Maintaining Mental Health in a Natural Disaster

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By now we’ve all seen the amazing, horrifying images of the damage Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the East Coast.  And I would imagine the suffering, struggle, and emotional fallout will continue long after the media moves on to more “interesting” things in the days and weeks ahead.  My colleague, Dr. Elaine Ducharme wrote a great article about how to cope with the hurricane on the American Psychological Association’s blog, Your Mind. Your Body.  Her tips – especially the ones about getting the facts and talking to your kids – are especially helpful. Check it out here.

I also really liked the post by CNN’s The Chart about some of the nuts and bolts about living through a storm and subsequent flooding.  I didn’t realize how dangerous floods can be after the water recedes.  Check it out here.

This article on ABC about how to help hurricane victims was excellent.  I love how they reviewed several organizations, how to contact them, and how the money donated actually helps people.  Did you know over one hundred blood drives were cancelled because of the storm? Wow.  Check it out here.

For more information about managing stress and trauma after this hurricane or other natural disasters, check out the resources over at the American Psychological Association.

Disney Characters Get an (Unhealthy?) Makeover

One of my colleagues, Dr. Elaine Ducharme, recently alerted me to an announcement by Barney’s about an upcoming ad campaign featuring

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Disney characters.  She was pretty upset about the drastically slimmed-down Minnie Mouse among others.  Dr. Ducharme’s concern got me thinking, too.  Are the plump characters of old really out of date?  Have we become so used to super-thin models that our beloved cartoon characters need to put in time on The Biggest Loser?  To read Dr. Ducharme’s complete article about the dangers and signs of eating disorders and distorted body images, click here.  Here’s a glimpse of her article:

We have developed a society that shouts to us all from billboards, television screens, movie theaters, magazines and just about everywhere we look, that happiness comes only with being thin. The old saying that “you can’t be too thin or too rich” is just not true. And now, even Disney characters will be shouting this message to our kids.

What can you as a parent do when you see a child struggling with these issues? First, you can consistently and throughout your child’s life encourage independent thinking and have open discussions about healthy life-styles. Be aware of your own problems and concerns about weight and eating. Be wary of sports or dance coaches that encourage your child to lose just a few more pounds. Because most eating disorders begin while patients are in their teens or early 20’s be particularly aware of excessive exercise patterns and unusual restriction of caloric intake. Be aware of distortions of body image, signs of depression and low self-esteem. Many teens struggle with identity issues and in today’s highly competitive world, many achieving kids feel they should still be doing more. Help your child set realistic goals for themselves and strive to keep open lines of communication. If they frequently appear upset, and most teenagers do have down periods, ask them if they are just having a bad day or if they have been feeling depressed for a long time. And, if you suspect an eating disorder is developing, consult with your child’s physician, a psychologist or other mental health professional that has experience working with eating disorders. Once an individual admits they have a problem and are willing to seek help, they can be treated effectively through a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical care.