How I Learned To Talk To My Filipino Mom About My Mental Health

It can be hard to talk with family members about issues like depression and anxiety. It’s especially difficult for the adult children of immigrant parents. NPR’s Malaka Gharib has this story of a Filipino-American woman working to change that.

MALAKA GHARIB, BYLINE: Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan Tanep (ph) is from Virginia Beach, Va. Her parents both came from the Philippines. Growing up, she often felt like she was living in two worlds – the American world and the Filipino world. And that had an effect on her emotional life.

RYAN TANEP: Emotions and feelings – just something you don’t talk about.

GHARIB: I know what that’s like. My mom is Filipino. When I was a kid and I told her about something that bothered me, she’d just tell me not to think about it.

TANEP: You just kind of soldier on through it and not really ever tell your parents or family members whenever you’re going through something tough.

GHARIB: Ryan remembers this one time when she was in high school. She came home crying because a girl had bullied her.

TANEP: And my mom told me to read the Bible. She said, just open it to whatever page it opens to, and something there is going to help you. And I remember doing that, and I’m like, why isn’t anything helping me?

GHARIB: Ryan says that her Filipino friends were bumping into the same problem. It was as if their parents were reading from the same script. And it turns out, they kind of were. Stephanie Balon is a Filipino-American youth and family therapist. She’s with the Daly City Youth Health Center in California. She says she hears stories like Ryan’s from her patients all the time.

STEPHANIE BALON: So when there is that disconnect between parents and children, you can imagine how isolating that can be.

GHARIB: One of the problems is that our hardships seem to pale in comparison to the incredible struggle our parents had to go through, leaving their homes to start a brand-new life in America. So it’s understandable why Ryan kept quiet about her feelings. And for years, she dealt with depression and anxiety.

TANEP: I didn’t tell anyone, you know?GHARIB: And when things got really bad, she thought about suicide.TANEP: Not only that but, like, a lot of people I know – one of my ex-boyfriends – him, too. I’ve had friends open up to me, like, this is what I’m going through right now. What do I do?GHARIB: Studies have found that Filipino-Americans have some of the highest rates of depression among Asian-Americans, yet they seek mental health treatment at the lowest rates. E.J. Ramos David is a Filipino-American psychologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He says Filipinos don’t […]

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Red Flag: Childhood Irritability Could Signal Future Problems

Red Flag: Childhood Irritability Could Signal Future Problems

Pyschologist Jillian Lee Wiggins works with young children and youth to study irritability and predict risks for mental health issues later in life. Psychologist Jillian Lee Wiggins received $5.4 million in NIH grants to study irritable youth to predict risk for mental health issues. Tantrums in the supermarket and meltdowns at social gatherings are almost a rite of passage for many children – and a lesson in patience for their parents.

But what if this irritability is chronic and a sign of serious mental health issues that may only present later in life?

That’s the question researcher Jillian Lee Wiggins focuses on in her quest to develop a model for assessing whether a child will outgrow fractious behavior or if it presents a risk for conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, or poor academic outcomes.

The San Diego State University psychologist recently received two significant grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH): $3.5 million to study early childhood irritability (National Institute of Mental Health) and $1.9 million to study the neural mechanisms of risk for serious issues as they transition to adolescence (National Institute of Drug Abuse).

Wiggins first embarked on this research pathway as a postdoctoral researcher at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. Her TEND (Translational Emotion Neuroscience and Development) lab at SDSU focuses on the development of social and emotional functioning.

Wiggins’ Brains in Growth (BIG) Emotions study will examine behavioral issues as preschool age children transition to kindergarten by doing brain scans at the SDSU MRI Center, and videotaping their interactions with parents. Her collaborator Lea Rose Dougherty, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, will code the behavior and facial expressions of children in her study, to help map the difference between how they look on the outside compared to how they are wired on the inside.

For the adolescent group, Wiggins will review brain imaging data from a larger study of 11,000 children conducted by a consortium of universities across the country to map neural mechanisms that indicate signs of deeper trouble.

“Jillian Wiggins applies state of the art neuroimaging techniques in creative ways to gain important, practical insights into child and teen behaviors,” said Jeff Roberts , dean of the College of Sciences. “She exemplifies SDSU’s commitment to research that makes a difference and betters the human condition.”

Wiggins spoke with the SDSU News Team about these research projects, which will be spread over five years.

When does irritability become a cause for serious concern?

Preschool age irritability is common, but if it continues into school age, that’s when it has detrimental consequences. Kids who persist into school age with irritability are more likely to later develop mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality, as well as […]

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Kids' Stuttering & Regulation Of Emotions Are Connected

Kids’ Stuttering & Regulation Of Emotions Are Connected

In a recent study, researchers looked at the connection between emotional reactivity, emotion regulation, and stuttering for preschool-aged children. The research study included a mixture of children who were diagnosed with a speech disfluency or stutter and children who were considered to have fluent speech and language skills.

The researchers believed that children with speech disfluencies who experience strong, unregulated emotions would see an increase in stuttering as they tried to talk during that phase of emotional intensity. Through their study, the researchers saw that children who struggled with speech during preschool and also dealt with emotional dysregulation were more likely to develop a clinically significant stuttering problem as they continued to grow.

In other words, an emotionally dysregulated child with a predisposition to display speech disfluencies is more likely to experience a disfluency problem over their lifetime, especially if their emotional dysregulation continues through their childhood and into adulthood.

This could also mean that children who may have a minor stutter or other speech problem could ultimately develop a more chronic stutter over time if they also deal with untreated emotional dysregulation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, as much as 10 percent of all children will stutter at some point during their childhood. Although many children outgrow this developmental stuttering, the connection between a child’s inability to regulate emotions and their stutter could cause more children to carry their stutter into late childhood and even adulthood if they don’t receive any interventions for their emotional dysregulation.

The team at St. Louis Children’s Hospital notes that traditional treatment approaches for developmental stutters include speech therapy and at-home practice to help a child practice slowing down their speech and breathing while speaking. In most cases, this can help prevent the stuttering from carrying over past childhood.

Exhaustion, Stress, And Overwhelm: How Parents Can Start Healing From The Last Year

Exhaustion, Stress, And Overwhelm: How Parents Can Start Healing From The Last Year

Tired mother and toddler hugging in living room. Mother has her hand over face. Ask any parent about the last year and they’re sure to tell you how hard it’s been. With kids home from school, limited childcare options, and the need to still bring in an income while also keeping their families safe from the virus, there’s no question parents have been through a lot. But as schools are reopening and vaccination numbers are increasing, some might think the worst is over and “normal” can once more begin. Unfortunately, plenty of parents are finding that return to normal isn’t as simple as they might have otherwise hoped.

Recognizing the Trauma

While everyone likely wishes they could just slide back into their normal routines and ways of being, there’s a reason some might be having a difficult time doing so.

It’s because Covid-19 has been experienced as a truly traumatic event.

“Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience,” maternal mental health expert and parenting coach Richelle Whittaker, LSSP, LPC-S, PMH-C, recently explained. “This last year, people were thrown into the world being shut down without warning or preparation. Along with that shut-down came a virus that no one knew anything about and that was causing people to become deathly ill and die.”

According to her, the culmination of these events, plus the lack of autonomy that resulted, absolutely qualifies as trauma.

“This might be especially true for parents, as they were thrust into virtual school for their child, along with working from home, and trying to find some type of balance or order,” Whittaker said. “The mere stress of helping their child or children navigate an unprecedented virtual school environment was distressing for parents.”

And their responsibilities didn’t just stop at educating their kids—Whittaker pointed out that parents also still had to keep up with their own household and work duties in the process.

Clinical neuropsychologist Shaliza Shorey, Psy.D., said that all of this created a trickle-down effect that impacted kids, as well.

“Parents are responsible for the survival and wellbeing of their children,” Shorey explained. “Their own increased fears and anxiety can make them even more hypervigilant about the

wellbeing of their children. Which in turn impacts the children’s mood, since kids constantly ‘mirror’ the emotions of the adults around them.”

And with kids mirroring those big emotions, parents likely had even more on their plates.

The Delayed Impact

“I’m Overly Emotional, and It’s Straining My Relationships!”

“I’m Overly Emotional, and It’s Straining My Relationships!”

Why am I So Overly Emotional?

More than half of people with ADHD find it hard to regulate their emotions, according to research. Irritability, angry outbursts, rejection sensitivity, and other intense emotions define the ADHD experience — at least in part — for many. Genetics and biology are partly responsible and contribute to a recipe for emotional dysregulation — reacting too intensely, too impulsively, and out of proportion to the situation at hand.

This emotional intensity takes a toll on relationships with friends, co-workers, family, and romantic partners. On the positive side, it can make people with ADHD more caring, more loving, and more passionate about things that interest them. On the negative side, ADHD emotionality makes people more likely to overreact, in ways that can be destructive. The reason this happens is no mystery: Emotional people react emotionally. It becomes a problem when it happens too frequently and too intensely.

How did the couple solve the problem? Pauline acknowledged her rejection sensitivity in conversations with Brian. She discussed her feelings in the moment and did not hide them. This also helped Brian connect with her feelings instead of being shut out. It gave him a chance to explain himself better when Pauline was feeling criticized, because very often he was not being critical. This helped her to keep things in perspective, and to get reassurance from Brian that she was not failing in some way.

Below are profiles of highly emotional individuals with ADHD and relationship struggles. Learn how they managed to address challenges like rejection sensitivity, outbursts, and more.

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ADHD and Self-Harm: How to Help the Girls Who Suffer Most

ADHD and Self-Harm: How to Help the Girls Who Suffer Most

We’ll say it one more time, for the people in back: ADHD is gender neutral.

Boys are no more likely to have it than are girls. But they are much more likely to get diagnosed. In fact, boys diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) outnumber girls by roughly three to one. And this disparity is fueling a serious public health problem for girls with ADHD.

Unlike boys, who are more often diagnosed with hyperactivity or impulsivity and can draw more attention to themselves, girls tend to show fewer outward symptoms of ADHD. These differences fuel the erroneous belief that girls don’t have ADHD as often as do boys. The truth is that traits of ADHD can look different in girls: daydreaming in class, silliness or spaciness, shyness, picking at self, perfectionism, feeling anxious or sad, forgetfulness, emotional dysregulation, and trouble keeping friends. When girls receive early and appropriate diagnoses, they will benefit from effective interventions and flourish. There is plenty of hope and promise for girls with ADHD.

Still, it’s important for caregivers and educators to be aware of studies from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) that paint a sobering picture of possible outcomes, especially for untreated girls with ADHD. Compared to young women without ADHD, those with ADHD are less likely to complete their college degrees and more likely to have unplanned pregnancies.1 Most concerning, especially for impulsive girls, is their potential for self-harm, which is significantly higher than for girls without ADHD.

“Our findings of extremely high rates of cutting and other forms of self-injury, along with suicide attempts, show us that the long-term consequences of ADHD in females can be profound,” says head researcher, UCSF psychologist Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., author of the 2014 book The ADHD Explosion.

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