Town Hall Series

Join us for a Town Hall

with the Hunterdon Medical Center Residents.

This event is a town hall to ask mental health questions to our panel of prevention staff and medical residents from Hunterdon Medical Center.

Meet the Residents

Christopher Corcoran, MD

Arif Hafeez, DO

Christopher West, MD

Matt Sallady, DO

Michael Briski, MD

Melissa Burke, MD

Thank you for joining us for the Parent Town Hall! Access the recording of the Parent Town Hall below.

Thank you for joining us for the Teen Town Hall! Access the recording of the Teen Town Hall below.

Frequently Asked Questions

These questions were asked in the chat or on the registration and due to time were unable to be answered. Responses are from Lynne Gonski the Coordinator of School-Based Youth Services with Hunterdon Behavioral Health and Lindsay Miskiewicz a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Clinical Coordinator for the Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program at the Hunterdon Medical Center.

Any advice on how to help an immunocompromised & developmentally delayed teenager not feel isolated when we can’t see people in person and they don’t engage well over Zoom?
Lindsay: I would try to explore the teen’s interests and strengths and possibly use social media to inquire about COVID-friendly activities in those areas.  You could also join a support group for parents of kids with similar conditions and see what they are doing too.

What services are suggested for a high school teen classified as “minor intellectual disability”?
Lindsay: This depends on what type of services are needed.  If it’s for academic support, your teen likely qualifies for an IEP or 504 accommodations.  For these services, you would contact your child’s school guidance counselor.  If this is for socialization, this would depend on how the teen functions in general and how they relate to their peers, as well as what their interests and strengths are.

How can I help deal with anxiety in middle school age students?
Lindsay: Helping them identify the thoughts or situations that are making them feel anxious is a good first step.  In therapy, we work on helping kids reframe or challenge irrational worried thoughts to reduce anxiety.  In general, normalizing and validating their feelings will help them open up.  Judgment or criticism will do the opposite.  Also helping your kids develop coping skills such as exercise, meditation, cooking/baking, cleaning (maybe lol), yoga, etc…whatever they are interested in and good at, can help relieve stress, build confidence and reduce anxiety overall.
Lynne: I have attached below an info sheet on ways to reduce anxiety; it holds for middle school kids & teens.  It lists 10 things that serve to cause or maintain anxiety, and then 10 “antidotes”, if you will. It’s a quick, easy read, and I think the tips are things that kids really can road-test.

We moved to the area and my kids are in elementary school. What can I do to help them make some new friends here?
Lindsay: Where do they live, what are their kids interests/strengths, and utilize social media (i.e., Ladies of Hunterdon, Women of Hunterdon) to inquire about what other kids are doing now activity wise.  It can be surprisingly helpful and a useful way to get connected.  You could also ask the school if they know of any activities going on in the community at this time.  Also, you could try taking your kids to a local park to play.  You never know who else might be there to talk with and find out what’s available around town.

If my (already diagnosed) depressed teen has asked me to back off and I am trying to pick my battles, how do I gauge when my involvement will be helpful versus when it will just chase him away more?
Lindsay: If your teen is not already in therapy, it might be good to link them.  It’s helpful to have a 3rd party with an objective perspective to help with communication.  If you need a therapist, you can call 908-788-6401 prompt 4 to schedule them for an Intake and get them linked.
Lynne: So yeah, a caring, inquisitive parent combined with a private teen can be the 3rd rail, in terms of communication; it really creates a tightrope for the parent. I think the best approach is to be direct about your worries and then see if the teen would be willing to strike some kind of deal with you: “Look, I get that you don’t want me asking you everyday how you’re doing; at the same time, you’re my kid and of course, I want to be sure that you’re ok. What idea could we think of that gives you some space and me some reassurance?” Brainstorm a bit – maybe you decrease your queries to once / week, but she has to give you some time and more than one work replies….or maybe you get to ask a few times / week, but you do it via text or notes, and she agrees to be reasonably forthcoming.  Maybe you won’t ask at all, but she agrees to allow you in at the end of her session with her therapist, where you can be debriefed.
Another helpful tip here is to reassure your kid that you won’t over-react; many kids have told me that fear of parents “being extra” is a big reason that they don’t share stuff. So if she says, “I still feel like hell, ok?” you DON”T want to say, “Omgosh, well, this is terrible, maybe I should call Dr Jones right now! And I’m not going to leave you alone for the rest of the day, sweetie!” What she learns fast is “Mom is extra, and I don’t need that right now – so going forward, my answer is going to be:  “Fine'”.  The better reply to that statement is, “Rats – I know we were both hoping that the medication would have kicked in….but the doctor did say it might take a few weeks….how about this? – let’s go out to lunch and then stop at Kohls :)”  What she learns fast is “It is really ok if I let my Mom know how I’m doing.”

With access to so much information on the internet, many teenagers are aware of mental health issues today, which is a good thing. However, they are also more prone to self-diagnosing themselves as well. What effect, if any, do you think this is having on them?
Lindsay: I think kids generally research what they are curious about.  If they find something that explains how they are feeling, this could help lead them into therapy which could lead to a more formal/accurate diagnosis.

There are different views on medicating teens for depression and anxiety. Some therapists choose to medicate teens for depression early on, even before they have introduced behavioral techniques. Why is this okay?
Lindsay: Depending on the level of depression/anxiety, if a child cannot follow through to implement therapeutic skills in order to stabilize their mood and functioning, medication will usually be introduced to turn the volume down on their symptoms.  Once their symptoms are more manageable, the child will likely have an easier time implementing certain coping and symptom management skills to stabilize their mood.  However, if a child CAN follow through with coping skills and goals set in sessions, then medication would not likely be needed at the start of treatment.

How do I help my children with both the lack of social contact AND the lack of motivation, due to the isolation?
Lindsay: Kids benefit a lot from structure and routine, as well as having something to focus on that they enjoy and/or are good at.  Maybe try to explore their interests and schedule some fun out of the house/outdoor activities to get them moving again.  Therapy is always an option too.

What will be a daily or weekly routine to keep a better communication with our teenagers?
Lindsay: In general, kids don’t like to communicate when it’s “bad news”.  So, I would say try to limit the constructive feedback to a pre-scheduled/planned day/time, this way your child won’t avoid you all week expecting “bad news”
Lynne: Good communication probably happens best organically….so to me, it’s probably less important that we schedule stuff than that we create a climate in the house that supports open conversation when that need arises…we can do this by: 1. being open about our own feelings & moods (“Idk, I just felt kinda down this week.”) 2. Not over-reacting 3. Making enlightened comments about mental health issues as they come up in the news, on TV shows (for ex, NOT “What’s all this cutting nonsense about anyway?”) 4. Spend less energy asking your kid questions and more energy planning stuff for your family to do – either together, or just with one kid at a time….doing stuff fosters conversation during the activity, gives you something to talk about after and fosters some feel-goodness that will help open conversation in general 5. Be curious about your kid – what’s new in fashion, food, fun, social media – they are, after all, our ambassadors to 2021…they have a lot of cool stuff they could tell you!

My teen started freshman year as new to the district the few friends she made she has lost. She is depressed and will not go to school in-person nor is she motivated to join clubs or get a job no matter how much I encourage her to. She is taking all her anger and frustrations out on us. How do I get out her of this situation?
Lindsay: Is she in treatment?  She sounds depressed.  If she is already with a therapist, she might need a higher level of care such as the Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program.  You can call 908-788-6401 prompt 4 to schedule her for an Intake that will recommend the appropriate treatment level.

How do you help a child whose grades have dropped dramatically since the start of the pandemic, and they have no interest in getting back on track? They’ve lost all interest in school and school-related activities.
Lindsay: Are they in treatment?  They sound depressed.  If they are already with a therapist, they might need a higher level of care such as the Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program.  You can call 908-788-6401 prompt 4 to schedule them for an Intake that will recommend the appropriate treatment level.

How can we differentiate from teen behavior (mood swings, irritability etc.) and depression?
Lindsay: Length of time/duration of the mood change is typically a good indicator.  An occasional mood/outburst is relatively normal, but if this lasts more than a few weeks, it could be depression.

How can we create an interesting in real life experience to help draw teens out of the digital world?
Lindsay: Tap into their interests/strengths and get them outside/out of the house/away from most electronics.
Lynne: The problem really isn’t Covid – there are plenty of Covid-safe activities out there…the problem is probably ones imagination. Google day trips – there are tons of sites that list cool outdoor places to visit that are not far, and many are region-specific, so they’re close by. Put on sweatshirts and drive to the shore; have lunch there, and buy a NJ t-shirt.

Advice for helping a depressed teen (18) with PTSD from childhood abuse. He “self-medicates” with weed and refuses to believe antidepressants could help him.
Lindsay: In therapy, we would explore the teen’s readiness for change.  If he is open to therapy, you can link him to Hunterdon Behavioral Health – Addiction Treatment Services dept. Call 908-788-6401 prompt 4 to schedule an Intake.

How do we bridge the gap by knowing what our kids know? A lot of parents have open dialogue with the kids but it’s not enough most of the time.
Lindsay: Talk to their teachers, coaches, friends, siblings, advisors of clubs – anyone who has direct contact with your kids.  Also, try to come at them with curiosity Vs judgment to help them open up.  The second you demonize something they enjoy, they will likely not want to tell you about it again.

What outside of school-socializing events are there (zoom/online)?
A lot of sports/activities seem to be virtual. Depending on where you live, Healthquest seems to offer a lot of activities. Leaning on social media to “ask around” for different ideas is not a bad option.

Prevention Resources also has events for teens and clubs like HCYC. Click here for more information.

What mental health resources are there for the Spanish speaking population without health insurance?
Lindsay: Hospital Assistance at the Hunterdon Medical Center – We can utilize Spectra Corp Interpreter services. If documented, you can also apply for Medicaid and access Performcare.