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Is it just me, or is the world spinning faster these days? From the stressed Wall Street businessman to the stay at home mom running from PTO to the soccer field, everyone seems busy. While it certainly is productive, I have to wonder, “How is this fast-paced lifestyle affecting our families?” No doubt our bustling schedules prune away at the time we spend together. Just one full-time job requires 40 hours a week. This alone does not leave many waking hours for spouses, children, and other significant relationships. Toss in school, sports, church, and the other various activities that fill our days, and well you get the picture. We all understand how busy we are and how limited our time. The real question is this: “Is this lack of quality family time adversely affecting our children?” and if so, “What can we do about it?”
Researchers in the fields of counseling and psychology have been asking these very questions, and their findings are quite interesting. Authors of a variety of studies have found significant, positive connections between the amount of quality time a family spends together and the healthy development of the children within that family. In fact, one study found that something as simple as regular and frequent family dinners can decrease high-risk behaviors like alcohol, tobacco, and drug use among adolescents by as much as 18 percent. Moreover, regular, frequent family dinners also seem to help children and adolescents with: self-esteem, sense of purpose, a positive view of the future and the confidence the resist peer pressure. This seems to suggest that adolescents may learn social skills and family values and develop a more positive self-worth during mealtime interactions.
So let’s get practical; how can we make these miracle-working dinners fit into our crammed schedules? Step one is to MAKE the time. Most likely extra hours are not going to start falling from the sky and attaching themselves to our days. If we want more meal-time with our families, we have to set that time apart. Deciding on a few days a week where family dinner will be the priority is a good start. Step two is to BE FLEXIBLE. Something is inevitably going come up. If piano lessons are not over until 7, then have an afternoon snack and pick up a pizza on the way home for a late dinner. After all, it does not matter what you eat or what time you eat it. The key is being together, strengthening family relationships, and releasing daily stresses. Step three to making this work for you is to SHARE the responsibilities. If mom cooks, then have an older sibling help the younger one with homework while dad does the dishes. The more effort each family member puts forth to make these dinners possible, the more they will appreciate their value! A few more steps and suggestions are outlined below: but ultimately it is your family; be creative and make it fun!
Talor Trenchard, a Paris, Texas native and happily married mother of two, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in applied psychology. She is currently working as a therapist at Oasis of Paris. Talor is trained in psychological and neuropsychological evaluations and specializes in cognitive, achievement, and personality assessments. She has experience diagnosing and working with individuals with a variety of psychological conditions including but not limited to, ADHD, dyslexia, mental retardation, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, reactive attachment disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.
In the past month Paris has lost two young people to suicide and a third death is still awaiting tests result for the cause . Suicide is a tragic, no matter the circumstance, but to lose three people in the matter of a month can lead one to ask “What is going on in Paris?” This question fueled my search for answers. What I found surprised and saddened me. The United States national suicide average is 2.74 per 25,000 population, Texas’ suicide average is 2.8 per 25,000, and Paris’ suicide average is 4.36 per 25,000. Our number is not twice the national and state average, but it is close! I spoke with Lanny Berman, the executive director of the American Association of Suicidology to try to understand why Paris’ rate is so high. He reports “It is high, but you have to figure out if your town is typical over all. Certain characteristics can increase your numbers.”
This only led me to more questions. What could make the people of Paris’, Texas, more prone to suicide? There are many factors that contribute to, or are associated with, higher suicide risk. These include: age, gender, poverty, inequality, joblessness, family disruption, mental illness, and substance abuse. Although, women attempt suicide more often, men complete suicide more often. This holds true in Paris. In the last eleven years there were a total of 48 suicides, 40 of which were men. Age plays a part in suicide as well. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. In Paris the majority of completed suicides were among 35-50 year olds. Only 8 of the 48 deaths were among those younger than 30. Substance abuse plays a large part in suicide. One-third of those that die by suicide have alcohol in their system at the time of death and one in five have opiates in their system. This data was not available to me about Paris, but as a Substance Abuse Counselor, I know firsthand that drugs and alcohol are a problem in Paris. There are many factors that contribute to a higher risk of suicide, and we may never fully understand why the rate in Paris is so high. What we can do is educate ourselves on what to look for in our friends and loved ones. When I asked Mr. Berman what warning signs to look for, he pointed me to the acronym IS PATH WARM and the American Association of Suicidology website www.suicidology.org. Here is what I found:
IS PATH WARM?
A person in acute (immediate) risk for suicidal behavior most often will show:
Warning Signs of Acute Risk:
Additional Warning Signs:
Suicide is serious, and it is better to be safe than sorry. If any of the above is observed in someone you know, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral. Though the consequences of suicide are devastating and some of the statistics presented in this article are frightening, we can combat suicide with knowledge, awareness, and action.
Ashley Womack has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in counseling and is currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M University-Commerce. She is a licensed chemical dependency counselor. She has worked in community mental health for several years and is now a therapist at Insight Counseling of Paris. She will be teaching counseling classes at A&M in the fall. She is also owner/operator of www.thepaperhelper.com.
eParis Extra! is pleased to announce it’s newest column The Couch. The column will feature intriguing articles about mental health, relationships and substance abuse issues. Our new contributing columnists are Ashley Womack, a licensed chemical dependency counselor and therapist at Insight Counseling here in Paris, and fellow colleague Talor Trenchard who will write about family and marriage issues.
Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in counseling and is currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M University-Commerce. She will be teaching counseling classes at A&M in the fall. She is also owner/operator of www.thepaperhelper.com.
Talor is trained in psychological and neuropsychological evaluations and specializes in cognitive, achievement, and personality assessments. She has experience diagnosing and working with individuals with a variety of psychological conditions including but not limited to, ADHD, dyslexia, mental retardation, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, reactive attachment disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.
If you have suggestions of topics you would like them to address, please send them to Extra@eParisTexas.com.
Welcome Ashley and Talor!