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blog--suicidal teens


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blog--suicidal teens

  1. 1. Neurological Reorganization Helps Suicidal and Bullied Teens A study released today demonstrates that the mood of bullied teens—and even those that have attempted suicide—improves dramatically when they exercise at least four times a week for sixty minutes at a time. This is great news for families who are at a loss about how to help a depressed or even suicidal family member. We don’t always think of NR as an exercise regime, but that’s exactly what it is—really, really hard physical work (have you ever tried tummy crawling? It’s tough!). This study confirms another mental health benefit of NR—not only are we growing those new connections to build the foundation that supports robust mental health, the sheer act of going through those motions provides mood-enhancing benefit as well. That’s lovely and all, but parents are sometimes concerned about how to get an already surly teen to compete a program of NR. On the surface, it’s daunting to tell a strapping 16 year old that he needs to tummy crawl, along with a bunch of other unfamiliar activities, every day for the next few years. In my experience, a twofold approach provides the needed motivation. On one hand, during the initial evaluation, I talk with the teen about what HIS concerns are. What does he want to be different in his life (not what his parents or his teachers want to be different)? What are his frustrations, what is he dying to change? I’ve not met a teen who hasn’t confided in me what they are upset about, be it friends, relationships, grades, extracurricular activities, feeling left out, etc. Affirming this struggle, linking it back to neurodevelopment and then detailing out exactly what needs to be done to make the positive change—detailing out every minute of tummy crawling, sensory stimulation, vestibular input and whole body patterns that they shall need to do on a daily basis—generates internal motivation and, most importantly, a sense of hope for both the teen and his family. At each re-evaluation, I check back in to monitor the change that’s happened in that area of life and celebrate the each milestone. Most dramatically, I love reviewing the notes I took at the initial evaluation when the teen graduates from NR. It’s so rewarding to say to a teen who is now socially thriving, “Remember when you really wanted to fit in and just didn't feel like you did? Look where you are now! Look at all the wonderful things that are happening in your life!” One of my favorite examples is a girl who was too anxiety-ridden to attend sleep overs. All her friends went, and she felt very left out, which only further stoked her anxiety. At her NR graduation, she was exhausted from having a sleep over the night before AND then going straight to another social event. What a transformation from the child who couldn't sleep for fear of all of the terrible things that could go wrong to a happy, smiling social butterfly, a leader among her friends, ready to take on any new challenge! Of course, that rosy picture doesn't always last when it’s 8 pm on a Thursday night and the teen still needs to get NR in after a long, exhausting day. That’s where the second part of the motivation kicks it: link NR with something that the teen really, really wants. Does she want the cell phone she sees all the other kids have? Perfect! She’ll earn the privilege AND the minutes needed to keep it functional through completing NR on a daily basis. Does he want to use the family car to participate in those burgeoning new social activities? Wonderful! He earns gas money through completing NR every day. Does she want the latest fashion trend? Excellent! You guessed it—she earns the money for that hot new handbag through doing NR every day. One RAD teen with whom I worked earned $20 a week to spend at Sephora and you can’t believe how consistent she was! Supporting teens through a program of NR presents its unique challenges—you can’t disguise it as a new, elaborate playtime like you can with some younger children. The pay-off, though, is priceless. Watching a depressed, suicidal teen transform into a confident young adult is worth every ounce of effort. Here’s the study linking regular exercise with improved mental health in bullied and suicidal teens: