Wise Women + Wise Choices

The 2018 Wise Women + Wise Choices conference will be an inspirational event focusing on women’s spiritual, mental and physical health. The event, hosted by The Chamber of Flowood, will be held on Wednesday, September 11, at The Ivy from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

The chamber has gathered a panel of female experts to lead the discussion and answer questions related to women’s issues. The panel includes Dr. Shanu Meck, physician with East Lakeland Ob-Gyn Associates; Davy Flowers, Worship Minister from Pinelake Church; Sherry Toler, LPC, from Watershed Counseling and Associates; and keynote speaker Pam Tebow, mother of Heisman Trophy winner and professional athlete Tim Tebow.

Canopy Children’s Solutions and LifeHouse of Mississippi were chosen as the charities of choice which will receive a portion of the night’s proceeds.

Tickets to the event are $25 for students, $35 for individuals with special pricing for groups of 10 or more. Limited space is still available.

For complete information or to purchase tickets, please visit http://members.flowoodchamber.com/events/details/wise-woman-wise-choices-5462.

Young Leaders Needed for Canopy Youth Council

Thursday, September 9, 2018
4:30 P.M.

Join Canopy for the 2018-2019 Youth Council Kick-Off meeting with guest speaker Teresa Mosley, who will share her family’s story about suicide.

The Canopy Youth Council aims to reduce the stigma around mental illness, change the conversation about mental health and open communication about issues that matter to youth. Each month will feature new educational opportunities and ways to get involved. The Canopy Youth Council will be made up of youth in grades 9 to 12 from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.

Youth council members will:

  • participate in service projects and events to promote character building and leadership development
  • advocate on behalf of youth suffering from depression, anxiety, drug dependency, ADHD, and other issues
  • engage your school and community with mental wellness campaigns
  • participate in public events to promote mental wellness and inspire other youth
youth council meets with members of MS Legislature

Youth council members pose with members of MS Legislature at Canopy’s Day at the Capitol

Members of the 2017-2018 Council had the opportunity to volunteer at Canopy’s residential treatment campus for youth ages 6-17, make their voices heard by volunteering at the Mississippi State Capitol during Canopy’s Day At the Capitol event, hosting on-campus events at their local schools to promote Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 10), giving video testimonies to be shared at the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit in Jackson, and meet with administrators of their local school districts.

For more information, contact Tonja Smith

Click here for a printable flyer.

Social Media’s Toll on Relationships

Today, adolescent mental health disorders are escalating at an alarming rate. 1 in 5 youth experience a mental health challenge. Disorders such as depression and anxiety have risen as much as 30 percent since 2005, leaving researchers asking: “what has changed?” Some studies have pointed to the ill effects of excessive social media exposure and its role in the fundamental breakdown of interpersonal relationships.

“Instead of talking to friends and family about what is going on in their lives, we just keep up on social media,” said Canopy Children’s Solutions Outpatient Therapist Caleb Cauthen. “We as a society aren’t connecting like we used to and our relationships are suffering as a result. As social beings, we need those healthy connections to thrive”.

One study published by Clinical Psychological Science reported that increased use of social media correlates to an increased risk of feeling sad or hopeless and increased thoughts of or attempted suicide. This could be in part from the false perceptions that everyone’s life is exciting and perfect according to social media, which can have a detrimental effect on young self-esteem. The rise in cyber-bullying and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) is also believed to have increased rates of anxiety as well as depression.

“People often use social media as a way to display the best parts of their day,” said Cauthen. “We don’t typically share about our struggles because that makes us vulnerable. If all we see on social media is perfection, it is easy to begin to think our life isn’t measuring up”.

Social Media’s Toll on Relationships

Social media in and of itself is not bad, however, using social media in place of personal relationships is not only bad, it can be dangerous. We need these close relationships to fall back on during crises and without shared experiences and regular interaction, the foundations of these relationships fall apart. Personal bonds are sources of encouragement, belonging, support and comfort and without them, life can feel hopeless.

While social media is certainly not going away anytime soon, there are some things we can do to help strengthen relationships and build stronger connections to protect from these feelings.

  • Encourage your teen to “clean up” her social media. Help her realize that QUALITY is more important that QUANTITY. Remove social media distractions and focus on the relationships that translate to real life—the people you see, talk to, interact with.
  • Encourage face-to-face social interaction. Have your child join a club, get involved in a church youth group, get a part-time job—encourage to be around peers who he can bond with over shared experiences or common interests.
  • Monitor your child’s social media accounts. It is the parents’ responsibility to know what is going on in their child’s life, including what he posts, sees and is involved with on social media.
  • “Check-in” on your teen’s mental health. At least once a week, take a few minutes to sit down, undistracted, and connect with your child.
  • Teach your child self-validation, that he is more than the number of followers he has or the amount of likes received in a week. Teach him to look at the big picture and to find the positives he brings to his own life.
  • Take social media breaks. Institute rules about social media and technology during meal times to encourage conversation and connection; take a social media vacation while on vacation—long or short, give yourself a break from comparisons and the mental “burden” that come with social media.
  • Lead by example. If your child sees you on social media all the time, she will follow your example.
  • Be vigilant. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, reach out, press in, let her know you are there.

If you notice your child withdrawing, acting out of character, losing interest in activities, or participating in risky behavior, be aware these are potential signs of depression. If you think your child is struggling emotionally, seek professional help. Don’t wait.

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 edition of Parents & Kids Northeast Magazine. To find more articles and resources, visit their website at www.parentsandkids.com.  

This feature was submitted by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions


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.

The Alarming Rise in Child Suicide and What You Should Know

Youth suicide is on the rise. After 15 years of decline, rates took a steady increase at the turn of the 21st century. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 15,141 youth suicides (ages 5-18) in the U.S. between 1999 and 2009. Between 2010 and 2016, there were 11,939 youth suicides, an average increase of 31 percent in six years over rates of the previous decade. Let’s think about that. These statistics start with kids as young as five years old.

The CDC reports suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 12-18. These tragedies leave many families, friends and loved ones asking, “why?” Youth interviewed after suicide attempts often report feelings of despair, emptiness, wanting revenge or needing an escape. When young people experience intense emotions related to difficult situations, such as breakups, a recent loss or abuse, they often seek out ways to regain a sense of control over their lives. This may come in the form of healthy coping skills like talking to a trusted adult or journaling to make sense of their feelings, or they may resort to unhealthy mechanisms such as self-harm or self-medicating. If a child takes an unhealthy path, he or she is at an increased risk of suicide.


Knowing what is happening in children’s lives and recognizing when to get help are the best ways to keep children safe. If you notice your child is struggling, having a conversation with your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician is a great first step. They can serve as a guide before a situation dangerously escalates, and they can help rule out chemical imbalances or other medical diagnoses that may contribute to changes in behavior. If you feel something is amiss, it is important to take action.

What if I know a child grappling with suicidal thoughts?

Many times, individuals who are considering suicide show clear signs of trouble. Signs can include: talking or writing about death; loss of interests; withdrawing from friends and family; changes in appearance or decline in hygiene; trying to access medications or weapons; giving away possessions; or showing intense anger or hopelessness followed by sudden calm. If you have suspicions about a child, talk to them openly and directly to determine the help they need.

When talking to someone about suicide, whether you are a parent or another trusted adult, you need to know how urgent the situation is. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Show confidence in the face of crisis
  • Be up front about your concerns
  • Ask them directly about suicidal thoughts; don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide”
  • Recognize they may not be honest, so observe their behavior
  • Listen and validate their feelings; don’t be judgmental
  • Ask them to give you specific details about their thoughts including how they would commit the act, when, and if they have the means to carry it out
  • If the child is in imminent danger, DO NOT leave him alone and seek medical help immediately
  • Do not mistake a cry for help as a ploy for attention; all thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously

Some youth may be embarrassed to admit they have thoughts about suicide. Under no circumstances should you promise to keep someone’s thoughts about suicide a secret. Explain that as a person who cares about the youth’s wellbeing, that this is not a secret you can keep. Assure them they should not feel ashamed or alone and thank them for being honest. Connect them with a counselor and offer to go with them for emotional support. If you are not the parent or guardian, encourage the youth to have an open conversation with their parents about how they are feeling. Continue to be there for them – your sustained support may be their greatest reinforcement.

Get real about suicide

Suicide is a hard topic to breach, but one that every parent should talk about with their child. In all likelihood, your child probably already knows about suicide either from popular teenage drama series like “13 Reasons Why,” popular YouTube videos, or any number of social media posts, movies, or maybe even real life experiences. Parents can’t hide children from the reality of suicide, but informing yourself about what children are seeing, and talking to them about what they’ve seen or heard can offer a powerful lifeline. Helping them to grasp the severity of suicide – no coming back, no opportunity for things to get better, no reward or satisfaction – will help to save lives.

Get help

Just because an imminent threat has passed doesn’t mean the danger is gone. The CDC estimates 90 percent of individuals who commit suicide were experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of death.

“Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, have periods of improvement and worsening,” said Dr. John Wilkaitis, Medical Director for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Even though a child may seem okay, it is important to seek professional help to better understand and address the underlying cause of suicidal thoughts and feelings. Therapists can help youth develop a safety plan as well as aid them in developing positive coping skills to deal with intense emotions.”

Feeling alone is one of the most critical factors of suicide. Know that you are never truly 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. If you find you need someone to talk to about suicidal thoughts or difficult situations, seek out a local mental health organization or contact area churches about free counseling ministries.

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

This article is shared with permission from Well-Being Magazine. It was originally
published in the magazine’s March/April 2018 issue. For more from Well-Being visit www.wellbeingmag.com.

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.

Cutting through the Pain

After sharing a deeply intimate night together, Lauren’s boyfriend, Bryan, broke up with her. She was angry, sad, devastated, and felt used. Hoping to cheer her up, Lauren’s friends talked her into dinner. When she arrived, Bryan’s car was outside. When Lauren saw Bryan and Jenny there together, he smiled and pulled Jenny close. Lauren could feel her heart in her throat; it felt as though everything was spinning around her. She turned and ran out the door to her car. The pain in Lauren’s chest was agonizing. She felt sick to her stomach and could not stop crying as she drove home. Her friends told her to calm down, that it was no big deal. Lauren felt like no one was actually listening; no one understood. The pain was too much and it had to end.

When she got home, Lauren found a pair of scissors on her mother’s sewing table. In the quiet of her bathroom, she carved small cuts into her arm. Lauren was careful not to cut too deep as to leave visible scars. She placed them carefully as to be easily concealed. With each cut, she felt a sense of calm rush over her. Exhausted from such an emotional evening, she cleaned the scissors, placed them back on the table and went to bed. Lauren felt empty inside, but the pain of the cuts helped her remember she was in control of her pain.

Cutting became a source of release for Lauren. It cleared her mind and caused her emotional pain to subside. Lauren found control in cutting. She could decide where and how deeply to cut. It helped her to relieve anxiety and stress. It was a secret she kept to herself. Rather than relying on the support of friends or family, Lauren would cut when the world became too much, until the night that even cutting couldn’t ease her pain.

When teens are faced with new levels of stress, whether it is over grades, or relationships or how they will perform during a game, they must find a way to relieve the stress knotted up inside their body. Some teens turn to positive coping mechanisms such as moderate exercise, meditation, journaling or listening to music. Others find ways that alter the way they feel through alcohol use and self-medication, self-injury (such as cutting) or participating in risky behavior. Much like alcohol and drugs, self-injury can lead to an immediate feeling of relief but each time it requires more and more to have the same effect.

“When working with a child who self-injures, the first important thing to understand is ‘why’ they self-injure. What pain are they trying to mask,” said Caitlin Mudd, Program Director for Canopy CARES Center. “Your brain releases chemical endorphins as a self-preservation mechanism when your body experiences physical injury. For many of our kids who have experienced a lot of trauma, it is actually easier for them to experience physical pain than emotional pain, so self-injury helps them replace what’s going on inside with something they can manage through the body’s natural response. We work with them to understand their pain and find a healthier way to address it.”


Each year, one in five girls and one in seven boys engage in self-injurious behavior. Approximately 90 percent of individuals who engage in self-harm, do so during their teen and pre-teen years. If often starts by the age of 14 and can carry on into their 20s without the right help. Self-injury can occur for many reasons including an individual’s attempt to relieve emotional numbness or pain, inflict punishment on themselves, reenact abuse, establish what is “real,” or regain a sense of control over one’s self. Self-injuring behaviors may start from introduction from a peer, something the youth has seen on the internet or television, or it may happen merely out of impulse or by accident. Self-injury can, but does not always, accompany the presence of a mental health challenge such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorder.

Self-harm is identified by a number of behaviors. The most common include:

  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Interfering with wound healing (picking or reopening wounds)
  • Punching or hitting oneself or other objects
  • Inserting objects into the skin
  • Purposely bruising or breaking one’s bones
  • Pulling out eyelashes, brows or scalp hair (not for grooming)

Self-injurious behavior is often concealed. Do not confuse this as a ploy for attention as individuals often don’t broadcast self-injury wounds, making these behaviors sometimes difficult to spot. If you notice someone wearing unusual clothing for the time of year, i.e. long sleeves during hot summer months, they could be concealing self-injury wounds. A person may also refuse to participate in activities they once enjoyed that would reveal such wounds, i.e. going swimming or visiting the beach. A sign can also be if a person has consistently fresh wounds but also has a seemingly logical story, i.e. cat scratches, or getting in a fight no one saw to explain a broken hand. You may also notice items that they use to self-injure in peculiar places such as razor blades in their backpack or pocket.

If you suspect someone is self-injuring, approach them and tell them you want to help. When you broach the topic, remain calm and don’t be demeaning. Tell them what you’ve noticed that concerns you. Ask them about things that are going on in their lives and how it makes them feel. Be particularly mindful of feelings of emptiness. Encourage a teen to be open with their parents or trusted adult who can connect them with a mental health professional. Finding adequate support can help to end or ease the frequency of self-injury.

If you or someone you know is self-injuring, confide in someone who can help find a better way to cope. This can be a counselor, therapist, teacher, coach, parent, youth minister, pediatrician or other trusted adult. Don’t just assume symptoms will go away on their own. Getting professional help is important for long-term safety. Ignoring the problem can push a child toward more dangerous and risky behaviors.

Canopy Children’s Solutions is a Mississippi-based non-profit with Behavioral Health Clinics in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Gulfport working specifically with children and adolescents ages 5-20. For more information on Canopy outpatient clinics, contact a Care Coordinator at 800.388.6247. You can also click here.