Silent Epidemic-Elisabeth’s Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is becoming an epidemic among our young people with a more than 70 percent increase in suicides between 2006 and 2016. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 behind unintentional injury. In Mississippi, for every child who dies by suicide, there are 25 attempts. Statistics from the 2015 Youth Risk Survey taken in Mississippi indicated 15 percent of high school seniors reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year; 13 percent had attempted suicide, and six percent had received medical treatment for a suicidal injury. These stats are troubling and are growing ever closer to home.

In May 2018, Teresa Mosley spoke at Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Children’s Mental Health Summit. Teresa told the story of her daughter Elisabeth who is eternally 15.

Teresa speaking at the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit in May, sharing the story of her daughter, Elisabeth, and their lives after suicide.

Elisabeth was a typical teenager. She was smart, creative, caring, compassionate, an “old soul” who loved classic novels, black and white Hitchcock movies, animals and cinematography. Elisabeth was also among the 20 percent of youth who struggle with mental health challenges. Despite all the things that were right in her life, depression clouded Elisabeth’s ability to see the light beyond her darkness. She took her own life on June 13, 2006.

“Statistics are just numbers until you love one of those numbers, and I have loved one of those numbers,” said Mosley. “I want people to know that suicide is not prejudiced, it affects everyone. I pray that God will use the memory of [Elisabeth’s] life so that her death will not have been in vain.”

Mosley read the poem “Not Waving but Drowning,” by British poet Stevie Smith. She then explained the importance of recognizing when a person is struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. While at a distance it may appear as if a person is fine and simply waving, in reality they are drowning.

Here are a few signs everyone should know that may indicate someone is struggling and may be at risk of suicide. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a child, teen or young adult, talk openly with them and seek professional help.

  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • trouble in romantic relationships/close personal relationships
  • slump in academic performance
  • giving away possessions
  • writing or drawing pictures about death
  • changes in eating habits
  • dramatic personality changes/signs of despair
  • deterioration of personal hygiene
  • problems sleeping
  • participation in risky behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm)
  • talk of suicide, even in a joking way
  • have a plan of how they would commit suicide
  • having a history of suicide attempts

Mosley also spoke of the importance of not only adults recognizing and taking action if someone is talking about suicide, but also our youth.

When Emily, Mosley’s youngest daughter, was in 7th grade (approximately four years after Elisabeth’s death), a boy in her school posted on social media that he was going to take his life. Emily, with great concern in her heart, hurried to school alerting the school counselor. The boy was not at school that day. School administrators went to his home and were able to intervene, saving the boy’s life and getting him connected with help. That day, Emily understood the importance of speaking honestly and openly about her family’s experience, challenging the stigma with suicide and mental health, and to never to mistake a cry for help as a ploy for attention. Speaking up helped save a life.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, know that you are not alone; there are a number of resources available to those in crisis. Mississippi Department of Mental Health is the statewide provider for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. If someone is in imminent danger, go to your nearest emergency room immediately and connect with a local mental health provider.

Laura Walker is the staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions. Canopy is Mississippi’s most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions with locations across the state. For more information about services offered through Canopy, visit mycanopy.org or call 800-388-6247.

This article was featured in Parents & Kids Magazine September/October 2018 Desoto Edition. Click here to see more from Parents & Kids Magazine.

Canopy Opens Community Resource Room in Olive Branch

Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) hosted an Open House on Thursday, August 30, celebrating the opening of its new Community Resource Room. The event was held at Canopy’s Northwest Community Office located at 9855 Highway 178 Suites A and B, in Olive Branch and included tours of the new amenity. Several members of the public as well as representatives from state organizations attended to learn more about what the new room would offer.

Resource Room Open House

The Community Resource Room was funded by a special-project grant from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

“Our expectation for the Community Resource Room is to be a place where parents, teachers, care givers, and other members of the community can come to get information on children’s issues,” said Jody Herring, North Regional Director for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Even if it is not a service our organization provides in the community, we want to be a resource that helps steer people to where they can and will get help for their children.”

The Community Resource Room offers free resources to individuals looking for information on childhood issues such as mental health, suicide, autism, counseling, stress, abuse, and educational challenges. The room will be accessible during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To get more information about the new Community Resource Room or to schedule private use, please call 662-890-6906.

Shea Hutchins Named Chief Solutions Officer

 

Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) proudly introduces Shea Hutchins, LCSW as Chief Solutions Officer. Prior to assuming this new position, Hutchins served as Senior Director of Operations.

Shea HutchinsAs Canopy Chief Solutions Officer, Hutchins oversees day-to-day operations and direction of the organization’s statewide continuum of services, which includes the state’s most comprehensive array of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions as well as oversight of admissions and medical staff. Her role within the executive team helps to disseminate information about strategic goals throughout the organization as well as the implementation of new programs through strategic initiatives. Hutchins is instrumental in helping to identify and develop talent within Canopy staff turning strong workers into organizational leaders.

“I love being able to take an active role in serving our children and families by ensuring we deliver the best high-value, comprehensive, and whole-person solutions to some of the great challenges facing children and youth in our state,” said Hutchins. “We have such passionate and talented people at all levels of the organization. In this role, I want to help them grow not just as supervisors or managers but develop into leaders who are true champions for our cause and ultimately our kids.”

Hutchins’ career spans over 20 years including both clinical and administrative leadership experience. Much of Hutchins’ experience was carefully nurtured and developed through different roles.  Within the Canopy organization, Hutchins has served as a clinical therapist for CARES Center Jackson, CARES Clinical Director, Residential Division Director and Senior Director of Operations. Hutchins also has worked for Rankin County School District as a General Education Behavior Specialist.

Hutchins holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Mississippi College and a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Alabama.  She completed two years post-graduate clinical supervision to obtain her license in Clinical Social Work. Hutchins and her husband are proud parents to two children and live in Clinton, Mississippi.

Proactive Parenting: Recognizing when your teen needs help

In the U.S., 1 in 5 children experiences a significant mental health challenge. Even more disturbing is the fact fewer than 20 percent ever receive proper treatment. Early intervention is a key component in helping children to lead happier healthier lives.

“After living through a difficult situation, you don’t necessarily ‘get over’ what happened, but you learn how to cope,” said Anna Cox, LPC, CMHT, NCC, M.Ed., Program Supervisor for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Teaching coping skills is one of the biggest elements we use in therapy.”

Being a proactive parent means allowing your child to experience life’s challenges, but being able to recognize when he or she may need help. Being proactive means playing an active role in a child’s life and being aware of the warning signs pointing to child’s struggles. Here are a few:

  • Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks, or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.
  • Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason, or worries and fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
  • Behavior changes. Drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others are also warning signs.
  • Difficulty concentrating. Look for signs of trouble focusing or inability to sit still for any length of time, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
  • Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
  • Physical symptoms. Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition may develop chronic headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety.
  • Physical harm. Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. Children with a mental health condition also may develop suicidal thoughts or actually attempt suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.

Source: www.mayoclinic.org

“Having periods of sadness, anxiety, or anger are normal,” said Cox. “When a difficult situation or intense emotions affects a child’s ability to function normally, that’s when you should be concerned. Seeking help from a professional will help them explore how they feel and why.”

Half of all children who develop mental health disorders exhibit symptoms by the age of 14. The earlier parents seek help for their children, the better chances of a positive outcome.

Working with a child therapist or counselor helps a child develop positive coping skills and gain a better understanding of their thoughts or feelings. Getting help early, even if it is just connecting the child with someone to talk to, is the best way to proactively help that child build strong mental health and overcome the many challenges they face.

Contributed by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

This article was originally published in Parents & Kids Northeast magazine as part of the April/May 2018 issue. For more from Parents & Kids visit www.parentsandkids.com.

Hope Begins at Home. Home Begins with You.

Some of your most special memories growing up might include making macaroni necklaces and hand-painted cards for mom on Mother’s Day. But imagine for a moment if there had been no mom in your life to celebrate; no nurturing figure to tuck you in at night or offer warm hugs after a bad day. Many children in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (CPS) are in desperate need of someone to celebrate and be grateful for, and that someone could be you.

Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy) seeks families wanting to make a difference in the lives of children. Youth in foster care are often shuffled in and out of group homes and care facilities every few months without the ability to develop long-term connections. These connections are essential to establishing a sense of self-worth, love and security that children need to grow and thrive.

Canopy is hosting an informational meeting for individuals and families interested in learning more about therapeutic foster care (TFC). The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. at the Canopy office located at 105 Asbury Circle, Suite A, Hattiesburg.

Canopy believes that all children deserve to grow up in nurturing, stable families. When children are placed into foster care, it is often due to circumstances involving abuse, neglect and/or exploitation.  Following such traumatic events, children need individuals or families to provide loving reassurance in the comfort of a temporary safe haven.

“Mother’s Day can be very difficult for children in foster care who don’t have a place to ‘belong,’ especially if they don’t understand their separation,” said Elliott Brown Therapeutic Foster Care Program Supervisor.

“We receive calls nearly every day hoping to place a child into our program. It is heartbreaking to have to turn them down because we simply don’t have homes to place these children in.”

Canopy’s TFC Program specializes in the care of foster children with emotional, developmental and medical needs. When children are enrolled in the program, they receive interventions that are designed to address their individualized needs in the most comprehensive manner possible. Canopy’s TFC staff not only provide direct support to foster children through individual and family therapy, but also to resource families through ongoing training.

Ultimately, the TFC Program is looking for compassionate and dedicated resource parents who are willing to provide much-needed care to foster children with therapeutic needs. Fostering is an opportunity to draw upon one’s own compassion, generosity and wisdom to help another person in need. These children need to be reminded there is love and compassion in the world; they need to know there is hope, and it can start with you.

For more information about therapeutic foster care, please contact Elliott Brown at 601-606-0208 or elliott.brown@mycanopy.org or visit mycanopy.org.

Things I’ve Learned from a Child with Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder, typically referred to as simply autism, is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 10,000 Mississippi youth on the autism spectrum, affecting 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. While the challenges of a child with autism are often great, it is important to remember, so are their strengths.

Canopy Children’s Solutions offers a variety of therapeutic autism solutions including intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, specialized education autism classes, and targeted emotional and social skills therapy. While our staff are dedicated to nurturing and teaching children, they also find children teach them along the way. Staff from Canopy’s Early Intervention Autism Clinic, which specializes in intensive ABA therapy, share with us some things they have learned from working with children on the autism spectrum.

Things I’ve Learned from a Child with Autism

“Children are incredible teachers. A child with Autism has taught me to speak Spanish, to become culturally aware, how to praise myself for the hard work, and to self-correct when I know I can do better. Most importantly, a child with autism has taught me to laugh and smile unapologetically.”—BreAnna Newborne, BCBA (Senior Behavior Interventionist II)

“I’ve learned to celebrate EVERYTHING! It’s easy to get bogged down and miss what are truly special moments. Children with autism have taught me to cherish and celebrate small victories because small victories will lead to milestone moments.  It’s up to us to find joy in everyday success!”—Racheal Caldwell (Behavior interventionist)

“A child with autism has taught me to take nothing for granted. I have learned that golden moments like a smile, saying ‘hi,’ or telling mom or dad ‘I love you’ for the first time may seem small to some, but to our clinic families, it is an earth-shattering big deal.”—Jasmine Allen (Behavior Support Specialist II)

“I have learned children with autism are just that, children. Just like any child, they need us to believe in their potential to learn, perform, and to thrive alongside their peers and within their communities. They can do it with our support.”—Madeline Potter, BCBA (Behavior Support Specialist II)

“Children with autism have taught me more than I could ever imagine. I have learned just how unique each child is. By working with these kids each day, they have helped me grow personally and professionally.”—Robyn Brewer (Behavior Support Specialist I)

 “A child with autism taught me there is, in fact, a difference between Kylo Ren and Darth Vadar. Who knew!? There is so much about the world they take in, and in turn, can offer us a new perspective. Each session I grow as a therapist because they challenge me to be better and see the world through their eyes.”—Laura Barker (Behavior Support Specialist I)

“A child with autism taught me when someone says, ‘you can’t,’ I have the choice to say, ‘watch me.’ Each of us has the last say so in whether we give up or continue pushing through. I smile every day because I get to see these children transform.”—Alana Cole (Behavior Support Specialist I)

“Children with autism have taught me to take the time to learn how they communicate; how we deliver our ABA services to best benefit not only the child, but also their families. These children help me grow every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”—Hayden Rizer (Behavioral Support Specialist I)

I have learned that a child with autism is not defined by their disability or limitations because limitations can be overcome. Any progress made in learning or development is an accomplishment. The smiles, the laughs and even contact are huge conquering feats.”—Rebecca Taylor (Behavior Support Specialist I)

A child with autism taught me to leave expectations at the door, because with determination, anything is possible.”—Garrett Yaeger (Intern)

“A child with autism taught me to smile in the ‘bad moments’ because those moments are what teach us to truly appreciate the good.”—Karla Banks (Autism Clinic Coordinator)

I have learned many things from kids with autism. They’ve taught me greetings in different languages, facts about traveling the world, current weather reports, new and fun outside games to play, and many different ways to truly connect with others. There are many details they pay attention to that I would never have thought. Being with these kids is the best part of my day!”—Lindsay Rigby (Volunteer)

Individuals with autism have much to offer if we take the time to look past their diagnosis. Many companies, like Microsoft for example, have embraced their unique strengths and are actively pursuing individuals on the spectrum for employment. This offers hope to thousands of individuals on the spectrum and to their families who know the impact their loved ones can have on the world, given the opportunity. We should actively help to cultivate their strengths and individual uniqueness. Given half a chance, any child with autism would have a thing or two to teach us all.

If you know a child in need of autism solutions, please contact Karla with Care Coordination at 800.388.6247. You can also learn more about Canopy Autism Solutions here.

The Silent Cries of Child Abuse

At five years old, Katie hears the door slam. Keys crash against the countertop. She feel her heart pounding and her mind begin to race, “Please have had a good day, please don’t be mad…” The house falls silent, then a voice filled with frustration and anger echoes down the hallway as she hears a crash in the kitchen. Katie turns off the light and jumps into bed, pretending to be asleep, hoping maybe, just maybe, he won’t turn down the hallway. Loud footsteps clomp closer and closer to her bedroom door, then stop and trail off in another direction. She hears a loud smack followed by a string of loud obscenities and muffled crying. Katie closes her eyes tightly, “Please no, not again.” The crying turns to screaming, pleading, “No! No, please! Leave her alone!” Katie’s bedroom light turns on. She is drug from her bed to face the horrors of what she had heard from behind the door.

Katie’s story is real for the more than 7.4 million children affected by some form of child abuse each year. More shocking, approximately five children die every day as a result of abuse—80 percent of those fatalities are children under the age of four.–Children’s Bureau

 

In 2017, the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services cited more than 6,000 evidenced cases of abuse or neglect in the state. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Canopy Children’s Solutions wants to bring awareness to this issue that is devastating the lives of children across our state and country.

80percentWhat constitutes child abuse? Under Mississippi Code Section 43-21-105, child abuse is defined as a child whose parent, guardian, custodian, or any person responsible for his or her care or support, whether or not legally obligated to do so, has caused or allowed to be caused upon the child non-accidental physical injury or other maltreatment. This does not include reasonable corporal punishment. Child abuse is more broadly characterized by six major categories by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and Children’s Bureau: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, and/or substance abuse.

“Understanding what constitutes abuse is important in protecting those who are often unable to protect themselves,” said Tammy Miller, South Central Region Director for Canopy Children’s Solutions, who has more than 17 years of child welfare experience. “Many times, a child will not openly tell a trusted adult they are being abused, either because they are too young to understand that these actions are inappropriate, or for fear of what the abuser will do if they find out. However, there are sometimes signs or behaviors in children that can point to an abusive history.”

Signs of abuse can include extreme aggressive and unwarranted behavior, unexplained injuries, cowering from an authoritative figure, frequent or prolonged unexcused absence from school, fear of going home, behaviors that are not age appropriate (pants wetting in school-aged adolescents, hyper sexuality in children, delays in development, etc.), and extreme weight loss or malnourishment.

If you suspect that a child has been abused, collect as much factual information as possible. Document things you have witnessed, seen or heard that make you suspect abuse with the date(s) and detailed description(s) of each occurrence (i.e. child was out of school for a week and returned with a faint bruise to his left cheek; child constantly comes to school hungry; parent yelled and called child “stupid” and “useless” over report card grades, young child seen wandering the street alone after dark). Miller advises asking the child about things you have noticed using open ended and non-leading questions while being aware the child may not be truthful. Be sure to disclose if you think he or she is hiding something. File a report by calling the Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-222-8000, or file a report online at www.reportabuse.mdcps.ms.gov. These two options will open a case with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (CPS) who will further investigate the claim. Only utilize these options if the situation is not an emergency. If a child appears to be in imminent danger, call 911 immediately.

“Many people shy away from reporting concerns over fear of false accusations. If the behaviors are severe enough to warrant concern, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Miller. “Filing a report does not necessarily mean a child will be removed from a home or that criminal charges will be pressed. In fact, CPS can often provide services to the family such as substance abuse treatment, mental health evaluations, parenting skills, and other social services that can benefit the family as a whole.”

what ifMiller also noted that fear of retaliation is another major obstacles that keeps people from reporting. Reports can be made anonymously through the 800-number.

Children are our most valuable, and yet, our most vulnerable assets. Helping protect the livelihood of children in our communities is a responsibility of all adults, whether you are a teacher, a parent at a baseball game, or a bystander in a store parking lot. Don’t let the silent cries of a child keep you from speaking up. If you suspect something, say something.

For more information about signs and types of child abuse, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at www.childwelfare.gov or contact your state child welfare agency.

Written by: Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit

The Fifth Annual Children’s Mental Health Summit, hosted by Canopy Children’s Solutions (Canopy), will take place Thursday and Friday, May 10-11, at the Jackson Hilton Hotel in Jackson, Miss.

The theme for this year’s event is Every Child Can Be a Success: Creating Positive Outcomes. This two-day event will feature a half-day pre-conference on Thursday, May 10, with breakout sessions on varied topics that affect Mississippi families and children. The main conference will follow on Friday beginning at 8:00 a.m. featuring Scott D. Miller, Ph.D., of the International Center for Clinic Excellence as keynote speaker. In addition to the keynote, Canopy is pleased to welcome speakers Teresa R. Mosely, M.Ed, and Nick Hughes, M. Div., who will share their personal testaments of triumph over tragedy. A complete list of speakers and topics can be found on the event website.

“It is important that we provide tools to those who work with children so they can better support the intricate needs of the children they serve,” said Canopy CEO John Damon, Ph.D. “We have been very successful in bringing in speakers for the Children’s Mental Health Summit who challenge conventional thinking and broaden our skills as clinicians, teachers, social workers, child advocates and parents. I’m very excited about the opportunities that we will have again this year.”

Registration for the pre-conference is $50 per participant and $100 per participant for the main conference on Friday. Participants may choose to attend one or both days. These fees include the cost of materials, breaks, lunch (Friday only) and Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Licensed counselors and social workers can receive up to 9.5 CEUs for attending both days of the summit. Licensed educators may also receive up to 1 CEU credit for participation.

For complete information on the Children’s Mental Health Summit, including registration and information on overnight accommodations, please visit www.helpkidsthrive.org or contact Kym Williams at 601.352.7784.