During October, images of Halloween pop up everywhere – advertisements for spooky costumes, lawns with decorations as we drive through our neighborhoods, haunted forests. This makes me think about fear.

As a parent of a teenager with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety, I have many fears. Besides the usual fears of him not fitting in and struggling in school, one of my biggest fears has always been that my son will have an unpleasant interaction with the police. Although many people may think this fear seems irrational and overblown, it is actually rational. As Bryce gets older and wants more independence, I will not always be around to protect him and know that he is safe. I cannot always guarantee that Bryce will be as stable as he is now, that he will always take his medicine, or that he will always remember his coping skills.   

Spoiler alert! This fear of mine was reflected in season two of Atypical, a current show on Netflix. The main character is out in the middle of the night alone. A police officer mistakes his coping skill (reciting penguin names to himself) as him being intoxicated. He does not respond to commands and the encounter goes...

Last week, the Berkeley and Eleanor Mann Residential Treatment Center (Mann RTC) students held their annual 'Hope not Dope' assembly. The youth shared their poems, songwriting, and artwork, which capture their recovery process and their understanding of the negative consequences of substance abuse.

Here are some of their powerful, moving pieces:


Drugs aren't just

Alcohol, pills, and weed

This knowledge is not just a want

But a need...

So close to the edge

No one can hear my scream

Yelling for help

It's like I'm stuck in a dream...

Words of an Addict

"I cheat, lie, and steal"

"Because the power of addiction is real"

"Its effects I can't conceal"

"I can't help how I feel"

"It's so hard to deal"

"I wonder if I'll ever heal..."


If you're looking for recovery

I'll lead the way

Work the steps and

You'll live to see another day...

Just for today

Focus on one thing at a time

Don't rush, getting help

Won't cost you a dime.

- Julia V.







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back_to_school_resolutions.jpgAs I opened the newspaper this morning, the Back to School Ads were the first thing that I saw. I can’t believe it is already time for summer to wind down and a NEW school year to start. Although summer can feel long for those of us with special needs children who thrive on structure, going back to school has its own set of challenges. 

As the new school year approaches, the thoughts from your child’s last school year may enter your mind. If the year was a good one, the new school year can bring your child excitement about seeing friends, finding out who their teacher will be, and getting to go shopping for new clothes. But if school is a challenge, those back to school ads may trigger fears and anxieties about new teachers, difficult classes, seeing other students who may have caused hurt feelings, and more. Our children can get stressed about grades, schedules, social media, and so much more. 

If your child struggled last year and summer was a welcomed reprieve, set your child’s expectations to make this year their best one yet. As the name suggests, it is a New Year. You can work with your child to make New Year’s resolutions for the start of the school year just like you...

When thinking about being nicer to and less critical of ourselves, people often hear about and gravitate toward self-compassion. There are many books and online resources for building in more compassion for yourself (check out resources here, here, and here). Self-compassion, different than having higher self-esteem, is about being kind to ourselves, recognizing that our struggles are part of a part of a shared experience of being human, and being mindful. Self-validation is another way to be kind and move away from the strong self-criticism and hatred people can experience. It includes being compassionate to ourselves, and focuses on some other points as well; it helps us find more balance in life. In a nutshell, self-validation is about acknowledging and accepting ourselves, especially our feelings and thoughts, for what we are. An expert in self-validation, Alan Fruzetti, PhD, focuses his definition of self-validation on thinking what we think, feeling what we feel, and so on, with acceptance and without judgment or second guessing ourselves.

When we invalidate (or are invalidated by others), often our emotions end up getting stronger and more intense. Our thoughts tend to turn to a...

Depression doesn’t discriminate: it impacts about 14.8 million American adults each year. Five million of those are men.

Signs and Symptoms

The hallmark signs of depression are sadness and loss of interest in activities. But, did you know that depression can look very different in men and women?

Here are some of the signs to be on the lookout for in men:

  • Anger and aggression. Negative thoughts and feelings of worthlessness are a common aspect of depression. For many men, this can result in feeling irritable and angry, leading to lashing out.
  • Feeling reckless or ‘on edge.’ Depression can manifest as reckless behavior in men. This can include engaging in risky activity, or suddenly making questionable choices.
  • Unexplained physical aches and pains. Physical pain and digestive issues often go hand-in-hand with mental illness. If there isn’t a physical reason for symptoms, it’s time to take a look at what’s going on in terms of mental health.
  • Sleep problems. Both sleeping too much and sleeping too little are indicators that there may be a bigger issue like depression at stake.
  • Withdrawing from friends and family. It’s one thing to be staying at the office late for a...

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