Blog Archives

Peer Pressure: Don’t Give In!

Teens are always pressuring friends and people at school to do all sorts of things that aren’t cool. You may have had a friend or peer try and talk you into things like drinking, smoking, doing drugs, having sex, shoplifting, or cheating on a test or homework. They probably make you feel like you’re lame if you don’t do it, right? They usually say things like “it’s not that big of a deal,” and “everyone’s doing it.” Maybe they even say “you won’t know how you really feel about it unless you try it.”

Being pressured to do something is tough. On one hand, you don’t want anyone to think you’re uncool or too scared or too good to try something. You definitely don’t want to lose your friends. But on the other hand, you know what’s right and what’s wrong. You also know what’s illegal, and you definitely don’t want to get in trouble with the law and put your future at risk. So what can you do?

Here are some ways you can say no….

  • Just say no. Be straight up with them. Just say “no thanks,” or “nah dude, I’m good.” You can just walk away if you want, or change the subject. You really don’t owe them any explanation.
  • Give a reason. If you do want to give them an explanation, or if they keep bugging you about it, just tell them honestly why you don’t want to. If they’re pressuring you to smoke, you can say something like, “I’m trying to stay in shape for basketball” or “I have asthma.” Or you can even say something like, “I think smoking is gross. It’s super bad for you.”
  • Avoid the situation. If you’re invited to a party where you’re pretty sure there will be alcohol, it might be a better idea to just not go to that party. If you don’t want to participate, just stay away so you don’t get pressured all night.
  • Change the subject. Just change the subject and ignore the question. If someone offers you a joint, say something totally random like, “Oh hey, did you see what this person posted on Facebook?”
  • Reverse the pressure. If they’re making you feel like you’re lame, turn it back on them. Say something like, “I don’t need to do that to prove I’m cool” or “dude that’s lame, I don’t do that.”
  • Delay. If someone is trying to get you to go out with them and you don’t really want to, say, “Let’s be friends for a while so we can get to know each other better first.”

If someone is trying to push you do something that 1) is bad for you, 2) will get you in trouble, and 3) they know you don’t really want to do…. Are they really your friend? For real. Friends don’t do that. Friends respect each other, and you shouldn’t need to do stupid stuff in order for you “friends” to like you.

If your friends are trying to pressure you to do anything, anything at all… you should probably find a new crowd to hang with. Peer pressure is lame, don’t put up with it from anyone.

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Weed: Worth It?

Many teens feel pressured to try marijuana at some point during high school. It might seem like “everybody’s doing it,” and people might be telling you “it’s not a big deal, just try it.” But the reality is that marijuana is a very big deal.

Marijuana, often referred to as pot, weed, herb, reefer, or Mary Jane, is a mixture of dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. The mixture can be green, brown, or gray, and has a very strong smell. Most people roll loose marijuana into a cigarette joint and smoke it, but some people also put it in food and tea.

When people are high on marijuana, they feel good. It gives them pleasant sensations, and enhances all their senses. Everything feels good, everything tastes better than normal, everything sounds cool. But it only feels good for a very short amount of time, and then the negative effects kick in.

Here are the short term effects… people high on marijuana have:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Slower reaction time
  • Problems responding to sounds/signals
  • A hard time remembering things
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor perception
  • Higher heart rates (20-50 beats faster per minute)
  • Inability to make decisions

And here are some long term effects:

  • People who currently or have previously smoked marijuana have a heart time with complex tasks. Marijuana contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which finds brain cells with specific kinds of receptors called cannabinoid receptors, and binds to them. This affects the part of the brain that learns and remembers, and it continues to affect it permanently even when you’re not high anymore. So past users have a hard time pursuing academic, athletic, and other life goals that require you to be 100% focused and alert.
  • People who have used report less life satisfaction, poorer education/job achievement, and more anxiety and depression.
  • 1/6 people who start using at a young age become dependent on it and experience withdrawals when they try to quit.
  • Smoking marijuana is no different than smoking cigarettes, maybe even worse. It affects the lungs and airways, causes breathing problems, and causes people to be more susceptible to chest colds, coughs, and bronchitis. Marijuana smoke is also inhaled more deeply than cigarettes so more smoke enters the lungs for a longer period of time. It also contains the same chemicals as cigarettes… about 400 chemicals.
  • Marijuana can act as a gateway drug and lead people to trying other drugs.
  • Marijuana is also illegal. Anyone who is caught with it can spend time in jail, and be fined a lot of money, even if you’re under 18.

If your friends are pressuring you to try marijuana, just think about it: is less than an hour of a “good feeling” worth damaging your brain and lungs, being unable to make decisions and function normally, and risking getting arrested?

If you or a friend are want to quit smoking marijuana, talk to a parent, guidance counselor, or other trusted adult to get help. Or, you can call the Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which offers many other services besides helping people who are suicidal) at 1-800-273-TALK.

Cutting & Self-harm: How to Help

Why would anybody want to cut or hurt themselves? How could that possibly make somebody feel better? While a lot of us don’t understand it, there are many people who feel relief when they cut or harm themselves in some other way.

To some people, hurting themselves makes them feel better. It makes them feel like they’re in control for once, and makes them feel alive instead of numb. It can help express feelings they can’t explain, like extreme sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt and rage. It releases the built up tension they feel inside that they don’t know how to let out in any other way. It distracts them from their overwhelming emotions and anything going on in their life that they can’t deal with. It’s a temporary fix that, after a while, only makes them feel even worse… so it becomes addicting and they continue doing it.

If someone you know is cutting or harming themselves, here are some warning signs. They might:

  • have unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on their wrists, arms, thighs, and chest
  • have blood stains on clothing, towels, bedding, or lots of blood-soaked tissues
  • have sharp objects or cutting instruments always on hand, like razors, knives, needles, glass shards, bottle caps or scissors
  • have frequent “accidents” – they might claim to be clumsy and have many mishaps
  • always be covered up, like wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather
  • want to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom

If a friend tells you they’ve been cutting or if you confront them about it, here are a few things you can do to help them:

  1. Be sure to focus on their feelings rather than the fact that they’re cutting. Instead of asking how often they cut, what they’re using to cut, and where they’re cutting, ask them how they feel. What kinds of feelings and thoughts are they having?  How do they feel before and after they hurt themselves? How are they feeling about their life overall?
  2. After asking about how they feel, figure out why they cut. What are their self-harm triggers? Is there a pattern, does something similar happen every time they cut that causes them to get the urge to hurt themselves? What’s different in their life now than before they started cutting, and what happened the first time that made them decide to experiment with self harm?
  3. Help them find new coping techniques. People cut and harm themselves for different reasons, so after you figure out their reason, help them find something that works for them and will really help them feel better. Here are some ideas for people with different kinds of feelings:
  • If the cut because of intense emotions, they can…

-paint or draw

-journal about their feelings

-write a poem that expresses their feelings

-write down all their negative feelings then rip the paper up

-listen to music that describes how they feel

  • If they cut to calm and soothe themselves, they can…

-take a bath or shower

-cuddle with a pet

-listen to calm music

-wrap themselves in a warm blanket and lie down

  • If they cut because they feel disconnected and numb, they can…

-call a friend

-go to a self-help website, message board, or chatroom

-take a cold shower

-chew on something with a strong taste, like peppers, peppermint, or a grape fruit peel

  • If they cut to release tension and anger, they can…

-work out, like running, dancing, or hit a punching bag

-punch a mattress or scream into a pillow

-squeeze a stress ball or some Play-Doh

-rip something up, like a newspaper

-make lots of noise, like playing an instrument or banging on some pots and pans

When people cut and harm themselves, they keep it a secret from everyone they know, sometimes for several months. That is very hard on them, on top of whatever they’re dealing with that makes them cut. So when you reach out to them, make sure they know you aren’t judgmental about it and you just care about their feelings. Let them know that you’re their to help, and that there’s hope for them to get through this hard time.

A Healthier Lifestyle is a Happier Lifestyle!

We’re all busy with school, work, friends and family, and all kinds of things that sometimes make it hard to stay healthy and active. It’s difficult finding time to work out when you have such a busy schedule, or too much homework to do when you get home from school. And it’s so easy to get into the habit of eating fast food when that’s where your friends go hang out, or if you don’t have time to make your own food at home. But taking the time to eat healthy and exercise can help you feel better not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.

Here’s what being active and healthy can do for you (besides keep you in shape):

  1. Improve your self-esteem
  2. Decrease feelings of anxiety and depression
  3. Help you do better in school
  4. Improve your mood and help you feel happier
  5. Help you feel better physically
  6. Help you sleep better
  7. Give you more energy
  8. Decrease stress

Exercising produces endorphins, which will instantly make you feel happier and more positive. So next time you’re really stressed about a test coming up, or you get in a fight with a friend or family member, try doing something active for just 20-30 minutes and see if it makes you feel better. Try going for a run, or just a walk if you don’t like running. Do some simple exercises in your room, like jumping jacks, squats, push-ups and sit-ups.

Also try to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life. Try walking to school instead of driving if you live close enough. Sign up to play a sport, or take a class, like dance, yoga, or karate. Go for a walk or bike ride with your friends instead of playing video games or watching TV.

You don’t have to go on a diet to start eating healthy. Just start making some changes, like:

  1. Eat more protein
  2. Switch to whole grains
  3. Eat good fats (like avocados, olive oil, and fish)
  4. Control food portions, make sure you aren’t eating too much
  5. Read food labels so you know what you’re putting in your body
  6. ALWAYS eat breakfast, because breakfast gets your metabolism going for the day
  7. Limit fast food, it’s okay every once in a while as a treat, just not everyday
  8. Re-think your drink, don’t drink as much sugary juice and soda, drink more water and iced tea

If you ever have problems with depression, stress, and anxiety, a healthier lifestyle WILL make you feel ten times better! Just start making small changes and you’ll notice the difference!

Cyberbullying: Get Help!

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Now that virtually every teenager in America has a cell phone and access to the internet, “cyberbullying” is a new category of bullying that is affecting thousands of teens every single day.

Cyberbullying refers to any bullying that occurs using electronic technology, whether it be cell phones, computers, or tablets, and using things like social media sites, texting, chatting, and other websites to post or message hurtful things about somebody else. This can include saying mean things about the person, spreading rumors, embarrassing pictures or videos, or fake profiles that are used to target somebody. Whether these things are posted for the public to see or only sent to certain people, it is all considered cyberbullying.

Many people consider cyberbullying to be the worst kind of bullying, because:

  • it can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach kids wherever they are
  • messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience
  • it can be difficult/impossible to trace the source
  • deleting those messages, texts, and pictures/videos can be difficult after they’ve been posted/sent

Kids who have been cyberbullied can be effected in several ways. They could:

  • begin using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain
  • skip school to avoid bullying
  • experience in-person bullying because of the cyberbullying
  • be unwilling to attend school in fear of being bullied
  • receive poor grades due to lack of motivation
  • have lower self-esteem
  • have more health problems due to stress

If you, your child, or your friend seem to be a victim of cyberbullying, there are several things you should do. First, do NOT respond to the messages or posts, or forward them to anybody else. Responding will only create more problems. Just ignore them.

Make sure you keep the evidence: record the date and times of when the bullying occurred. Save and print emails and texts, and take screen shots of anything posted on a social media site or other website. You can use these to report cyberbullying to your web and cell phone providers, and also to the website. Make sure you block the person from being able to contact you on a social media site, and by phone.

It may also be necessary to report the bullying to law enforcement. This is appropriate when you feel there are threats of violence, sexually explicit messages/photos, stalking and hate crimes, and if the bully is taking photos/videos of someone in a place where they would expect privacy.

It is ALWAYS necessary to report cyberbullying to the school the victim attends. By law, schools are required to take some kind of action in cases of cyberbullying. Since cyberbullying can often be related to in-person bullying, the school can respond and prevent that from happening.

If you believe you are being cyberbullied, you are not alone. Studies show that about HALF of teenagers get cyberbullied at some point, and about 15% of them experience it regularly. If this is happening to you or a friend, report it and get help. Nobody should ever have to put up with any kind of bullying.