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The Trinity Of Depression


Beck (1963, 1964) noted the way depressed patients interpreted their current life experiences.  The depressed person tended to distort their experiences; they misinterpreted specific, irrelevant events in terms of personal failure, deprivation, or rejection; they tended to greatly exaggerate or overgeneralize any event that bore any semblance of negative information about themselves; they also tended to obsess over making indiscriminate, negative predictions of the future.  It is important to note that the depressed person’s cognitions reflect a systematic bias against oneself.  Because of this overemphasis of negative data to the relative exclusion of positive data, the label “cognitive distortion” is most appropriate when describing the thinking of depressed persons.

When an individual suffers from cognitive distortions they develop other idiosyncratic negative thematic content not observed in those of nondepressed persons.  This is referred to as the Triad of Depression.

A negative view of self.  The depressed individual shows a marked tendency to view himself/herself as deficient, inadequate, unworthy, and to attribute their unpleasant experiences to a physical, mental, or moral defect in himself/herself.  Furthermore, they regard themselves as undesirable and worthless because of their presumed defects and tends to reject himself/herself (and to believe others will reject him/her) because of it.

A negative view of the world. His/Her interactions with the environment are interpreted as representing defeat, deprivation, or disparagement.  He/She views the world as making exorbitant demands on him/her and presenting obstacles which interfere with the achievement of his/her life goals.

A negative view of the future. The future is seen from a negative perspective and revolves around a series of negative expectations.  The depressed person anticipates that his/her current problems and experiences will continue indefinitely and that he/she will increasingly burden significant others in his/her life.

I can name countless students who present in our ministries like this every day.  What are we doing, teaching, and modeling that would challenge the negative views of themselves, their world, or their future?  The triad exists when there is no hope.  Are we telling a story that communicates that there is hope for our personal redemption (through Christ), reconciliation in our relationship (with the Father), and a guiding, sustaining presence when times get dark (by the Spirit)?

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Mobile Phones and Adolescent Depression


By Ian Ball

There are increased problems associated with the improper usages of mobile phones by adolescents; however, modern technological advancements also put its footsteps to use mobile phones as a wonderful device to identify adolescent depression. The Murdoch Children Research Institute claims for the crown in this aspect exclusively for its wonderful innovation.

The Murdoch Children Research Institute

The Murdoch Children Research Institute offers its valuable contribution to the field of research primarily focusing on different health aspects of children and adolescents. It is considered as the one of major child health research institutes around the world. The research team comprises of 900 passionate research scholars who are continuously contributing in the research era with their detailed understanding and creative aptitude.

The Innovation

The Murdoch Children Research Institute is offering a Java-based mobile application that enables an understanding of observation and early identification of warning-sign of adolescent depression. It is assumed to be first ever made application that can be used for such purpose.

The research had been conducted in Australia with a focus group consisting of 40 young individuals. The adolescents were supplied with Nokia 6260 where the application was pre-loaded.

As noted by Dr. Sophie Reid, adolescents’ anxiety and depression have become one of the major complications that need to take into serious consideration. The present strength of the adolescent sufferers may include a population of more than 30% and there is an increased possibility that this complication will strike the nation as one of the serious ones during 2020.

The application will primarily concern the idea how youngsters responds to the signal of distress. The application collects all the relevant data pertaining to the adolescents’ response to distress; this essentially comes out with several questionnaires popping up on the screen in a regular interval.

After one week, the researchers downloaded all the data using Bluetooth technology or infrared facilities and then analyzed the data.

The Future

However the application is a promising one in order to find out a real-time application for monitoring and detecting changes in health aspects. In recent future, the researchers are expecting to implement automated code generation technology to make the system more sophisticated refraining from the need to employ programmers. It also plans to include voice capturing facilities especially for open-ended questions. The Murdoch Children Research Institute collaborated with Harvard Medical Institute to make a safer place for implementing this technology in near future.

Adolescent Depression


The statistics on teen depression are sobering. Studies indicate that one in five children have some sort of mental, behavioral, or emotional problem, and that one in ten may have a serious emotional problem. Among adolescents, one in eight may suffer from depression. Of all these children and teens struggling with emotional and behavioral problems, a mere 30% receive any sort of intervention or treatment. The other 70% simply struggle through the pain of mental illness or emotional turmoil, doing their best to make it to adulthood.

The consequences of untreated depression can be increased incidence of depression in adulthood, involvement in the criminal justice system, or in some cases, suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. Even more shocking, it is the sixth leading cause of death among children ages 5-14. The most troubling fact is that these struggling teens often receive no counseling, therapy, or medical intervention, even though the National Institute of Mental Health reports that studies show treatments of depression in children and adolescents can be effective.

more…

Thirteen Reasons Why (Season 2) Is Back


The controversial Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why is back for its sophomore season. The producers promised to further delve into the challenging subject matter initiated in season one, placing the spotlight on sexual assault and gun violence.

We’re busy at work developing discussion guides for season two but, in the meantime, here are our discussion guides for each episode of season one:

Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion Guides: Season One

If you are not familiar with the subject content of this series, BE WARNED. Each episode has content that can be triggering to people who have experienced trauma and/or suffer from depression and self-injury.

It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that the series be watched with parents or other adults to help process the strong visual content and to help manage the risk of triggering stimulus. If you are particularly vulnerable to strong visual triggers, it is recommended you not watch. 

If you, at any time, feel helpless and hopeless and are considering harming yourself or contemplating taking your life, please call one of the hotlines below to talk with a trained staff member immediately, call 9-1-1, or go to your closest emergency room.

 

The Fringe: A Gathering Place fro LGBTQIA+ Youth, their Families, and Allies


A safe and supportive space for LGBTQIA+ youth, families, friends, and their allies from around Central Illinois. This is a non-religious endeavor. Even though Conversations on the Fringe has faith-ties (but is affirming and inclusive), The Fringe Gathering Place is not religious. This is to ensure everyone feels welcome in this space. All are welcome!

This initiative is being launched after a two-year-long study of LGBTQIA+ youth. Each student engaged in face-to-face interviews, submitted written responses to an extensive questionnaire, or completed an online survey. We had over one hundred participants. The questions focused on family acceptance/rejection, coming out, stressors, intersections, trauma/bullying, social alienation/acceptance, substance abuse/mental health issues, suicidality, and faith experiences.

The results of our study closely reflected the national statistics, LGBTQIA+ youth are susceptible to suicidal ideation.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
  • LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.
  • Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

*Source: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/#sm.00011gchfpqw9eg0s3l17fmde1ojx

There is an immense need for more safe and affriming spaces in the Peoria area for queer youth.

Over time, we hope to provide the following service/supports for youth in our area:

  • Mentoring/Peer Mentoring
  • Health/Wellness Education (testing/prevention)
  • Support Groups (trans, family, depression, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Referrals (healthcare, mental health, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Advocacy/Activism
  • Family Support
  • Harm Reduction (inclusive sex and sexuality education)
  • Social Events (trips, art classes, dances, etc.)

We have two important dates coming up. If you are interested in either you are invited to attend.

Important Dates:

Youth Leadership Board Meeting – May 2nd, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Adult Advisory Board Meeting – May 9th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

If you are interested in joining the adult advisory board or the youth leadership board contact us at cschaffner@fringeconversations.com

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thefringegatheringspace/

If you are interested in volunteering, please email us at cschaffner@fringeconversations.com or stop by and visit us at 1411 NE Adams St. Peoria, Illinois 61603.

Myths About Grief


I am all too familiar with grief.  It has been a constant companion in the work I do, working with people who struggle with substance misuse, have a mental health diagnosis, the homeless, and marginalized youth, like LTGBQIA+ teens. I have a background in emergency medical care first working as a paramedic and then later in an ER as part of a trauma team. I have also worked on a surgical team that would procure tissue and organs for donation post-mortem. As a counselor working with the population I do, I frequently get the “call” we all dread. Whether it is death, accident, injury, or loss of a relationship, grief is an unwelcome visitor.

I have also experienced grief in ministry. I remember the details of all the student deaths that occurred. I remember specifically talking with students, friends, family members, staff and volunteers and not being able to satisfactorily answer the “why” questions.

Weekly I see status updates from youth ministry friends asking for resources to provide students and families on the subject of death and grief. Many are unsure how to lead a group of young people through the challenging journey of grief as well as how to navigate that journey of their own. That is why we felt compelled to debunk myths surrounding grief.

Myths About Grief:

Grief and mourning are the same things.

Grief and mourning are inseparable, grief is the emotional, internal processing of loss/bereavement and mourning is the expression of that grief.  For example, grief is filled with feelings of sadness, anger, and thoughts that contribute to the intensity of those emotions.  Examples of mourning are crying, talking about the person who has died, or celebrating special dates related to the deceased.  Not expressing the grief through mourning can be a barrier to healing.

Grief and mourning follow a linear and orderly pattern.

The “Stages of Grief” popularized by Elizabeth Kubler Ross was never meant to be a definitive prescription for dealing with grief where you checked off each stage as you progress beyond it.  There is no one way that an individual grieves and mourns.  For every individual that experiences grief, there is a unique expression of that grief, based on numerous variables. Don’t get caught up in, “Am I grieving the right way?”.

You should move away from grief, not toward it.

It is toxic to the soul to repress what longs to be expressed.  Job stripped off his clothes, scraped himself with shards of pottery, and sat in a heap of ashes that came from everything he had, and he sat there for a long time.  He could have immediately started to “put the pieces back together” but literally just sat in his grief.  He moved into it.  Minimizing grief and avoiding the mourning process tends to lead to isolation and confusion and even deep depression.

The goal should be to “get over it” as soon as possible.

I hear many people say, “I should be over this by now”.  I hear others say the same thing about those in mourning, implying that it is bad to feel bad for too long.  As we reconcile the loss in our lives with being able to move forward there can be a renewed sense of hope and power surge into our spirit but that does not mean we are done grieving or mourning.  We can sense movement but still be in process and that is what many experience when they reach that point.  The ever-present, sharp pain in the heart will eventually change into an accepted and acknowledged sense of loss.  The sense of loss will likely never completely go away but will dull over time.

I have to be strong = No tears/emotions.

We live in a toxic culture that is repulsed by “signs of weakness”.  Tears, strong emotions and general sadness are looked down upon.  How many times have you heard a parent say, “Knock that off or I’ll give you a reason to cry”?  This implies that there is no reason to cry, so STOP!

Usually, when people try to console a crying individual it is because they are uncomfortable with that expression of grief and often feel powerless to help stop the pain you are experiencing.  God stores up our tears in a bottle the Psalmist tells us and knows what is in each one.  He values the tears you shed and is likely shedding tears of the same thing because death was never in His plan.

The individual is the only loss.

Individuals who are mourning are not just mourning the loss of the individual who has died but also all the dreams associated with that relationship.  Other issues that may contribute to the intensity of the grief could be the financial cost/loss, future plans, memories to be made, etc.  The intensity of grief is typically driven by these future-oriented losses as well.  Allow time to process and speak about these additional losses as part of the grief journey.

Have you experienced grief/loss in ministry?  Have you heard these myths from those you walked with?  Have you felt or believed these myths yourself?  How will you address these myths looking forward?

The Kids (The Voices Project ep. 9 pt. 2)


In the wake of any school shooting, you will always hear the debates of gun violence and the right to bear arms.  What we need to be discussing is that many of our kids are being asked to carry these incredible loads, and they carry it and carry it until they no longer can.  Mental illness in very young children are on the rise, and while mental illness does not, in anyway equate to violence, I think at times the frustration and futility so many kids feel does.  We need to be so very aware of our young people and how they are processing what is happening in their lives.

Every week we have a youth night, and our kids come no matter what.  For so many of them, I know it is simply the promise of the only hot meal they will get that day and an escape from whatever is happening in their homes.  They are not a smiling lot of golden-haired, blue-eyed, wide-smiled, poster children for Christian youth groups. They often come in bedraggled, discouraged, angry, defiant, or the hardest, despondent.  

Last week we were having our meal and the conversation around the table was a comparison of mental illness. This beautiful, strong, sixteen year old commented on her appointment with her counselor, and that they were going to increase her anxiety meds.  This prompted her fifteen-year-old friend to say, “yes they gave me more too, but the anxiety is still there, my mom wants us to all go to counseling, but really, what is going to change?” The nine-year-old across the table, who rarely says a word, spoke up and said in a shockingly adult voice: “My medicine for anxiety makes me sleepy.  But if I don’t take it then I can’t even go to my cousin’s birthday party because I just feel scared all of the time.” The sullen, pimply faced boy at the end of the table, lifted his head only long enough to raise his hand and mutter; “bi-polar” over here.” And then his head was back down on the table.

Finally, I had to ask the entire group of twelve kids- “does everyone here have anxiety or something else you are on medication for?”  They all shook their head yes and clamored to tell me their stories. Across the board, they had all been diagnosed with anxiety and…..

Anxiety and bi-polar

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety and ADHD

Even our little six year old of the group has a diagnosis.  

These children are products of what is happening around them.  I hear their stories and I can tell you that I would be on medication too.  They live with a revolving door of boyfriends, step-moms, parents with drug addictions, parents with too little education, parents who are struggling with their own mental health issues, alcoholics, and parents in prison. The list goes on and on.  They tell me about being bullied at school because they do not have the right clothes and the right shoes, or they were not able to take a shower because their water had been shut off. We have one boy who wears a hoodie with large pockets so he can stuff food in them to take home for later because there is never enough.  

These kids are raising their siblings, and their cousins and they do it with more grace and dignity then I would be able to muster in their circumstances. So I understand that they are riddled with anxiety and a veritable variety of mental illnesses. What I do not understand is why then, we as a society are shocked when they are pushed to the edge?

These twelve kids have a leg up because they have us. We become their family and their safe place to land. All twelve of these kids come to youth group every single week, and they come to church on Sunday with no parents in tow. There is no family gathering in a pew. These kids sit with each other or different members of our congregation. They show up for Sunday school, and every activity we offer them, because it is an out for them, and they feel safe and loved. But then we have to send them back. With a lot of grace and constant care, I hope that because our kids and others like them have places like us to come to, that they will somehow survive and rise. But for those that don’t?  Well, those are the ones that get lost. It seems like an impossible task to reach them all.

I don’t know what the answer is to tragedies like school shootings. What I know is that mental illness in kids is a real and powerful force right now. It is a reaction to the situations they are living in. I know that right here and right now I can have some impact on these twelve, but always behind them, I know there are twelve more and twelve more. These are kids growing up with the names of pharmaceuticals on their lips and knowledge that the world is not a safe and friendly place. But they are growing up with a counterbalance, with a place to feel safe, at least for a time. Is it enough? I have no earthly idea. We can hope that when you affect change in one, it ripples out and out and out. I can’t fathom what goes into creating an atmosphere, in which a child seeks to harm other children, but I have seen the fringes of it on the faces of these kids, and my heart is sick that it does not surprise me. Their shoulders are too small and fragile to bear the weight of what the world has asked them to carry.


Karen Cassidy (stmichaelcas@gmail.com)

Karen is a mother of three amazing adult children. She works for a non-profit organization that serves some of the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. She is passionate about people and believes every person has a story just waiting to be told.

 

Top 10 Highlights of 2017


Reimagining Adolescence: A Workshop for People Who Love Adolescents – We launched this training in early 2017 and receive tremendous feedback. In this training we explore how culture, biology, society, and psychology all intersect in the developing adolescent. We loved the people we met around the state; parents, teachers, youth workers, social workers, etc. and everyone of them are to be honored for their commitment to impacting the lives of young people.

Urban Youth Workers Institute National Conference – We love spending time in Southern California, on the beautiful campus of Azusa Pacific with Larry Acosta and his awesome staff from UYWI. Joining Larry and his team each year to invest in urban youth workers is always a highlight for us. The hard work of ministering to at-risk/at-potential youth is unparalleled in so many ways. The resilience of these saints and the kids they reach in inspiring.

Youth Leadership Academy – Elgin Community College hosts the Youth Leadership Academy, a six year intensive for 7th grade through 12th grade that focuses on character development, life skills, and service learning projects. Each student accepted to and completes the program will receive two years of free tuition at ECC and upon completion of an Associates Degree will receive another two years of free tuition at Judson College. This program deters the school to prison pipeline that often exists in impoverished communities.

Community Conversations – We hosted and facilitated community conversations on a variety of difficult topics this year. During these discussions, we addressed some of the following; parenting in the digital age, depression & suicide, anger & anxiety, self-harm, adolescent development, conflict & communication, the impact of popular culture, and current drug trends. These community dialogues are intended to make the general public aware of the issues adolescents face today and best practices for walking alongside them.

Faith Forward – Faith Forward is an annual gathering of forward thinking Christian leaders. This is one of our favorite annual gatherings and it continues to give us life in the work we do. We had the privilege of teaching a breakout session there on Family Systems, Attachment Theory, and the Imago Dei.

Not At My School: Anti-Bullying Program – This was a new initiative in 2017. It is aimed at elementary and middle schools to help create safer, more welcoming, and healthier social and learning environments. Working with the young children who participate in this program was so much fun. Several of the classes we worked with developed Not In My School groups that continued the work of shaping the culture of their schools. These students leaders inspired us all throughout the year, and continue to do so.

Race and Racism: A Visitor’s Guide (An Adult Learning Community) – We cautiously and hesitantly launched this class at a local church. The purpose of this class was to help white Christians deconstruct their whiteness. In the context of a learning community, several people engaged in the difficult work of learning about and challenging their white privilege and supremacy. This work continued after the class ended but this community still journeys together online and in personal relationships.

Grant Coordinator – Our founder, Chris Schaffner, took a new community-based position at the end of the summer. He continues to lead Conversations on the Fringe but in addition to that he is the coordinator for the Drug Overdose Prevention Program through the state of Illinois. He oversees 38 counties and works with three sub-contractors. The work they are doing together is making a difference in the lives of individuals and families impacted by the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our country. There were 64,000+ overdose deaths in 2016. Chris, along with his team,  trains and distributes Naloxone (Narcan), an overdose reversal medication in all 38 counties.

Foster Care – Chris and his family have also entered the world of Foster Care in 2017. Their home has always been a respite for those in need of a warm bed and hot meal but this year they began the process of becoming licensed foster care parents. They’re hope is to offer their home to older teens that are among the hardest to place, so much so, that many age-out of the system without foster care placement. Please pray for them as they continue their journey into “loving the least of these”.

Willow Jean – The number one highlight of 2017, we welcomed Willow Jean Schaffner into the world. Chris’ son and his significant other gave birth to their first grandchild. They are thrilled to transition into grand-parenting and readily accept the title. Willow represents hope and audacity at a very dark time in our country’s existence. Her smile and big bright eyes shine light into that darkness and continues to motivate us to do the work we’ve been called to.

A warm and grateful thank you to all of you who supported us in 2017. We look forward to some new opportunities in 2018.

May 2018 usher in a growing awareness of your intrinsic value to the human race and to the ushering in and growth of the Beloved Community, in which everyone is welcome to.

Grace and peace,

CotF

Addressing the Racial Climate in your Youth Group


When you spend time with youth, their parents, and your volunteers – wherever you are in your community – be alert. Are you hearing put-downs and slurs? Pay attention to the tension between the different groups of students you are working with. There are early warning signs that there is racially driven tension among adolescents. Left alone or ignored, these attitudes and behaviors can create the perfect storm for larger problems.

Safety is of the utmost importance. Are direct threats being made? Are there imminent threats? These situations required an immediate and well thought out response. More direct behaviors indicate that there might be a problem with your church’s climate. Is this the type of ministry you want? Is this the type of ministry your students, parents, and volunteers want? Ask them and listen closely to how they respond.

Make sure your students, staff, and volunteers know the proper reporting system if and when they hear problems. Make this an expectation and set up an efficient reporting system, like an anonymous comment box, text or email, or a specific staff member. After those problem are reported, there must be proper follow-up.

Here’s a list from the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) of things to consider when present in your ministry, church, or community:

  • Casual Pejoratives: Do you hear certain words used regularly in a derogatory manner? That’s so gay. That’s retarded. Are the words “bit**” or “ho” casually used to label female students? Challenge the use of these slurs and work to establish and maintain a climate where casual slurs are uncommon.
  • Skits and Plays: Skits and costumes can convey bigoted and stereotypical messages: the “day-laboring Mexican,” students dressed as “rednecks,” “gangbanger/thugs,” people in blackface. Holiday plays and skits are often steeped in stereotypes and bigotry. Set expectations beforehand about appropriate costumes and cultural sensitivity. Discuss the inappropriateness of caricatures or disturbing representations that are rooted in bias and bigotry.
  • Marginalized Students: Engage students who appear to be left out of group activities, during game time and group discussions or in other ministry settings. Watch for changes in social clustering and ways in which students align. Check for signs of hostility, depression or a marked change in behavior. Reach out to the student’s parents or guardians as appropriate. Alienated students – either as individuals or in groups – are more susceptible to bias-based bullying.
  • Student Recognition: How does your church recognize student achievements? What do those achievements say about your church’s values? What messages are sent to students who don’t receive recognition? Overemphasis on achievement can lead to a sense of entitlement while reinforcing the dominant culture as well as contribute to feelings of frustration or inadequacy in others. Who is spotlighted and who is ignored? Athletes are often at the top of the food chain in many settings.
  • Staff Discussions: How are staff/volunteers/adults talking among themselves when outside of ministry settings? Are the adults making negative comments about the “kids from the trailer park”? Are they telling casually bigoted jokes? Do they define their students by a label, such as; the gay kid, the nerd, the gamer, the black kid, etc.?
  • Your Own Perceptions: Pay attention to the comments or complaints you automatically dismiss or discount. Also pay attention to your automatic thoughts about particular students. Often, your first thought is a reflection of unconscious biases. Explore those thoughts with an open mind and willingness to become more self aware and learn from others.
  • Don’t Forget Other Spaces: You will find yourself wherever students gather, such as; schools, gyms, parks, etc. Follow the general rule, “If you see something, say something”.

Every person in your church – from the worship leader to the incoming 6th graders to teenagers on social media – should understand the climate you are trying to cultivate in your spaces. These ideas are not about politically correct but are our best attempt to create spaces where everyone can belong to the community of God’s people and participate equally in kingdom service.

5 Things You Can Do To Combat Racism In Your Organization

  1. Call it out, EVERY TIME! – Don’t let it slide. By being consistent in addressing blatant racism and microaggressions, you communicate that it is unacceptable. Even if the individual(s) responsible don’t have a change of heart, at least the behavior becomes restricted and controlled.
  2. Start seeing color – The notion of being “colorblind” is ridiculous. There are obvious differences; from skin tone to cultural practices. Don’t just notice them, VALUE and VALIDATE them all. By being colorblind, we reinforce the idea that the universe will remain centered on whiteness since it is the dominant culture in most places. What we are saying is ALL I SEE IS WHITE!
  3. Stop being an ally – People of Color are not people in need of charity. By saying we will be allies we are saying we will come to their rescue. Instead, just be a good human. We can align ourselves with marginalized groups of people but we need to keep our savior-complex in check.
  4. Do not put this on the kids to fix – Kids are the

I leave you with this Benediction from Bishop Woodie White:

And now, may the Lord torment you.

May the Lord keep before you the faces of the hungry, the lonely, the rejected and the despised.

May the Lord afflict you with pain for the hurt, the wounded, the oppressed, the abused, the victims of violence.

May God grace you with agony, a burning thirst for justice and righteousness.

May the Lord give you courage and strength and compassion to make ours a better world, to make your community a better community, to make your church a better church.

And may you do your best to make it so, and after you have done your best, may the Lord give you peace.

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More


We’re excited to announce we have a new content creator to focus on parenting issues. For years we have tried to serve parents of fringe kids or parents on the fringe and we are fortunate to have Patti Gibbons join our writing team and to share her hard won wisdom with all of us. (Click here for Patti’s bio)

Her first post is an important one and addresses a growing concern among parents. Take a few minutes to read it and share your thoughts with her. She would love to connect.

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More

By Patti Gibbons

Two teenagers meet while their families vacation in the same place. A friendship develops and the teens discover their homes are relatively close, about an hour apart. They connect on social media and exchange texts and messages about their lives, their families, their problems. Though they rarely saw each other in person, they called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.

That all sounds pretty normal these days, right?

Pervasive use of technology and social media allowed this relationship to develop as the teens supported one another through family struggles, serious personal issues like depression and eating disorders, and the ups and downs of teenage life.

But, this is the beginning of a story that ends in a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The weapon? The words typed into those messages.

As parents and adults who care about the lives of our children, that is a stunning statement. The words of one teenager to another were found to have made her responsible for his death by suicide.

This turns up the heat on the conversations about technology use directly, and tangentially about social media, cyber-bullying, privacy, and even the First Amendment. It should give us pause. A long pause.

On June 16, 2017, a Massachusetts judge found Michelle Carter, now 20, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following a trial that revealed that she, then a teen, engaged in what prosecutors called “wanton and reckless conduct” sent text messages urging Conrad Roy III to take his own life at age 18. She has not yet been sentenced as of this writing.

Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz decided the case in a bench trial, saying, “Ms. Carter’s actions, and also her failure to act, where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy, since she had put him into that toxic environment, constituted, each and all, wanton and reckless conduct.” [NPR]

In her texts, she urged him to act on his suicidal ideation, “You just have to do it,” one text said. After his death, she organized a fundraiser in Roy’s name, presenting herself as an anti-suicide advocate, posting on Facebook, “Even though I could not save my boyfriend’s life, I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible.”

It is clear from the accounts presented at trial that Carter and Roy each had troubled histories with depression and other mental health concerns about which they shared with one another openly. This situation turns on both the words she said and the actions she failed to take. [New York Times]

As parents and adults who care about them, what can we take away from this case?

First, we can be diligent in teaching our children that the words they say matter and that they will be held accountable, perhaps even legally, for what they say. From this case, in particular, we learn a new limit to the First Amendment right of free speech. Not only can we not yell fire in a crowded theatre, we can’t encourage a person to take their own life.

Second, we can be diligent in communicating to our children that they, along with each and every human being, has intrinsic worth and value. There is no person they will ever meet in person or interact with online to whom harsh, demeaning, insulting words need to be said, whether we like them or agree with them or not. This is especially true for social media where there is a harsh and pressured teen culture of comparison, evaluation, and judgement. This is contrary to the prevailing culture online today, even among adults. Perhaps we can all grow this way?

Third, we can culture open dialog with the children in our lives about using their online presence for good. Talking to our kids about finding positive words to use to influence the world, be more authentic, and impact their friends in ways that give life.

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