Helping kids deal with sadness

I recently spoke at a sports center for youth about this topic.

Activities for Kids

Some ideas about what to do include:

Telling someone who is trustworthy what is the reason you are sad and addressing this with them. Having someone show they care can be very helpful.

Doing some things you enjoy; a sport or art, for example.

Listening to happy music.

Spending time with friends.

Eating healthy food and also food that you enjoy, in moderation.

Reading a good book or listening to a radio program you enjoy. Watching a good movie.

Playing a game with friends or family.

Play with or cuddle with a pet.

Cuddle with stuffed animals, blankets, pillows.

Telling yourself encouraging things. In the movie “Corina, Corina” a little girl became withdrawn and mute after her mother died. Her dad hires a nanny who helps her to cheer up and get back to life and school. Whoopi Goldberg’s character tells Molly, “Maybe they won’t like you?  Are you kidding?  Have you looked in the mirror today?  That’s the most likeable face in America!  You’re goin’ about this the wrong way.  You have to think to yourself:  “My name is Molly Singer and there is no one in the world better than me.”  That’s what you’ve got to say to yourself.  Try it!”

Mindfulness – click here for an exercise in mindfulness for kids.

Remember and think about things one is thankful for.

What other ideas can you or your kids come up with?

A great video showing a healthy way to deal with the sadness of missing a loved one in the song ‘When Somebody Loved Me’ from Toy Story II.

It is helpful to talk to someone that is trustworthy about what is causing the sadness. If a child has lost a loved one or is missing someone who is gone sometimes it is helpful to write a goodbye letter if there was not a chance to say goodbye. It is also helpful to have special times and ways to think about all the good memories of the person and to talk to a trusted person about them. A counselor, teacher, or close relative can be very helpful as well as music or a special song that reminds them of the person they love. Creating pictures and art about them or writing down the memories is a healthy way to grieve and deal with that type of sadness.

Click to access sad.pdf

For adults- a recent book by COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg

Rachel Hofer, LMHC


Celebrity ‘Psychosis’, ‘Recovered Ego Addict’ and ‘Narcissist’?

‘Addiction’ is a concept that is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but not a diagnosis. Here John Mayer labels himself as a ‘recovered ego addict’. He mentions his comparison of himself with Kanye West who has just been in the news because he reportedly had a ‘breakdown’ and cancelled his tour. In some media it was said he had ‘psychosis‘ and in others ‘exhaustion’ and ‘spiritual attack.’ In the news it has been said that Donald Trump is a narcissist.

What is an ego addict, narcissist, and what is psychosis? Can these people diagnose someone in the news? Is that legal? What about ‘HIPPA’ and privacy? How can people assume they know the ins and outs of someone’s mental health and diagnose them without a professional evaluation? Did they get a second or third evaluation and why is it any of our business?

On the other hand we all have traits of certain personality disorders and I did hear also on the news that narcissistic traits make good leaders and have heard that police officers tend to have anti-social traits. We can observe some of these celebrities behaviors in news clips and tv as they present their public persona but we do not really know them and is that not what can be so difficult for the mental health of anyone with any sense of celebrity even the teen on facebook with 100 fans? The gossips and slanders as well as even worse can cause trauma,  PTSD, and even drastic health problems and death in the lives of maltreated ‘celebrities.’

We often get a misrepresentation of the symptoms, realities, and life experience of people with mental illness in the media and in movies, whether it be a ‘real’ person, persona,  or made up character.In this movie that came out recently people might assume, for example, that all people with Autism hit themselves, when this is a behavior that only some people with the disorder have. People may associate mental illness or particular diagnoses with violent and dangerous behavior, which is even more stigmatizing and often not the case. On the other hand, even if they do or did have these behaviors at one point, they may not have them currently or again.

Vulnerability and Boundaries

I so appreciate people like Kay Redfield Jameson and Elen Saks for having the courage and the leverage in their life and position in order to share about their success, mental illness, and stigma they have overcome. I think that society’s attitude has changed even in the last 5 years. I have read case law on a slander law suit even for calling someone ‘bipolar’ when this was their diagnosis by a doctor, because it was used to refer to them as though that is all of who they were. Many people who have mental illness are also very skilled and successful in professional jobs but even if they were not, the assumptions and defamation that people incur with labels may be slanderous and incriminating.

Though I love Brene Brown and what she has shared many people’s ‘vulnerabilities’ publicly pale in comparison to these two women- Dr. Jameson and Dr. Saks. We may feel extreme shame regarding issues that may not incur nearly the consequences of stigma and shame, or rather ‘discrimination’, that mental illnesses have across centuries. Some issues are more taboo. Brene says, “They have to earn the right to hear our story.” Conversely, these women paid out for skeptics and critics to benefit from hearing their stories backed up with their credentials. I am certain there were some worthy friends who earned the right to hear their stories and saw them through. When statistics show nearly one in five people suffer with mental illness we must know we all have family members and friends also suffering in silence. Clearly society is not ready for many people to share about the mental illness they have suffered and even overcome, publicly.  I love what Dr. Brown has to say about shame and vulnerability being the birth place of innovation and the man in the arena.


What can you do about this in Gainesville, FL this month?

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Gainesville, FL Annual Mental Illness Awareness Walk to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. NAMI Gainesville (National Allinance on Mental Illness) provides education, advocacy and support for family members and individuals dealing with a mental illness. All services offered are free. Help NAMI by showing support and donating funds if you can. T-Shirts to anyone donating at least $10

Rachel Hofer, MS


Canine Assisted Therapy

Love just graduated from the Bay County ‘Lifeline’ Program and was trained to obey over five commands by women in the Bay County Jail. She is in training as a Service and Therapy dog.


Rachel Hofer did a training with Elizabeth Hollingsworth, LMHC and Keba the Human Whisperer in 2010 and is helping to train Love!

Resources on Canine Assisted Therapy:

Click to access 9780415888332.pdf