.

According to the website for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an original financial partner of the SCC:

"SAMHSA created National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) more than a decade ago to shine a national spotlight on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and to reinforce the message that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.

The purpose of Awareness Day is to increase public awareness about the needs of children with serious mental illness (SMI) and severe emotional disturbance (SED) and their families, provide information on evidence-based practices, and encourage those who need help to seek treatment.

More than 1,100 communities and 170 national collaborating organizations and federal programs across the country participate in community events, youth educational programs, health fairs, art exhibits, and social networking campaigns in observance of Awareness Day. Each year, SAMHSA hosts an event in Washington, DC, to complements these local activities." SAMHSA will showcase evidence-based strategies to connect those in need to information, services, and supports that can save lives at the event which will serve as a launch for activities being held across the country on National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, which will be observed nationwide on Thursday, May 9. States, tribes, territories, and communities across the nation are encouraged to host events and activities around children’s mental health throughout the month of May. See the SAMHSA website for more details.
Coming This Spring
Prom Notes and Project Sticker Shock

This spring the SCC is bringing back its popular Prom Notes program in a new format. Prom Notes used to be written by elementary kids reminding high schools to make responsible choices on prom night and were insert in ticket envelopes. When schools started using electronic tickets, we lost the delivery mechanism. But thanks to an idea from Flowers&Plants in McLean, we have partnered with FCPD to put cards in corsage and boutonnière boxes reminding teens not to get in a car with an impaired driver. We will be delivering cards to local florists ahead of area prom nights. Look out for them!

In addition we will be putting stickers on beer and wine cooler bottles at local stores ahead of prom night. These stickers remind parents and others of the penalties for buying alcohol for underage students.
Reading List
Preventing Youth Suicide
The  National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)  offers this information to assist parents and educators in preventing youth suicide.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, get help immediately via 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741). 
Suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs. Do not be afraid to ask about suicidal thoughts. Never take warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. 

Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk. Here are identified risk factors: 
  • Hopelessness
  • Non-suicidal self-injury (e.g., cutting)
  • Mental illness, especially severe depression, but also post-traumatic stress, ADHD, and substance abuse
  • History of suicidal thinking and behavior
  • Prior suicide among peers or family members
  • Interpersonal conflict, family stress or dysfunction
  • Presence of a firearm in the home

There are protective factors that can lessen the effects of risk factors. These include family and peer support, school and community connectedness, healthy problem-solving skills, and access to effective medical and mental health services.
Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors signaling suicidal thinking. Know the warning signs:
  • Suicidal threats in the form of direct (e.g., “I want to die”) and indirect (e.g. “I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up”) statements
  • Suicide notes, plans, online postings
  • Making final arrangements
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking about death
  • Sudden unexplained happiness
  • Increased risk-taking
  • Heavy drug or alcohol use 

Youth who feel suicidal often do not seek out help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
  • Remain calm, nonjudgmental and listen.
  • Ask directly about suicide (e.g., “Are you thinking about suicide?”).
  • Focus on your concern for their well-being.
  • Avoid being accusatory (e.g., don’t say, “You aren’t going to do anything stupid are you?”).
  • Reassure them that there is help; they will not feel like this forever.
  • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
  • Remove means for self-harm, especially firearms.
  • Get help! Never agree to keep suicidal thoughts a secret. Tell an appropriate care-giving adult. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school employed mental health professional.

After a school notifies a parent of their child's risk for suicide and provides referral information, parents need to:
  • Continue to take threats seriously. Follow through is important even after the youth calms down or informs the parent "they didn't mean it."
  • Take action to get your child the necessary help. Utilize school supports if needing assistance on following through on referrals.
  • Maintain communication with school. After an intervention, the school will also provide follow-up supports. Your communication will be crucial to ensuring that the school is the safest, most comfortable place possible for your child.

For additional guidance, visit the  National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
If you or someone you know is suicidal, get help immediately via 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741). 

What happens when you call or text PRS CrisisLink?
Reaching out to a crisis hotline can feel scary; maybe you aren’t sure what will happen if you tell someone you are having a difficult time and need help. In this post,  PRS CrisisLink  Program Director Laura Mayer shares what you should expect when you call PRS CrisisLink or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Who answers the phone or texts?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of nearly 160 crisis centers, just like PRS CrisisLink, and one of our centers will answer your call. PRS CrisisLink is the provider of the Lifeline for Fairfax County. If you call 703-527-4077 or 1-800-273-TALK, you’ll be connected with a crisis worker (many of them are volunteers) trained to help you cope with the challenge you are facing. Our textline is reached by texting the word NEEDHELP to 855-11. We use active-listening and a facilitation process to hear what you are going through, provide support, and then connect you with additional resources, if that is what you need. The best part is that our crisis workers know you are the expert in your life and are here to support you through it.

If I say I am thinking about suicide, will the center call the police?

In most cases, no. We understand that not every person who is thinking of suicide needs that kind of intervention. What we will do is provide a structured process to help you determine how safe you are, and what steps and support you might need to keep safe from suicide. This may include a safety framework, connection to an outpatient mental health provider, or working with your family and friends to help you feel more connected and supported. Every person is different, and we know that not all approaches work for everyone. We are considered mental health responders though, and if someone is unable to keep safe from suicide, we work collaboratively with you to support your need for safety.

Can I talk with a crisis worker if I am not thinking of suicide?

Absolutely! We are a resource for any kind of crisis. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and substance use are complicated and trying to cope alone can deplete you of emotional resources. We are here to be a community support for you when things are difficult. If you are worried about a friend or family member, you can call about that too. All of our services are free and confidential, open to all ages and backgrounds, and we’re available 24/7/365.

Reaching out and finding help takes a lot of courage. It can be difficult to know what to say, especially when things are overwhelming. If you or someone you know is struggling, please text or call for support. PRS CrisisLink is your crisis center in your community. They are here for you.

Six Basic Ways to Support Mental Wellness

"The good news is that mental health challenges are largely treatable, and specialists say that proactively managing them is the best approach."  (Forbes)

Our mental health should be equally as important as our physical health. Sleep, healthy eating, and exercise are all key components to staying physically healthy as well as mentally healthy. Here are a few simple ways to prioritize your mental wellness: 
  1. Spend time with pets - A survey by Human Animal Bond Research Institute found that 74% of pet owners believe that their pets helped improve their mental health and wellness (HABRI). Taking care of pets also helps you stick to a schedule and routine, which is a good way to maintain balance. Dopamine, the 'feel-good' hormone in the brain, is also released when you pet a dog (Daily Mail). Huge plus! 
  2. Subscribe to a meal service - Relieve the stress of cooking and going grocery shopping with a pre-made meal delivered directly to your door. There are healthy options out there too. 
  3. Volunteer - Helping out at your local humane society or picking up trash on the beach are ways to help you feel more fulfilled. Even little things such as staying late to help out a coworker or baking cookies for a friend can go a long way. 
  4. Set small goals to help you achieve big goals - You can't learn a new instrument overnight. Set goals to practice a set amount of time or to memorize a song in a month. Pretty soon, these short-term goals will help you achieve long-term goals. Small feats also help you stay motivated. 
  5. Socialize (IRL) - A study in 2015 shows that socializing face-to-face (rather than through digtial means) with family and friends decreases depression levels. Try saying hi to your neighbor as you leave for work or smiling at a stranger when you walk by. Look up from your phone! 
  6. Drink coffee - As a fellow coffee-lover, this is great news. Coffee helps dopamine travel more easily in the brain. So wake up and smell the coffee! In healthy amounts of course; caffeine can increase anxiety and nervousness (Seattle Anxiety).

Small changes in your life lead to habits. Remember to think about a few positive ways to help your mental wellness as you go about your day.  

Main ideas and research from the article in  Forbes , summary from Team IndieFlix #MyMonday