Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Yet, 93% of adults in the U.S. think suicide can be prevented. The week surrounding September 10—World Suicide Prevention Day—is hailed as National Suicide Prevention Week. Here are some ways you can get involved with suicide prevention:
Learn the 5 steps and share them with others. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) breaks down 5 ways anyone can help someone who may be suicidal. Although clinicians are trained in suicide prevention, most individuals don’t know where to begin. Share these steps so more people have awareness. NSPL even offers graphics that you can use to share on your social channels.
Add a square to this virtual memory quilt. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) offers a digital memory quilt. Whether you add a square for a lost loved one or simply view the stories and photos, this online remembrance is a powerful reminder of the impact of suicide.
Participate in an Out of the Darkness walk. AFSP holds community walks across the country—more than 400 are currently planned for this fall.
Ask for support! The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides extensive resources via phone or chat. Though not a crisis line, they offer a nationwide peer-support service that offers referrals and support. This page also offers a list of resources that can be used in an emergency.
Take part in an online training session. The American Association of Suicidology offers a listing of clinical trainings and online events intended for professionals.
Show support online. You can find prewritten social posts, graphics, and videos that you can use on your own social media accounts, as well as digital banners and Zoom backgrounds here.
This week’s blog was contributed by Jeremy Sharp, PhD, licensed psychologist and clinical director at the Colorado Center for Assessment & Counseling and the host of the Testing Psychologist Podcast. Dr. Sharp earned his undergraduate degree in experimental psychology from the University of South Carolina and earned his master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology from Colorado State University. He specializes in psychological and neuropsychological evaluation of children and adolescents and provides private practice consulting for psychologists and other mental health professionals who want to start or grow psychological testing services in their practices. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife (also a therapist) and two kids.
The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster for all of us. It seems like a lifetime ago when we got the news that my then-seven and eight-year-old children would NOT be going back to school after spring break in March 2020. I remember thinking, “Okay, we can get through this for a couple of months...things will be back to normal in the fall.” But no! Things were definitely NOT back to normal in the fall for us or for most families in the U.S.
There are many implications for kids being out of school or partially attending school for the better part of a year. I’d like to focus on the implications for practitioners who may be seeing increased referrals for issues like ADHD and learning issues.
Although some data suggest that mental health utilization (both psychotherapy and assessment) went down during the pandemic, this frankly does not match the anecdotal evidence from around the country. It seems like every practitioner I talk to is completely full—with longer waitlists than ever. Our practice has seen a huge increase in referrals for assessment of ADHD and learning disorders, and I think there is a direct link to the pandemic. Here are a few reasons why:
Instability in the environment. Kids do well with stable, consistent environments. Speaking for myself, other parents, and practitioners around the country, there was very little stability or consistency over the past year. Here are just a few examples of environmental changes: kids transitioning from in-school to in-home learning, parents transitioning to working from home, parents transitioning to being an in-home teacher, and cancellation of after-school programs and activities. Many families experienced variation or reduction in income. Marginalized groups and lower-income families may have experienced food insecurity. The list goes on and on. Increased instability = increased anxiety, acting out, distraction, or withdrawal.
Parents getting a firsthand look at kids’ behavior and academic skills. During the pandemic, many parents transitioned into the role of in-home teacher or a facilitator of education. For those parents who previously relied primarily on teacher comments or conferences to gauge their kid’s academic performance, this was an eye-opening experience. Parents suddenly got to see just how distractible, unfocused, fidgety, and (sometimes) disruptive our kids could be throughout the school day. If any parents of kids with ADHD were in denial about their children’s symptoms, those symptoms quickly became clear. Were they likely worsened by the instability mentioned above? Definitely. But many parents acknowledged and sought support once their kids were home all day trying to learn.
Parents being more burned out than usual. Not only were kids under more stress, but parents were also struggling during the pandemic. As mentioned previously, the world was turned upside down for us, too! It was challenging to juggle work (if you were still employed), finances, kids being home, spouses suddenly being home together more than usual, and any number of other things. When parents get stressed, it’s easy to focus on the negative or undesirable aspects of your child’s behavior. These might include not sitting still, interrupting the teacher, not doing their work, blurting things out, and so forth. Even if these behaviors are occurring with typical frequency, a stressed-out parent may notice them more often and perceive them to be more severe.
Increased variability in learning. Again, structure is important. In addition to the big-picture environmental instability discussed earlier, the academic realm itself was quite variable for many kids. Teachers absolutely did their best to develop and implement remote learning options. And yet, many children ended up with multiple platforms or websites to navigate. Many did not have stable internet access, which disrupted video and audio delivery. The remote school day typically looked different than the in-person school day, with many kids completing their work more independently than before. For kids with attention concerns, this was a recipe for disaster.
Related post: Jeremy Sharp on Trauma-Informed Assessment
All of these factors created quite a dilemma. Yes, many clinicians have seen increased referrals for ADHD evaluations, but how does one evaluate ADHD with so many environmental influences? These are just a few strategies that we’ve employed:
Conduct a more thorough intake. Our intakes now include explicit questions to gauge the impact of the pandemic. We ask about changes to the family routine, including parent work schedules, parent involvement in learning, kids’ reactions to the pandemic in general, loss of sports or after-school activities, and the timeline of in-person vs. remote learning.
Pay more attention to history. With a neurodevelopmental disorder like ADHD, history is always important. It should not just emerge out of nowhere. But with many parents now seeing longstanding or acute symptoms of ADHD firsthand, this factor is more important. In the past, we may have gotten by with documenting symptoms within the last year and going on our way with a diagnosis. Now, we must look further back. Were these symptoms present prior to the pandemic? Are they only happening during academic times? Do they vary based on in-person vs. remote learning?
Be less confident. Principle 5 of the American Psychological Association’s guidance on psychological teleassessment during the COVID-19 crisis explicitly states that we should widen our confidence intervals when making conclusions and clinical decisions. This is incredibly important. Most evaluations over the past 18 months have a big, metaphorical asterisk beside the results that says, “We are not as confident in these results as we typically are. Here’s our best guess.” We’ve gotten over the fear of saying, “This is unclear right now,” and have no shame about asking families to come back in 6–12 months for a brief, updated assessment.
In summary, there are many things for us to consider as we see increased referrals for ADHD testing. We must take environmental factors into account, acknowledge that parents and kids are more stressed out than usual, know that certain groups have less access to resources than others, and generally be more diligent and less confident in diagnostic results. It’s a thrilling time, as my colleague Dr. A. Jordan Wright says, to “be brave” with our work as we navigate challenging circumstances to do our best in helping these families.
Catch up with the Testing Psychologist podcast online, via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or on Spotify.
More than 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease is currently the only leading cause of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed.
What you should know about Alzheimer’s and other dementias
Someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. Estimates indicate this will increase to one every 33 seconds by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Most individuals with Alzheimer’s disease start exhibiting signs in their mid-60s.
Just this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the drug aducanumab for Alzheimer’s patients, the first novel therapy to be approved since 2003.
Ways you can show your support
Raise awareness on social media. The Alzheimer’s Association makes it simple to update your Facebook profile with a frame in support of Alzheimer’s awareness.
Share your story. Use hashtags #ENDALZ and #EndAlzheimers to share your story about how Alzheimer’s has touched your life and read more about how Alzheimer’s and other dementias have impacted people throughout the world.
Wear purple. Show your support by wearing purple! You may even want to show your support by tying purple ribbons on your home or car to show your support.
Raise funds through the Solstice Challenge. The longest day of the year—June 20—is a day dedicated to fighting against the darkness of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association offers suggestions on how you can participate, whether through games, parties, sports, or the arts!
PAR offers a range of products designed to assess and monitor dementia. Learn more.
This week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a time to address the mental health needs of children and teach them to care for their own mental health as well as the mental health of those around them.
It is never the wrong time to communicate the importance of prioritizing mental health and offering acceptance, support, and respect for those who are facing mental health challenges.
Download materials from the National Federation of Families, which offers age-appropriate activities and worksheets for students from Pre-K through high school.
Read a book about mental health topics to a child. The Federation of Families of South Carolina has put together a reading list focusing on a number of different mental health topics at various reading levels.
Join “Flip the Script Live,” a free fireside chat with children’s mental health experts from around the country.
Participate in a virtual event sponsored by the Youth Mental Health Project. With events ranging from glitter jar making to a live concert, there’s something for everyone.
PAR offers many assessments geared specifically toward children’s mental health concerns. Learn more about some of our most popular products for school psychology.
April 12–16 is National Youth Violence Prevention Week, a time to raise awareness of effective strategies to prevent or reduce youth violence. Founded by Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), a part of Sandy Hook Promise, the focus of this week is to decrease the potential for school violence by promoting meaningful student involvement, providing education on topics of bullying and violence, and offering opportunities to make our communities safer for all.
Learn more about how you can get involved:
Encourage the positives by recognizing those in your community who work to create inclusivity and foster a safe, positive, and friendly school or community. SAVE offers tons of ideas on how students and adults can use this week to encourage empathy, connection, and outreach.
Download “A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and learn strategies your community can put into place to prevent youth violence.
Understand how prevalent youth violence is in your community. One out of every five high school students reported being bullied at school in the last year, and homicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals ages 10–24 years. Youth violence is a serious problem that requires everyone to focus on prevention. The CDC has compiled a list of youth violence resources with reports, articles, and data on the topics of school violence, bullying, and more.
Educate yourself and others on the signs of violent behavior. This article from the American Psychological Association can help you recognize warning signs.
“Creating Connections. Changing Lives.” It isn’t just a slogan here at PAR. It is part of our commitment to creating a better world. We offer several tools designed to assess risk of violence in youth, including the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth™ (SAVRY™) and the Psychosocial Evaluation & Threat Risk Assessment™ (PETRA™), as well as several measures that can help students who have experienced trauma, such as the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children™ (TSCYC™) and the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children™ (TSCC™).
The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the United States has risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 59 children in 2020. It is more important than ever that individuals with autism, as well as their families, friends, schools, and communities receive support, services, and acceptance.
How can you participate?
Get the facts. The Autism Society of America provides a list with facts and statistics about autism.
Take action. Autism Speaks is asking those who wish to show their support to make a commitment to kindness. You may register on the website to participate in daily acts of kindness and fundraising following one of two paths: Learn with Kindness for schools or Lead with Kindness for workplaces. Each day offers a fun, interactive calendar designed to encourage acceptance, understanding, and inclusion.
Personalize the impact of autism. Read firsthand accounts on the impact autism has had on a variety of individuals. This site offers personal stories and can help individuals to truly understand the many ways autism impacts people—whether they are living with autism, are supporters and donors, or researchers. You can even filter by location to see the stories of people who live near you!
Share the message. A great library of downloadable social media images is available for your personal use here. Use #LightUpWithKindness and #KindnessCounts hashtags on your posts!
Proper identification and early intervention are critical when it comes to an ASD diagnosis. Learn more about the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™) family of products and how it can help screen, diagnose, monitor, and intervene throughout the life span.
It’s a simple reminder, but a powerful message. At PAR, we strive to live by these values. It’s part of our culture.
be kind. We are kind when we treat people with respect and compassion, when we offer support and sympathy, and when we help in ways large and small.
do good. We do good by helping others as we can and by contributing resources to our communities.
We want to promote these values around the world—one sticky note, note pad, bookmark, and thank you note at a time—as a reminder that sometimes doing the little things can make a big difference.
Each year, PAR will contribute a minimum of $25,000 to its bkdg fund, and all profits from the sales of our be kind. do good. merchandise will be added to this account. These funds will be donated during the year to organizations that are doing good things.
We invite you to help spread our be kind. do good. message in your community. Learn more or order now!
This week’s blog was written by Teri Lyon. Teri is a Senior Technical Support Specialist at PAR. She has been with PAR for more than 20 years. She enjoys punk music and painting.
I like to watch CBS Sunday Morning every weekend. Recently, I watched a segment on the prevalence of dyslexia in the prison population, which immediately caught my attention. Working at PAR and knowing Dr. Steven Feifer, I know how important it is to diagnose dyslexia and other learning disabilities early so a student can achieve his or her full potential. What I did not realize are the numbers behind this issue.
The segment told of a study that shows almost 50% of the prison population in Texas has dyslexia. In addition, approximately 80% of inmates are functionally illiterate. The segment went on to talk about how prisons are addressing this issue with more funding and prison reform. Although these things certainly help people in prison lead better lives, this does not prevent these individuals from ending up there in the first place.
Although this is not a case where you can throw money at a problem, we do know that schools in more affluent communities have higher test scores and graduation rates. While the parents and students may have more resources and may not have concerns like how to study while hungry, you can’t ignore how much better they do. Recently, the thinking on spending in education has changed. Studies show significant long-term gains for students when educational spending increased. The issue is that districts need to determine the best way to use their money.
Currently, the U.S. spends more on prisons than we do on education. California alone spends $53,147 more per year on a prisoner than it does a student. Overall, there are 15 states that spend more than $27,000 a year more per prisoner than they do per student.
Even with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are kids who fall between the cracks of education and into the justice system. It’s clear that this issue is multifaceted and complicated. From starting mandatory schooling at an earlier age, to better training for teachers, there are many ways this issue can be addressed. One thing is clear, though, we have to start somewhere.
I think it’s important to take a step back and realize how PAR instruments can help with greater societal issues. Because this is such an important topic, I immediately sent letters to both my congressman and senator letting them know my thoughts. Hopefully, this will get a very important subject the attention that it deserves.