Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mental Health Day

Working the 9-5 grind can become quite overwhelming week in and week out. But how can you recharge your batteries? Why not just take a day off.

A survey by ComPsych, a provider of employee assistance programs, found that 82 percent of employees admitted taking a mental health day. You may not think this is the best option but taking a mental health day can help you remain productive at work and help you relax.

When should a mental health day be taken?

There are foursigns that you need a break from work, said Brandon M. Smith an expert in workplace health.

1. You’re suddenly not sleeping well or have developed insomnia.
2. You can’t shake last week’s stress. In other words, your level of stress is greater than your current stressors.
3. You’re snippy with your spouse, your kids or your co-workers.
4. You feel a general sense of apathy and don’t care about your work.

So what do you do on you mental health day?

The point of a mental health day is not like a normal day off where you go out on the town with your friends or family, the point is to relax your mind and body and truly recharge your body. A big thing you can do is catch up on sleep, especially if you have been feeling exhausted at work. Another thing to treat yourself to is a spa day, get a relaxing massage, and let your daily strains release from your body. Another way is to go see your family! If work has you busy on the weekends and you haven’t had a chance to see your close friends and family, taking a day to talk and spend time with them may be important. You can even simply curl up and read a book and drink some coffee! To take a successful mental health day you can do anything that helps you relax both your mind and body.

With stress listed as a top source for work related problems, APA or The American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of Americans  experience physical symptoms from stress. So while you may think a day off may stress you out more and put you further back in your work, it may be the best option to further productivity down the road. Plus some employers now even include mental health days in their benefits. gives us a checklist about how to effectively take a mental health day!

·         Don’t spend the day feeling guilty. It won’t help you recharge.
·         Pick your day smartly, and be respectful of your team. It is unprofessional to take a mental health break on the day of a big meeting or presentation.
·         Call (or email, or text) early. Your boss may need to plan, or re-plan, the day given your absence. This is easier for to do if he or she knows first thing, not late-morning.
·         Don’t lie. You don’t have to call it a mental health day. But rather than making up fake medical conditions, symptoms, or family crises, you can tell your boss you aren’t feeling great, and you believe you will be most effective if you stay home for the day and return to work after some rest.
·         Make sure you recharge. You know yourself best. Whether it’s lunch with a friend, a pedicure, a day outdoors, or curling up with a new book or the entire first season of Glee, do something for yourself.
·         Come back ready to go. Chances are you’ll have a bit to catch up on after a day off, but show up ready for it.

If you think you need a mental health day do not be afraid to ask for one. Being stressed at work can cause a dip in productivity and can cause apathy towards your job. Simply taking a day off can help recharge your batteries and improve your mood.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for daily updates about Preferred Family Healthcare and news about mental health.

-Maxwell Law

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Binge Drinking and You

While binge drinking is typically thought of as something youth and young adults, especially college students, participate in, data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) shows that this behavior is also widespread among older adults. More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink about 4 times a month, and the largest number of drinks per binge is on average 8. While the age group of 18 to 34 year olds has the most binge drinkers, people 65 years and older binge drink most often.

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when a woman consumes 4 or more drinks and when a man consumes 5 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. According to the CDC most people who binge drink are not alcoholics.

Binge drinking is a dangerous public health problem and contributes to over 54 different injuries and diseases, from car crashes and violence to sexually-transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. The chance of getting sick and dying from alcohol problems greatly increases for those who binge drink more often. According to the 2010 BRFSS, binge drinking is most common in the Midwest. In Missouri the estimated number of adults who binge drink ranges from 16.8% to 18.6% and the average largest number of drinks within a short period of time among binge drinkers ranges from 7.8 drinks to 9 drinks.

Everyone can help prevent binge drinking by choosing to limit the number of drinks they consume and to let others know the dangers of binge drinking. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines on alcohol consumption recommend no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.

Pregnant women and underage youth should not drink alcohol.

When you come to the end

of your rope,

tie a knot and hang on.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

By Tina Stevens

About the Author: Tina Stevens is a Prevention Secretary with Preferred Family Healthcare. The prevention team works with coalitions throughout the Northern 27 counties in Missouri. She attend fairs and events to distribute information about ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) to bring awareness to our communities. In July 2012 she joined the Healthcare Home team as their secretary/care coordinator. Healthcare Home is a fairly new program in the State of Missouri that is combining Mental Health and Physical Health of our consumers to treat the whole person.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Heart Full Of Thanks

During this season of holidays and festivities, adolescents in our residential programs can tend to form bleak outlooks as they find themselves displaced from families and celebrations they may otherwise be a part of.   

Substance use creates consistent problems within communities as it rips individuals from their homes, peer associations, communities, academic supports, churches, youth organizations, sports, clubs, and other connections.  

While in the recovery program, our adolescents are learning to rebuild these connections, as well as form new connections to their communities to help sustain their recovery efforts.  As a part of the month of November, Adolescents at the Kirksville site engaged in a three-week art program addressing what gratitude means, and how to identify things in their lives they have taken for grated prior to engaging in programs of recovery.

In our first week of exploring gratitude, clients were asked to define gratitude.  Various responses were given including being thankful for things that they have, etc, but one of my favorite responses came from a 16 year old female who stated, “Gratitude is respecting the things that you have, and putting your heart into the things you are glad for.”  Clients were then asked to generate a list of 50 things they were grateful for, which, despite initial resistance toward, was a very insightful activity for them.  Based on these lists, individuals created gratitude collages, reflecting these things in life they have come to “respect” and “put their heart into”.  Here are a few examples of what our clients came up with:

The following week in group, clients reviewed their definition of gratitude, and were again asked to identify at least one thing they were thankful for that day.  Then, a challenge was impressed upon them that if they were not given any art supplies for the group, and were simply given items found in the trash and recycled materials, would they be able to come up with and create an original piece of art?  Essentially, they were challenged to make something out of nothing.  A lot of clients who come to our program come at a very low point in their life where they have lost so many things.  So, when they enter into a recovery program, they quite literally feel as though they have “nothing” left.  This project enabled our clients to piece together bit by bit a project they initially had no vision for, with tools, concepts, and materials they were given, much like the stages and phases of their individual recovery. 

On the third week of our thanksgiving, I originally anticipated our clients to be very bored with addressing the concept of gratitude, as Thanksgiving was a few days away and the concept of “giving thanks” had been drilled into their heads for the past few weeks.  However, I was quite surprised by the hearts and attitudes of clients who were genuinely examining things in their lives they had been taking for granted, and ways they were willing to address and repair these severed relationships and ties.  In this week of exploring gratitude, clients were asked to create an original rap, poem, or short story, depicting thankfulness.  Here is one example from a 16 year old female, who wrote about what Thanksgiving means to her:

Thanksgiving Poem
I wake up to the smells I enjoy.

My friends and family gathering

with joy.

Spending quality time is the best,

with the ones you have missed.

Oh how I feel so blessed.

The turkey is basting,

it will be quite tasty.

I’m quiet excited for our meal.

We dish our plates, while we conversate,

about how our lives have been.

It’s been so long…

That I’ve been gone,

and I realize how much

I have missed…

So on this Thanksgiving,

I thank God for bringing

me and my family back together…

In moving forward through the holiday season, the Kirksville Adolescents are going to be moving into a time of “giving back,” and are focusing on ways they can take things they are learning not to take for granted, and pour back out into the lives and programs of individuals in their lives and communities.

-Natasha VanderWeide 

About the author: Natasha VanderWeide is the A.R.T.C. Regional Coordinator for PFH's Central Region.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recognizing Addiction

Acknowledging you or someone you know has an addiction is hard. You may deny an addictions existence, give excuses, or even think the problem will fix itself. Truth is, recognizing the craving is the first step in helping you or someone else seek help and get over addiction.

This talented young Wentzville, Mo. artist shared his depiction of the polarized world of addiction and recovery
What are some ways to detect addiction problems?

An obvious one is a change in behavior. The people who notice changes in behaviors the most are the ones closest to someone. Is someone you know irritable or acting distant? A change is behavior can come from addiction by changing the way a person may act, react, and think. Drugs can even cause mood changes, depression, aggression, and paranoia in people.

One less obvious one involves money. Is someone constantly borrowing money from friends and family? Addictions can be expensive, and cause users to spend large amounts of money forcing them to borrow money from friends and family. Borrowing can also lead to stealing money and other items.

Be above the influence!
A change of friends. Have you noticed someone has changed a group of friends? Someone you know may be shying away from their old steady friends and may spend their time around risky characters. A person may share their addictions with other people, and choose to spend their time around those similar people.

Is someone not performing as well as they used to at work or school? A change in performance relating to addiction can be caused by a change in sleeping pattern, changes in attitude, and the times when they need to get their "fix". You may also notice someone moving away from their goals, instead of making progress in their life they may become depressed and not try to succeed.

Recovery vs. Addiction
Besides emotional and psychological changes, people can also see physical changes.

You may notice someone has red, glassy, or dilated eyes. People may show signs of physical drug use on their bodies including scratch marks, needle marks, or burns. Drugs can cause changes in speech as well, including speaking in rapid incoherent phrases and also slurred speech. You might even notice someone acting different including constantly scratching their body, showing quick movements including looking around, and even appearing lethargic while moving or walking.

At Preferred Family healthcare we understand how hard it can be when a family member needs help. We also understand how much care professionals take when making a referral. That's why, for over 30 years, both families and professionals throughout the Midwest have trusted us.

Learn more about our services on our Website, or more about our prevention services.

-Maxwell Law

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It Takes A Village to Keep Teens Substance Free

While long suspected to be the case, researchers have conducted a study where results show higher levels of parental knowledge and disciplinary consistency leading to a lower likelihood of substance use, whereas lower levels lead to a higher likelihood of substance use. 

"I think that it empowers parents to know that not only can they have an influence on their own children, but they can also have a positive influence on their children's friends as well," said Michael J. Cleveland, research assistant professor at the Prevention Research Center and the Methodology Center, Penn State. "And that by acting together -- the notion of 'it takes a village' -- can actually result in better outcomes for adolescents."

Read the full story and research details here.

“Acceptance of others, their looks, their behaviors, their beliefs, bring you an inner peace and tranquility ~ instead of anger and resentment”  ~ Author Unknown

-Tina Stevens 

About the Author: Tina Stevens is a Prevention Secretary with Preferred Family Healthcare. The prevention team works with coalitions throughout the Northern 27 counties in Missouri. She attend fairs and events to distribute information about ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) to bring awareness to our communities. In July 2012 she joined the Healthcare Home team as their secretary/care coordinator. Healthcare Home is a fairly new program in the State of Missouri that is combining Mental Health and Physical Health of our consumers to treat the whole person.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hope Can Grow

Throughout our time, gardens have been seen as a thing of beauty, sustenance and a place for growth.  There are all types of gardens from vegetable, flowers, to zoological where we go to enjoy nature and take away memories.

The idea of a garden brings a calming and peaceful setting into mind as many of our clients would say. In particular, the call it “a place to get away from it all.”

Kansas City Adolescent’s A.R.T.C. program just recently completed the installation of our consumer named “Sobriety Garden” to show that “hope can grow.” For the last 18 months, Kansas City’s A.R.T.C. program has been on a journey to make this vision a reality. Each group of consumers over this time has contributed to the success of the project. The first stage of the process was envisioning what the ideal garden would look like. 

They continued to pour their thoughts of a place to “chill and rest their mind” into their ideas and discussions. One young person involved stressed that “the main point of this garden is to make someone feel welcome and have a place to get encouragement when they are not feeling their best.” 

As we researched the installation of the “Sobriety Garden” we found a long standing example to draw from called the Bellvue Sobriety Garden in New York.  In line with the sentiments of our  Kansas City adolescents, the organization had this to say about their garden:

“Since 1989, the garden has been a sanctuary for patients, and increasingly for staff and visitors, who come to garden, meditate, and relax amidst the flowers, greenery and unique folk sculptures and mosaics. Built by recovering addicts, funded strictly by donations of time, supplies and money, it is a showcase therapeutic site.” via RunningInterface.

Through participation in Lee’s Summit Downtown Days this past summer, displaying crafts for sale and face painting, money was raised to begin the purchase of materials. Within the month of September 2012, all of the consumers’ hard work and positive thoughts came to fruition by partnering with Get Growing Kansas City’s Sheri Harvel who is an organic gardener herself. Ms Harvel educated our young consumers on the late season planting and harvesting phase. She shared what plants would be best to garden for the season and described the symbolism of plants and how to utilize them for aroma therapy. They were also given information on how to maintain the garden and put their motivation and positive energy to work in growing the garden. In addition a very important nutrition component was conveyed, teaching these young people how to grow food and how to harvest food and eat well. The group then constructed 2 raised beds, added organic soil, and planted late season flowers as well as vegetables. 

These talented young people are continually shaping and creating art to plant in the garden as well. The art ranges from abstract concepts such as actual doors that represent types of people that may enter the garden, billboard murals, ceramic tiles, stair steps to recovery and even a light switch. Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Missouri Organic and our wonderful staff from the Kansas City site made it possible to move the project forward.

The impact on the group has been very positive. The group has experienced a more supportive environment, and has been displaying incorporation of transferable learning from the process of building a garden such as “it takes time to grow”, “I have a place to sit and think”, “I can’t wait to do this again”, and “ it’s cool to be able to help someone…I wish someone did this for me.”

Harvesting the late season vegetables will begin November first to show the fruits of their labor and the benefits of growing your own food.   

While the Kansas City site is in its first stage of the garden, there are plans for a 2nd stage in the spring. Currently, we are looking for grant opportunities to continue the work and instill hope and change in the young people we serve. 

 Get Growing Kansas City has awesome opportunities for small scale growers in our region. You can see their work at

-Tamiko French

About the Author: Tamiko French is the passionate and dedicated A.R.T.C. Regional Coordinator from Preferred Family Healthcare’s Western Region.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bullying Awareness

Since October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month we would like to do a post about bullying.

Bullying can happen to anyone, children are not the only people bullied. Adults in relationships or even at work can be bullied on a regular basis.

Bullying can be described as harm done to an individual through physical, emotional, or verbal abuse by someone who thinks they are stronger than the individual. People can be belittled, picked on, or even have rumors spread about them.

Bullying is not a part of life, and no one should have to live with being bullied, especially with all the stories in the media recently of how bullying led children and teens to suicide.

Many people are bullied for two main reasons:
  • Their appearance
  • Their social status (including sex, religion, race and sexual  identity)

It is terrible that some children wake up scared because they are worried they will be bullied at schools. Our students should be safe in school, because that promotes a better learning environment.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Everybody's Doing It

For some teenagers, fitting in is the most important thing. They constantly think about how people perceive them. Do their clothes look cool enough? Is their hair styled correctly? Do they look fat?

Peer pressure is a huge influence of many problems in teenagers today; from drinking, eating disorders, and drug use.

The definition of peer pressure is the social influence from a peer group that exerts on individual members, as each member attempts to conform to the expectations of the group, and can also be called conformity. Kids do this because they want to be cool, fit in, and be praised by their peers. If they don’t succumb to peer pressure some other pressures at become prevalent like bullying, another serious issue that we will cover in a later week.

“Everybody’s Doing It”

It is almost unheard of to not hear of peer pressure, in almost any stage of life from adolescence to adulthood. Their peers pressure them constantly to attempt risky behavior

                       gives us a few risk factors Peer Pressure Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors for peer pressure, personality traits that make you more prone to give in to pressure. The traits that put you at higher risk for falling in to the peer pressure trap include:
  • low self esteem
  • lack of confidence
  • uncertainty about ones place within a given peer group
  • no personal interests exclusive of one's peer group
  • feeling isolated from peers and/or family
  • poor academic abilities or performance
  • fear of one's peers
  • lack of strong ties to friends
  • feeling that friends could turn on you
  • close bond with a bully

Some risks teens may take can include binge drinking. At parties teens can be easily influenced to try and drink alcohol. Another risk is drug use. Teens can feel the need to fit in and smoke cigarettes and even try more drugs like marijuana and prescription pills. It can also cause dangerous behavior, ever heard of, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it too?”.

Prevention works best when you are fully prepared. Talk to your child about peer pressure, alcohol, and drugs. Let them know how peer pressure works and how they can combat it. Preparing statements like, “I can’t smoke because I have asthma” or “I don’t drink, I’m driving tonight”. Even simply telling them to say I cannot do drugs because my parent’s drug test me can work.

Don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable, and if you feel pressured you can always just walk away. “But they are my friends!” Let your friends know you do not want to do the activity and if they were really your friend they wouldn’t want to do anything that hurts you. Making new friends may be another option. Peer pressure is hard to overcome but it is well worth it, kids may make mistakes but keeping them safe is important. Please talk to you kids today about peer pressure.

As always, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and come back next week for a new post!

-Maxwell Law