Anger often feels like a clean, powerful emotion, burning hot and bright. A very powerful force, it can motivate people to take positive actions for causes they believe in, such as starting groups to help clean up highways and local parks, donating time at the local animal shelter, or using frustration to motivate change. Yet anger itself is not straight forward. The Anger Iceberg illustration accompanying this article shows just how many complex emotions or events can combine into that powerful force. Directing that force into positive actions or productive methods of release can take both skills and practice.
According to an article in the medical journal The Lancet, "Unprecedented global forces are shaping the health and wellbeing of the largest generation of 10 to 24-year-olds in human history." (2423) Such a large social group, "primed to engage" as they are by nature, with others and with causes they care about (2461) can, if they choose, have a powerful positive impact on their societies, local and global. Making careful, informed choices while learning to sort through and manage emotional responses allows each person to decide how they want to contribute. Letting emotions, particularly anger and emotions that lead to anger, dictate actions without time for thought or without management skills, leads to unintended actions and consequences
Feelings don't just come from nowhere. People can gain control by determining what feelings feed anger or other emotions, and by evaluating what responses to actions past and present contribute. For example, did the whole day go wrong from the moment you tripped getting on the bus? Or did tripping while getting on the bus make the whole day feel wrong? Either way, the better response may be to evaluate the incident, and your reaction to it, at a time when you're not feeling stress or other negative emotions brought on by the event.
How much of what measurably went or felt wrong had to do with your responses and choices - which in turn were affected by the emotions you felt about tripping in front of people? How much would have been measurably bad or would have been handled the same way without those emotions? What if you'd been able to separate the emotions brought on by the tripping incident from the rest of your day, even before getting off the bus? Sometimes one thing can ruin a whole day. The trick is to figure out how that happens and short circuit that process.
Scheduling time for processing emotions and for talking to people in constructive ways that analyze the emotional build ups or stressors can be an important part of the process. Thoughtful friends, siblings, adults, teachers, coaches or counselors can all make excellent sounding boards, especially if they are the type of person who can listen to you work something through without trying to solve the problem for you. You also want to avoid just re-living emotions and events or stirring them up over and over. Instead, work to understand what you felt, and why you felt it, and then manage emotions by making choices which will benefit you, thereby setting up patterns for long term satisfaction.
Working through emotions and anger can sometimes begin simply by determining the nature of your anger. Are you a pop bottle that fizzes over regularly whenever shaken, only to be left later with the consequences and a flat feeling? Are you a volcano that quietly builds and builds and then erupts, to be left with burning heat still flowing while you try to deal with the consequences? Maybe your experience is something in-between, a bit of both. You react one way with some people and another way with others, or one way one day and another way the next. All of this is within the normal spectrum for the way anger works its way out. Skills and tactics can assist you to manage the flow, find a time and place of your choosing for the best way to release your anger, and then have more choices in your reactions and consequences.
Stepping back from a situation, line of thought, or wave of emotion and concentrating on three to five full, slow, deep breaths can help change what’s happening in your head and your body by slowing your heart rate and providing more oxygen where needed. This tactic provides a break in whatever is happening, allowing you to consider alternatives or keep from being overwhelmed by circumstances while providing a few moments to make more deliberate choices.
This tactic also gives you a chance to sort through the emotions that make up anger without pushing them down (a reaction that can lead to problems later). Even if you can’t walk away from a powerful situation at the moment it confronts you, the tactic of stepping back and breathing deeply can give you options and the chance to analyze what happened later. Used after the fact it allows you to proceed through the day without having a single event driving all your choices. Think about what is going through your head, and remember it – not to stew over it, but to think through how you might have preferred to handle yourself or address the situation. You can’t control others, but you can make your own choices and practice responses that are good for you.
Finding productive outlets for anger, particularly while it’s running high, can be difficult. It’s almost instinctive to try to escape negative feelings by becoming numb, or distracting yourself with friends, the internet, sports, music, TV, video games, reading or other activities. Escape is not always a bad thing, as long as it’s not the primary way of dealing with difficult emotions. We all need a break sometimes. Yet pushing emotions down and not dealing with them regularly can lead to pressure-bomb-like situations in which something small sets off a disproportionately huge reaction. When something like that happens, often anger gets taken out on the people present, rather than productive interactions happening with the people you are primarily upset with. Additionally, this can also lead to you or others ignoring all those emotions and events that can build into or become expressed as anger. Eventually this may come to the forefront at the wrong time, with the wrong people, or not in a way you would prefer.
How much down time you need before dealing with a disturbing situation is an individual thing. None of the escapes listed above are wrong in and of themselves. Rather, it’s a matter of how you use them. If used properly, they may help you manage or release anger and powerful emotions (this is especially true of physical activities and music). Productive releases let you burn energy without feeding the emotions you’ve been experiencing. Instead, you can concentrate on exactly what is happening in the moment you are in, and analyze the difficult situation when your mind is clearer.
When assessing the stressors teens face, the natural biological process of growing physically can’t be ignored. Having your body hijacked by growth spurts and bio-chemical surges can be just as disturbing as having your mind hijacked by difficult-to-identify emotions and those same bio-chemical surges.
Feeling that you are an alien in your own skin or your own mind is an inner stressor, which can be just as powerful as the social stressors highlighted in the Harvard Health Blog article, "The angry adolescent – a phase or depression?" The author points out that you are working to gain knowledge and experience, with "big challenges ahead: graduating from high school, entering the work force (in a tough economy) or starting college, living away from home for the first time. These are stressful transitions for anyone."
Yet many teens are already working, already living semi-independently, and often dealing with complicated social lives and responsibilities, while trying to maintain grades, earn scholarships, compete for or engage in internships or apprenticeships, identify fields of interest for jobs and careers, and work through relationships with family, friends, and romantic interests. If you’re a teen, no matter which of these aspects of life you are currently juggling, setting the foundations for emotional management will allow you to move forward with more self-determination and with more choices.
Teens are not really "in preparation" for real life; they are living full, complex lives, while also trying to gather the skills they need to successfully manage emotions, actions, and reactions. Teens are doing all of that while their brains are actually physically changing. The article in The Lancet notes that "at this time the brain is extremely developmentally active," particularly the pre-frontal cortex, which is undergoing changes which help switch decision making from a short-term, high risk-based focus to allow for more long-term, consequence-based decision making. Also, the brain as a whole is generating increasing numbers of connections between networks (2427).
This knowledge doesn’t provide any excuses as far as choices and actions, but it does give you a framework for understanding just why you can seem alien or erratic to yourself sometimes. With this growth going on, however, you have the prime situation for building thought patterns and emotional management patterns that will be all but "hardwired," for want of a better term. You can make choices that will influence how you
manage frustration, anger, and emotionally charged situations for the rest of your life. This doesn’t happen in one big decision. There’s no all-or-nothing moment. Through practicing management skills, repeatedly trying to find what works for you and how you function, you are laying down patterns of thought and healthy emotional processing behaviors.
Feeling overwhelmed by anger and frustration is not failure; it’s a common sense emotional reaction to all that is going on. Learning to manage yourself without being derailed by anger reactions and frustration is a try, and try again, learning process. Each event, no matter how it turns out in reality, can be replayed later, assessed, and learned from.
For those concerned with anger management and consequences one big question is deciding when anger or its contributors constitute a problem that might benefit from outside assistance? As with most of life, it is a matter of degree. Getting mad and throwing a textbook across the room may be out of character, but isn’t beyond average responses people have every day. Losing all control and tearing up the house or destroying furniture would be a problem.
Waking up every day to anger, frustration, the feeling that every day is a battle, or to any of the emotions listed anywhere on the anger iceberg is not just draining; it can be damaging to the way you process emotions and events in the future.
The gold standard questions include 1) How severe or intense is the difficulty; 2) How long has it gone on; and 3) How much is it interfering with the activities of daily living. Activities of daily living include things like:
You also need to assess the severity of the disruptions to each of these. If it’s a week or a couple of weeks, okay. You’re working through something. However, months of disruption, to the point of dysfunction in several key areas or repeated severe disruptions, would be a reason to consider talking to a parent or guardian or to call a hotline or see about being assessed by a counselor. A counselor can help remove stumbling blocks that may prevent you from recognizing causes of anger and frustration, and can assist you with building the skills you need to manage your emotions. He or she can then help assess how those tactics and choices work for you. Individuals, with uniquely developing brains and unique personal and life situations, can
sometimes benefit from specific assistance in developing and determining what management tactics work best for them.
You can learn more about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County at www.cccmer.org . We also invite you to connect with us on Facebook, or to contact us by calling (866) 853-7758 or 724-981-7141.
Miller, Michael Craig, M.D., (2015, October 29) "The angry adolescent — a phase or depression?" The Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from
Patton, George C et al. PDF (2016, June 11) "Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing" The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10036 , 2423 – 2478. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00648-6/fulltext 6736(16)00648-6/fulltext
Any recovery journey is one of learning – not only about facts, appropriate medications and their management, and therapeutic methods, but also about a person’s own needs and strengths. A key element in recovery is support, whether from peers or from trained observers.
According to Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency , “Peer Support Services (PSS) are . . . conducted by self-identified current or former consumers of behavioral health services who are trained and certified to offer support and assistance in helping others in their recovery and community-integration process. Peer support is intended to inspire hope in individuals that recovery is not only possible, but probable.”
At Community Counseling Center (CCC), Peer Support Services are open to those who have a qualifying serious mental illness diagnosis that is severe and persistent, and who are referred to the program by a qualified doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or psychologist.
Building strong ties to the community is a fundamental part of a recovery journey, and yet obtaining clinical assistance and acquiring a clear plan of treatment – including an accurate diagnosis – can also cause a person to feel separated and different from those around them. This is true even of their own family members, who may or may not be a part of a person’s recovery journey. Each person’s experiences and life histories create both strengths that can be used in recovery, and barriers to be overcome or managed. Each person must find their time to combat the stigmas regarding mental health that exist in our society.
Yet any steps to engage in stamping out stigma and moving toward advocacy must be made in a way that supports the recovery journey, without threatening it during vulnerable moments. Peer support specialists can provide safe discussions about ways to disclose, when to disclose, and how to determine which people to offer the chance to share a recovery journey, while encouraging a peer to discuss such issues with their mental health provider. They can provide information and perspectives on good and bad experiences, and act as a sounding board for processing the feedback a person receives. One peer support specialist at CCC noted that her role involves “going out and embracing other peers with non-judgment, and helping them be in the community and function in the community.”
Trying to maintain or regain ties to the community without access to others who have or are making a recovery journey can increase isolation, worsen symptoms, or stall progress in various stages. Working through a long period without change can be as difficult as managing periods of ups and downs in progress. Being able to work with someone who can help you set wellness goals, and even meet you out in the community to accompany you as a companion, friend, and advocate as you try to accomplish those goals, can help maintain hope, resiliency, and the recognition of forward progress on the path to recovery.
According to an article in Mental Health America , “Peer specialists model recovery, teach skills and offer supports to help people experiencing mental health challenges lead meaningful lives in the community. Peer specialists promote recovery; enhance hope and social networking through role modeling and activation; and supplement existing treatment with education, empowerment, and aid in system navigation.” This is not limited to navigating the health care system. Several peer support specialists from CCC said they provide support and assistance to clients by putting them in contact with other agencies that may help with housing or household needs, by working with them as they complete forms for food stamps, energy assistance programs, and employment services. One noted that many people don’t know what may be available to them, and that “you can’t recover if your basic needs aren’t being met.”
The needs of those accessing peer support services reach into the full range of the choices for wellness. Activities for meeting wellness goals have included things as wide ranging as helping a peer bathe a dog, helping put up or take down a Christmas tree, meeting peers at libraries or at a community event to meet social wellness goals, meeting at the park to help with fitness goals, and accompanying peers to meetings with doctors or medical care givers as an emotional support, as well as having discussions prior to such meetings to help peers outline goals, questions, and needs for the meeting. Peer support specialists can also assist those learning to manage public transportation if needed.
In her article “ Peer Specialists are Not Clinicians ,” Patricia Deegan notes that the relationship between peers and peer support specialists includes a focus on “learning together rather than assessing or prescribing help.” The whole interaction is guided by the goals of the peer. Asking good questions, actively listening to the peer, and reinforcing the ideas a client has about those goals are all part of a peer specialist’s role. Knowing when to advise a peer to ask a clinician or a doctor a specific question, or for help in determining positive, realistic goals is also part of the job.
Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency notes that peer support services are “designed to promote empowerment, self-determination, understanding, coping skills, and resiliency through mentoring and service coordination supports that allow individuals with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders to achieve personal wellness and cope with the stressors and barriers encountered when recovering.” Additionally, “Peer support is designed on the principles of consumer choice and the active involvement of persons in their own recovery process. Peer support practice is guided by the belief that people . . . need opportunities to identify and choose for themselves their desired roles with regard to living, learning, working and social interaction in the community.”
While the scope of a peer support specialist’s role can be far reaching, it is guided by goals set out by the peer and is designed to help support the peer’s growing independence. CCC’s peer support specialists complete 75 hours of training prior to certification, and are responsible for meeting continuing education goals throughout the year. One noted that setting and modeling appropriate boundaries is challenging because their goal is to encourage the patient, not to do things or to speak for them.
Specialists provide support, encouragement, shared experiences, and true compassion and empathy. One specialist at CCC noted that with a peer support specialist “you have someone who can say they really get it. But you [the peer] have to be in the place when you’re ready to work.” Another noted, “We’ve been where you are.”
Peer support services differ from traditional mental health services in some basic ways. It is a self-referring program focused on equality among participants (both peers and peer support specialists). The program provides a non-judgmental atmosphere, and the informality of the interaction between peers and peer support specialists avoids the artificial barriers such as those between “consumers” and “professionals.” Some of the program goals include individual choice in recovery, personal wellness or being as healthy as a person can be, self-advocacy, making friends that can be counted on, dealing with the stressors of finding and keeping a job, increasing self-esteem, and contacting community resources.
If you are interested in joining the community of peers, have your mental or behavioral healthcare provider or other doctor or qualifying medical provider refer you to the Community Counseling Center’s Peer Support Services program.
If you are interested in become a peer support specialist as you continue on your recovery journey, contact Susan Pozner at Community Counseling Center of Mercer County at 724-981-7141 or toll free at 866-853-7758 and TTY: at 724-981-4327. For more information about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County visit our website or our Facebook page .
“Defining Peer Support.” (n.d.) Pennsylvania Recovery and Resiliency. Retrieved from http://184.108.40.206/parecovery/services_peer.shtml#psi
Deegan, Patricia E., Ph.D. (21 June, 2017) “Peer Specialists are Not Clinicians.” PDA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.patdeegan.com/blog/posts/peer-specialists-are-not-clinicians
Interviews with Peer Support Specialists. (2 October, 2017) Community Counseling Center.
“Peer Specialists.” (n.d.) Mental Health America. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/peer-services
The Light Beneath Their Feet
This film may not necessarily be known by many, but it is perhaps one of the most realistic movies produced in almost documentary genre while it is also quite moving in its flow.
The mental health related flicks may be viewed through four items within the line of their realistic silver screen presentations:
1) Mental health concept and illness
2) Patients with mental health
3) Behavioral Health workers and
4) Behavioral Health settings
This film is successful in achieving realistic presentation of all these four items.
The story is simple enough that it may remind the patients and therapists of their own lives related to taking care of a person who has a mentally illness.
The leading characters consist of a mother and her daughter.
The mother is a patient with bipolar disorder. Provided she takes her medication regularly and visits her psychiatrist frequently, she appears to be maintaining the non-psychotic status, even productive when employed by the settings that would not be expecting her to engage in complex tasks.
Unfortunately, like some if not many patients with bipolar disorder, she does not want to continue taking her medication regularly. She chooses to stop taking it and then becomes psychotic which leads to her hospitalization.
Her daughter is a high school senior and a very good student who had been making plans to apply for her dream university. It would be a higher educational setting far away as long as her desired outcomes would be workable. She would need to be accepted by the university and find someone to take care of her mother in her absence. They do not have other family members and friends are reluctant to get involved in her mother’s prospective care as they do not know how to handle an individual with behavioral disturbances.
Therefore the movie displays two people struggling with their own situations while dearly loving each other. The mom struggled with endless manic and depressive episodes and the daughter struggled with the decision to go for her education or not to go and stay at home and take care of her mother.
I will take liberty to state a few things regarding the ending, since these will not be spoilers as the movie ends with no outcome! The screenplay leaves the outcome to the audience's discretion as the daughter joins her mom in their room in the last scene. The End. We do not know whether she says goodbye or lets her mom know that she is staying to take care of her.
This is an excellent film for sharing with a respective community with regard to anti-stigma efforts and educating the public about mental health.
This is also an excellent movie for educating behavioral health students, interns and residents along with rehabilitative program and patient groups while stopping the film from time to time and asking what is going on. What would the participants do if they were in the shoes of the mother and daughter? This would generate and maintain a good discussion and debate.
It is a behavioral health gem and a bittersweet mother and daughter relationship presentation. It is relevant for many real patients, their families and therapists who have similar clients.
M. F. Ulus, MD
SHARON — According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 15 percent of women who have recently given birth suffer from postpartum depression.
This year’s Stamp Out Stigma (SOS) at Penn State Shenango will feature a presentation on the subject at its fourth annual SOS event to be held from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in the Great Hall of Sharon Hall located on Vine Avenue in downtown Sharon.
The event is free and open to the public.
The hour-long program will also include a discussion on why health and fitness are vital to a person’s mental well-being led by Penn State Shenango Counselor Tony Paglia, as well as a special message on love and unity in the face of the horrible tragedies that have recently occurred in our country by Jack Luchette, a Penn State alumnus and the lead organizer of the annual event.
“At Penn State Shenango, we approach student health from a holistic perspective, and we seek to serve students with programming and resources that will promote their health in the areas of mind, body, and spirit,” Paglia said. “This semester, we are excited to offer our students on-campus yoga classes with instructor Debbie Harrington. We believe that by reducing stigma and encouraging our students to take better care of their physical and mental health, they will be more successful in meeting their academic and personal goals.”
The presenters at this year’s SOS event, in addition to Paglia and Luchette, include Community Counseling Center of Mercer County Community Outreach and Development Director Fern Torok, and special guest Penn State Shenango Human Development and Family Studies Lecturer and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Kara Mild, who will be speaking about postpartum depression and the stigma associated with the mood disorder.
“The Community Counseling Center has conducted 97 distinct Stamp Out Stigma presentations with over 117,000 people during the past several years,” Torok said. “We are excited to be part of the Shenango campus’ event again this year.”
For more information, call Paglia at 724-983- 2841.
Gossip has been around since the beginning of man and women. However, a lot of people take gossip way too far in life, which can cause terrible events to unroll onto that person. Looking back, I myself was involved in several horrible rumors and lies. Now for me that did nothing to me, I shrugged them off, laughed, and cheered registering their petty lies useless. This is a mechanism that I have created over time. The same cannot be said about other individuals, the lies can emotionally harm someone especially if the rumor isn’t true. The Gossip Effect explains how and what the effect of gossiping can have on someone. For example, in high school a women or a man could be verbally abused by others daily. They might say something like “You are ugly, how could anyone date you!” this inappropriate comment will spread throughout the school like wild fire aka (Gossip). As it goes through one person it will get told slightly different every single time it is told to a new person it is altered. Eventually the comment previous-ly said could be something like this, “Oh, I heard she is pregnant” or “I heard they do drugs almost every day”. From my point of view, I take all these comments and think, “Hmm, how could someone their age be so childish. Ha-ha.” Laughing is the best medicine, my advice to all of you is laugh at those comments, don’t let them get to you. Now I understand you can take it personally or even get angry and lash out at the accused. STOP, think it over and think of the consequences and then calm down and smile and don’t care about those petty comments. Odds are you want to hurt them or make them experience the same pain as yourself. However, if you really want to hurt them, don’t let those insults get to you. Shrug them off and smile, laugh a few times and walk away from the situation. Thank them for their time and continue your beautiful day, don’t let anything get to you. If you are looking to learn how to just shrug it off then practice in your mind and head, play a scenario over and over again practicing. Let me tell you, you are beautiful and you are awesome regardless of what anyone says. Look into the mirror every morning and smile at yourself and say one good thing about your-self, could be your smile, or your personality. Love yourself, once you accept these facts, those petty gossips will mean nothing. Gossip isn’t just insulting someone, gossip is when someone tells everyone else without your knowledge of it. Keep those private conversations to your-self, it should always be confidential. You are awesome and as long as you keep seeing good traits and staying true to one self.