News & Insights

Parents Anonymous’ Free California Parent & Youth Helpline Celebrates Its Third Anniversary During Mental Health Awareness Month 

The California Department of Social Services Recognizes the Impact of the Nonprofit and Awards it with an Extended Two-Year, $4.7 Million Contract so the Free Helpline May Continue to Offer Emotional Support to Parents and Youth Struggling with Mental Illness 

LOS ANGELES (May 11, 2023) – This May, Parents Anonymous® celebrates the third anniversary of the California Parent & Youth Helpline®, a free Helpline for California diverse parents, children and youth up to 25 years old needing immediate emotional support and Evidence-Based Parents Anonymous® Groups to enhance mental health and enhance personal growth and change.  

“Research on the Helpline confirms that anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation is successful addressed by enhancing well-being and self-efficacy and more importantly diverse Parents, Children and Youth from every county in California has the opportunity to join a Free, Online Weekly Parents Anonymous® Group,” says Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, ACHT, ACSW and President and CEO at Parents Anonymous® Inc. “We are very excited to increase the Helpline hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week starting July 1, 2023. We believe that asking for help is a sign of strength.” 

As a result of the positive impact of the multilingual and culturally responsive Helpline, which is staffed by professional counselors, Parents Anonymous Inc. was awarded a new $4.7 million contract from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). The contract will provide the necessary funds so the Helpline may continue to serve parents and youth in need of support for another two years, with an option for a third year. 

“In California, we are committed to preserving and strengthening our mental health system,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency. “Our goal is to ensure that all Californians have access to the mental health services they need and the California Parent & Youth Helpline has proven to be a great resource for children and families.” 

Parents Anonymous launched The California Parent & Youth Helpline® in 2020 in response to the growing need for additional mental health resources because of COVID-19. With initial funding from CDSS, the Helpline has provided the necessary tools and resources to thousands of parents and children in need of emotional support for the last three years, including but not limited to:  

  • The Helpline has received over 57,000 calls, texts and live chats from diverse parents, children and youth from all 58 counties in California to date. 
  • 7,000+ Evidence-Based Parents Anonymous® services for diverse, parents, children and youth resulting in significant increases in resilience, well-being, and family functioning.  
  • Over 1,000,000 page views and unique visitors to the website seeking resources and to connect to all Evidence-Based Parents Anonymous® Programs statewide. 

A grateful local Latina, Native American mother of seven, grandmother of four, and kin provider had this to say about how the Helpline helped her and her family: 

“I have been very blessed to use The California Parent & Youth Helpline®. It has been a big part of my life and sanity especially during the pandemic during lockdown and school closures. The California Parent & Youth Helpline® is a LIFELINE for me and all my children. I struggle with mental health issues and addiction. I have used this service since it started, and because of the judgment-free, compassionate space, I can continue to be there for my family. This support has helped me grow and address my underlining emotions that in the past held me down and most importantly, it has helped me stop using drugs. During the pandemic, I was able to utilize the free, Weekly Evidence-Based Parents Anonymous® Groups to help reduce my feelings, and my children’s feelings, of isolation and fear.” 

The roles of parents and youth continue to grow more complex with the challenges of societal struggles, financial hardships, and the ever-changing daily life struggles. Parents Anonymous® is providing a step in the right direction to local Californians with its California Parent & Youth Helpline® and on a national level with its National Parent Helpline®. 

“The California Parent & Youth Helpline® has proven to be an excellent resource for children and youth in need of immediate emotional support – especially during the pandemic,” said Kim Johnson, Director, California Department of Social Services. “We are glad that the helpline will continue to be available in California, supporting the emotional and mental health needs of California parents, caregivers, and youth.” 

Those in need of support can call or text at 855-427-2736, or live chat from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. PST, 7 days a week through caparentyouthhelpline.org. 

To learn more about the California Parent & Youth Helpline® please visit caparentyouthhelpline.org. For more information about Parents Anonymous® and its programs visit parentsanonymous.org

About Parents Anonymous 

Since 1969, Parents Anonymous Inc. has created and disseminated internationally various Evidence-Based Programs and initiatives that support the empowerment journey of diverse parents, children, and youth. According to the Federal Title IV-E Prevention Clearinghouse, Parents Anonymous® is the ONLY culturally responsive program that is proven to Effectively Improve Parenting, Enhance Mental Health and Reduce Substance Abuse while Ensuring Child Safety for diverse families with children and youth of all ages. Also, Parents Anonymous® started and partners with thousands of entities to celebrate National Parent Leadership Month® every February. With the support of the U.S. Congress, the National Parent Helpline® began in 1969 as the first and only nationwide emotional support system for Parents, Caregivers, Children & Youth. Since May 2020, Parents Anonymous has operated The California Parent and Youth Helpline® and online Parents Anonymous® Weekly Groups. Learn more at parentsanonymous.org or by following on Facebook or Instagram.  

Bullying: How It Can Lead to Mental Distress, Suicide in Children

Source: Healthline

  • Researchers say bullying can be a factor in mental distress and suicide attempts by children and teens.
  • They say this type of distress is especially common among LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Experts say parents can help children who are bullied by teaching them emotional and interpersonal skills as well as assisting them in building relationships with school personnel.

The reasons behind sadness, depression, and suicide among teens are complex, but some forms of bullying may play a role in increasing the likelihood of their occurrence.

That’s the conclusion reached in a studyTrusted Source published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers say nearly one in three young people in the United States may experience bullying, with the occasional story of a teen’s suicide seemingly linked to bullying activity.

LGBTQ+ teens and bullying

However, not all bullying is created equal.

Researchers say that bullying based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or around hurtful sexual comments is consistently correlated with teens’ feelings of depression, mental distress, and acts of attempted suicide.

“We know that youth who engage in self-harming behaviors do so for a good reason – meaning a good reason to them. A young person who is bullied can become anxious and depressed, both part of the suicide equation,” said Jon Mattleman, MS, a clinician at the New England Clinical Director for Minding Your Mind, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health education and suicide prevention programs in schools, communities, and workplaces.

“We also know that 50 percent of LBGTQ+ students have seriously considered suicide versus 14 percent of heterosexual students, so this is a vulnerable population,” Mattleman told Healthline.

On the flip side, teens and adolescents who were physically bullied or bullied based on their religion did not appear to report heightened feelings of sadness or hopelessness compared to teens who were not bullied, the team researchers reported.

“Regarding bullying around religion, it’s worth considering that a victim of this may have greater and easier supports to access than a person who is bullied for gender or sexual orientation,” Mattleman noted. “For example, a youth bullied for religion can turn to parents, siblings, other family, their faith community, for support, whereas those same resources may be sources of conflict or additional rejection for a youth bullied for gender or sexual identity.”

Results from the study on bullying

The study included more than 70,000 responses from the 2018 Iowa Youth Survey of 6th, 8th, and 11th graders in Iowa.

While bullying around gender and sexual orientation had the strongest connections to mental distress, cyberbullying, social bullying, and race-based bullying were also significantly correlated to suicide attempts and mental anguish, the researchers reported.

“Being demeaned and put down impacts all aspects of well-being and results in kids questioning their worth, how they look, who they are, does anyone like them — every aspect of their identity can be challenged,” explained Lisa Pion-Berlin, PhD, a clinical hypnotherapist and chief executive officer of Parents Anonymous, a free national helpline that provides support for parents and children who are struggling.

“When they internalize these attacks, depression, self-harm, and often reckless behavior can emerge. If they doubt themselves, they are often too afraid to tell anyone. Sharing these worries is scary and challenging. Who to turn to? Who can help them? Do they fear for their safety? These are real questions,” Dr. Pion-Berlin told Healthline.

“Bullying is intentional and usually a repetitive behavior,” added Jillian Amodio, a social worker and founder of Moms for Mental Health.

“It can be easier to shake off one off-handed comment or mean look, but when it just keeps coming, we see how big the impact can be. Social media and the prevalence of cyberbullying have amplified the situation — the bullying behaviors literally follow kids everywhere they go,” Arnodio told Healthline.

“Suicide is the second-leading cause of deathTrusted Source among people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S. and bullying has a role to play,” she added.

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How to help children who are bullying

“These findings are an important learning that can be utilized in not only training medical professionals but also those charged with educating our children in schools and institutions of higher learning,” said Dr. Faisal Tai, a psychiatrist and chief executive officer of PsychPlus.

“There are several ways that parents can help reduce the chances of their children being bullied in school,” he told Healthline. “Nurturing a positive family climate and teaching your kids emotional and interpersonal skills can be crucial. But establishing and building relationships with school personnel and other parents of children at the school can also be very helpful. Having a pathway of communication such as this can ensure that if problems do exist, you are in a position to get the support of educators and other staffers to make sure it is resolved amicably.”

Overall, parents and experts emphasized the importance of support and connection in helping children deal with bullying.

“As a parent, seeing your child endure bullying can be devastating, infuriating, and make one feel helpless,” said Lisa Lawless, PhD, a clinical psychotherapist and mother of an LGBTQ+ son.

“The best things a parent can do are provide compassionate listening, get educated and connected to the LGBT+ community, and celebrate it with their children,” Dr. Lawless told Healthline. “Providing a safe and loving environment is good for kids and their parents as it creates resilience and positivity.”

Parents should also stay alert for signs of depression and mental distress in their kids, although it can sometimes be hard to spot.

“Signs of depression can be any lack in routine — less sleep, less eating, not going out with friends, not talking to siblings or parents, etc.,” Pion-Berlin said. “Reach out and create a safe space to have them share what is going on. Reassure them you are not here to judge but help. Keep listening and think through the circumstances. Some situations could be more harmful than others. But think through what to do. Do the police need to be called? How can the school help? Do you have connections to a religious or community group that provides support?”

She also suggested calling the National Parent Helpline at 855-427-2736.

Date: February 15, 2023

My Ex-Husband Emotionally Abuses Our Children—What Should I Do?

Source: Newsweek

Dear Newsweek, My name is Alicia and I am the mother of five amazing minor children and two adult sons. I divorced my husband 3 years ago, and due to Covid, things took much longer and we actually separated long before our divorce was finalized.

Anyway, while married I was a stay-at-home mom and home-schooled my kiddos. My ex-husband worked full-time and was generally uninvolved in day-to-day life. 

However, as time went on, I realized my ex-husband was causing a lot of damage to our children and myself. I realized that he was financially, emotionally, and spiritually abusing us, so I left.

He then made it his mission to punish me for leaving. He went on a smear campaign and isolated me from all of my friends and family. “Making things as difficult as he could so I would come crawling back to him”—his exact words.

Part of his revenge was to seek 50/50 custody, which he was awarded because at the time I was still afraid of him and easily intimidated so I was not able to fully advocate for myself or my children. Since then, it has been a battle.

All of the abusive behaviors that were present when we were married are still present now, but because he doesn’t abuse our children physically the court has done absolutely nothing to protect our children.

Despite him having [court] involvement four separate times for throwing our youngest daughter down the stairs, dragging our oldest daughter down the stairs and through the house by her arms, break-checking our youngest daughter so hard she had a bruised and swollen face for two weeks, and leaving our children in a whole other state with a woman he just met and that they knew for a few days.

His abuse is to the extent that his new wife left him after only being married to him for two months because she feared for her children’s safety.

Even still, the judge in our small town will do nothing to protect our children, or even order him to attend real therapy or parenting classes.

One of the most troubling behaviors that he regularly engages in is bullying our LGBTQIA+ daughter. He tells her that being a homosexual is as bad as being a pedophile. He tells her that she is evil and against God—he has even worked with his pastor to arrange very hateful anti LGBTQIA+ sermons. He treats her like a maid and cook when she is with him and makes sure to let her know that she disgusts and disappoints him because she identifies as LGBTQIA+ and listens to the band Ghost. All of this continues to wear on my daughter’s mental health and yet still no one will do anything.

He is treated as if he is a model father and the family court continues to turn a blind eye to everything he does. He uses his religion as a reason to get away with his abuse, stating that he has not only a right, but an obligation, to tell our daughter the things he does because she has turned her back on the Lord.

No one seems to want to hold him accountable and help out our children. He has blocked me from putting them in therapy, receiving immunizations, attending doctor visits, and taking medication. All because it’s against his beliefs and western medicine is witchcraft.

I hired a Guardian Ad Litem who found he was abusive and that it was in the kids’ best interest to be with me full-time and limit his involvement until he completed therapy and parenting classes, but the court also ignored that. I have spent THOUSANDS on attorneys and have only landed in the same spot every single time.

So now, I am hopeful that if I make it public how badly the County Court is failing our children, maybe something might be done for them.

As a healthy parent, he would deserve 50/50 time with our kids, but until then I don’t think he should get it just because it’s his “right.” 

Alicia, Unknown

Newsweek‘s “What Should I Do?” offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

‘Abusive Relationships Impact Self-Confidence…You Need To Protect Yourself and Children’

Lisa Pion-Berlin, Ph.D., is a licensed hypnotherapist and CEO of Parents Anonymous.

You are a very courageous woman to speak out about your family situation to expose the injustice and harm to your family. Do not minimize what that takes. Stop blaming yourself for not advocating harder because you felt so insecure.

Physically and psychologically abusive relationships impact our self-confidence and wear us down so we cannot fight back. Twenty-five years of research into “battered woman” or “battered person” syndrome shows this.

It is understandable that you and your children are in a very difficult and abusive situation. Your focus needs to be on going forward by continuously and relentlessly protecting yourself and your children.

First of all, insults, threats or bodily harm needs to be reported and documented with the police, schools and your own doctors. Clear and complete documentation cannot be overemphasized—print out and save every email, text and voicemail regarding any threats or evidence of abuse.

Also, make copies of all medical records and other entities for your file. Take photographs of the physical damage your children have endured. Make sure you take them to the doctor, as they take pictures and continue to make CPS reports.

It is brave you are making this public. So many parents are afraid when the courts and systems are not helping or protecting children. Make sure you have support for yourself. You cannot stay strong without seeking counseling and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family.

Also, seek counseling for your children so they can deal with their underlying feelings related to these traumas. Therapists and counselors are mandated reporters. Prejudice and discrimination exist in all institutions sworn to help you protect your children from abuse and neglect.

Even though you have paid for lawyers, if you feel they haven’t helped, you can seek free legal counsel. You may also want to contact your newly elected congressperson or U.S. senators. Senator Stabenow has district staff to help constituents and she is a dedicated social worker and advocate herself.

Local politics are tough to deal with, but the safety, health and well-being of your entire family is at stake. Continue to reach out because asking for help is a sign of strength. You can also call the National Parent Helpline 855-427-2736, operated by Parents Anonymous® (raisingfuture.org).

‘The Safety Of You and Your Children Is The Number One Priority’

Dr. Faisal Tai, MD, is a psychiatrist and the CEO of PsychPlus. 

I’m very sorry to hear about your serious dilemma with your ex-husband. As the mother of five minor children, I am sure that you have your hands more than full and that this conflict only makes taking care of your family—and yourself—10 times harder.

When I hear about all the legal steps you’ve taken to try and improve your situation through the courts and government agencies, it is disheartening that you have not been able to make more progress.

As a psychiatrist, I also would strongly encourage you to seek professional assistance to safeguard the emotional well-being of you and your children. It will be fundamental to your health and well-being, and your quality of life, in the years ahead.

I would recommend that you contact the Child Welfare Medical and Behavioral Health unit for your local county.

Amongst many other resources, they will have a comprehensive list of support services across the state that might be of great assistance.

I wish you the best of luck as you continue to advocate for yourself and your children.

Date: February 11, 2023

Asian Americans grapple with mental health after Monterey Park mass shooting

In traditional Asian cultures, the concept of mental health can be seen as “too Western” or taboo, experts say

Source: OC Register

San Gabriel resident and community organizer Brittney Au is tired and angry.

On Jan. 21, a Saturday night, Au had just come home from celebrating the Lunar New Year weekend with friends, when news broke that a gunman targeted a dance studio near where she lives in Monterey Park, killing 11 people.

When asked if she was OK, Au, 31, said she “doesn’t know how to answer that question.”

“It’s exhausting, mentally, physically, socially,” Au said. “I feel hopeless, helpless and powerless every time I hear about a new incident or attack. This hit so close to home.”

After mass shootings in Monterey Park and, just two days later, Half Moon Bay, which involved both Asian victims and shooters, Au and many others in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community were left shaken.

They’ve already faced waves of anti-Asian hate crimes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been healing from the 2021 shooting spree at Asian spas in Atlanta, a 2022 targeted attack on a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods and countless other incidents that have gone unreported or did not receive national attention.

AAPI people nationwide are sick of feeling targeted and unsafe in their own neighborhoods.

In Southern California and beyond, more AAPI organizations and individuals are doing something to address these fears – starting with talking about them. It’s this community’s way of fighting back while still allowing themselves to process and grieve.

“None of it makes sense – more members of our community are dying for no reason,” said Au, who co-founded the San Gabriel Valley-based nonprofit Compassion in SGV in 2021.

Days after the shooting, Au and co-organizer Naomi Hom put together a candlelight vigil in front of the Star Dance Ballroom Studio, where the Monterey Park shooting happened, so that the community can come together to mourn the lives lost and “begin to heal.”

The Jan. 25 vigil included speakers on mental health, multilingual prayers and solemn music to remember the victims. Au said it was a healing, safe space for AAPIs and other community members to come together, “surrounded by those who collectively feel our frustrations, our sadness and our grief” and not feel alone.

AAPIs and mental health

About 2.7 million AAPIs struggle with a mental illness or substance use disorder, according to a report by the American Psychiatric Association. Compared to other populations, Asian people are less likely to seek out or receive mental health treatment, data from the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association shows – and even then, they’ll often seek help only when in crisis.

In traditional Asian cultures, the concept of mental health can be seen as “too Western” or taboo, experts say. Seeking professional help, like therapy, or talking openly about struggles and feelings is often stigmatized in families, especially among older generations.

In 2020, just 20.8% of Asian adults with a mental illness received professional treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Some factors that can prevent Asians from seeking help include language barriers, lack of education, insufficient insurance, immigration status or limited access to culturally appropriate providers.

Yvonne Liu from Rancho Palos Verdes, who speaks and writes on mental health, said that shame and the “desire to save face” plays a role in the cultural stigma faced by AAPIs.

“For Asians, there’s this collective social structure. We just strive and strive to succeed on paper … instead of attending to our whole self, our emotional and mental health,” Liu said. “What you do affects your relatives. So if you’re mentally ill, you’re bringing shame upon them. You can’t feel. You can’t talk about domestic violence, but those things exist. You can’t show that you’re vulnerable, imperfect.”

Though there is no motive known yet for the massacre in Monterey Park, mental health experts believe that 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, the gunman who later took his own life, could have struggled in isolation.

“Many Asian Americans have experienced trauma and may suffer from complex PTSD. Because of shame, I struggled for years before I sought help,” said Liu. “My late adoptive mother, who had suffered a severe mental illness, did not receive the help she desperately needed. Everyone in the family suffered as a result.”

Mental health across generational divides

Koreatown resident Carrie Zhang was celebrating Lunar New Year with her parents when she read about the Monterey Park shooting. She was “visibly distressed” and said she gently broke the news to her parents.

At first, they were quiet. Then, Zhang said, her father launched into theories about possible motives, and as he learned details, he looked at the shooting as an isolated interpersonal incident that did not affect the community as a whole.

“There was sort of the, ‘Let me take myself out of this narrative. Let me make it somebody else’s problem and not mine,’” Zhang said. “Whereas I and other folks in my generation would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s affecting all of us.’”

Zhang is the founder of the Asian Mental Health Project, a nonprofit that addresses this generational disconnect through multimedia resources, financial support and community events.

As more anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported, the group – which sees participants ranging from young adults to folks in their 40s – gets “a lot of demand to host some sort of processing space,” Zhang said. So in the wake of the recent mass shootings, the organization started community healing sessions, where people can connect virtually with psychologists and therapists at no cost.

It’s a place where people can check in with themselves and others, Zhang said. People across different generations have discussions on mental health and are “breaking the cycle of trauma for all of us,” Zhang said.

For immigrants, lasting trauma can stem from painful memories of leaving home, plus decades-long instances of xenophobia, discrimination and racist laws against Asian people in the U.S., Zhang said. Also, stereotypes like “the yellow peril” (Asians are viewed as dangerous to the Western way of life) and “model minority myth” (Asians are viewed as law-abiding, model citizens) are especially harmful to first- and later generations.

“Unhealed wounds and unhealed trauma can lead to cycles of violence,” Zhang said. “One thing my dad does mention is the betrayal he felt about immigrating to the U.S. You are promised this beautiful land that you can build your new life in. But the unfortunate truth is that it is just as discriminatory, just as prejudiced, just as violent and scary as the lands in which they grew up.”

Yuki Shida, a licensed family and marriage therapist in Tustin, called it “acculturation stress” in older generations.

“The trauma of leaving their home country and then trying to emigrate and understand a whole new language, a whole new government and economy system,” Shida said. This “can cause stressors within the family structure,” clashing generations and differing values, Shida said.

Internalized trauma across generations creates “this feeling of needing to hold it all in,” said Shida. Expressing emotions is also nuanced, not quite direct, in older generations, Shida said, and showing any signs of disinterest, withdrawing socially or the inability to do basic tasks like eating or getting out of bed could indicate a deeper issue.

Traumatic incidents like gun violence and hate crimes can also make people feel “hesitant” and want to withdraw from others – or “in this case question their own community, since (the gunman) was Asian American,” said Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, an Inland Empire-based hypnotherapist who works with families through Parents Anonymous.

The multilingual national hotline connects people anonymously with trained counselors and has assisted mentally distressed seniors across the state and nationwide. Five percent of all of Parents Anonymous’ helpline calls are AAPI clients, Pion-Berlin said.

“We can’t define their trauma, but we can support them,” said Pion-Berlin.

AAPI mental health resources and organizations

  • Chinatown Service Center – Provides medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare; case management and social services. In-person and telehealth services are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Chiu Chow and Toisanese. 213-808-1720
  • Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Centers – Services in LA County and the Inland Empire are available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Spanish. 626-248-1800
  • Pacific Asian Counseling Services – Provides culturally sensitive and language-specific mental health and other services. Renewal Spaces program offers multilingual listening sessions after traumatic events in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Khmer, Vietnamese and Tagalog. 310-259-7604
  • Special Services for Groups – Non-profit organization with programs for older adults. 213-553-1800
  • St. Mary Medical Center – Families in Good Health – Mental health, education, home visitation, case management and support groups in English, Spanish and Khmer. 562-491-9100
  • Search to Involve Pilipino Americans – Serves Historic Filipinotown and other neighborhoods throughout LA County with multilingual mental health services including 1-on-1 family counseling, support groups, community training and wellness workshops for those impacted by trauma, hate incidence and/or violence. www.sipacares.org
  • South Asian Network – Provides mental and emotional health services in Hindi, Pashto and English. 562-403-0488
  • Pacific Clinics – California’s largest community-based nonprofit provider of behavioral and mental health support. 877-722-2737
  • Asian Pacific Family Center – Provides Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish language mental health family services in the San Gabriel Valley. 626-287-2988
  • APFC-East/Multicultural Family Center – Has linguistic and culturally responsive prevention and clinical services to families in the San Gabriel Valley. 626-839-0300
  • Asian Mental Health Collective – Directory of AAPI therapists in the U.S. and Canada. therapy@asianmhc.org
  • Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health – 800-854-7771
  • Garfield Health Center in Monterey Park – Immediate consultation and support for victims and families who need mental health assistance. 626-300-9980
  • Herald Christian Health Center – Cantonese and Mandarin counselors trained in trauma-informed care and therapy. 626-313-9922
  • Yellow Chair Collective – Trauma-informed therapy sessions in English and Mandarin Chinese are at no cost to those who have been directly affected by the Monterey Park tragedy. info@yellowchaircollective.com, 213-222-8402
  • Anise Health – AAPI therapists paired with coaches to provide culturally responsive mental health treatment. info@anisehealth.co

A compiled list of resources for mass shooting victims and community members — including for mental health, legal aid, victims of domestic violence and anti-Asian hate — is available through the AAPI Equity Alliance.

Date: January 30, 2023

How to break your toxic infinite scroll habit on TikTok

Source: Popular Science

Picture this: You’re at your desk working on a project when your phone chimes. A quick glance tells you a friend sent over a video on TikTok. Convinced you’re due for a break, you click the link to find a new dance video from Charli D’Amelio. Fast forward an hour later, and you’re still on your phone, except now you’ve gone from viral dances to animal videos to fitness gurus raving about a weight loss hack. 

If this scenario hits too close to home, you’re not alone. Most people on social media check it daily, and younger people are likelier to return to their favorite platforms multiple times a day. TikTok is especially popular with teenagers: A 2022 survey from the Pew Research Center suggests 67 percent of teens use it, while 16 percent use it almost constantly. 

So why do people spend so much time online? One underlying reason is that platforms like TikTok promote infinite scrolling. You might start off in one video only for the page to continuously load a never-ending stream of content. Absent-mindedly scrolling through content might seem like an innocent activity and a great excuse to waste time. However, research suggests it can negatively influence the brain and mental health.

Anyone can fall prey to mindless scrolling. Younger people are especially vulnerable since the brain is not fully developed until age 25, says Lisa Pion-Berlin, a psychologist and president of Parents Anonymous, a child abuse prevention nonprofit. While limiting access to social media (like this Utah bill requiring parental permission is trying to do) is one option, learning how to be a more active user can help anyone stop infinite scrolling and still enjoy social media.

Why infinite scrolling is bad for you

Social media platforms like TikTok are not comprehensively bad for you. Several studies suggest social media can prompt feelings of connectedness and positive well-being. Further, they allow for personal expression, which fosters positive mental health.

Ultimately, how social media makes people feel depends on how they use it. For example, excess social media use is associated with feeling more anxious, lonely, and generally bad about yourself

“The more attached we are to our devices, the more problematic it becomes,” says Lisa Strohman, a psychologist and the founder of Digital Citizen Academy, an education program that teaches children and teens how to have a healthy relationship with technology. 

[Related: Do you never feel FOMO? Time to meet its twin, JOMO.]

Moreover, Strohman says watching pictures and videos of everyone living their best life might make you worried or sad that you’re missing out. Some research suggests that comparing yourself to others on social media can result in aggression and anxiety, while other studies suggest a link between negative comparisons on social media and suicidal ideation.

Meanwhile, mindless scrolling can result in a state of mind similar to being in a trance state, says Pion-Berlin. She’s concerned that “mindless scrolling is a way to tune out” or dissociate from reality. Some research suggests that overuse of social media can result in negative psychological impacts: A 2023 study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that middle schoolers who constantly checked their social media feeds showed changes in how their brains responded to feedback and criticism from peers.   

Infinite scrolling can also lead to disrupted sleep patterns in adolescents and adults. The screen’s blue light can make it difficult to fall asleep, and the constant content prevents your brain from shutting down for the night. 

When we sleep, the brain sorts through and categorizes the information from the day and commits the vital stuff into long-term memory, explains Strohman. But mindless social media surfing before bedtime keeps giving it more data for the brain to process throughout the night, “and that’s what tends to lead to that insomnia,” she explains.

TikTok app for you feed on three smartphone screens
TikTok’s For You feed will give you a constant stream of recommendations—but you can customize the settings for healthier viewing. TikTok

How infinite scrolling can hijack the brain

Mindless scrolling helps make social media an addicting habit because it takes advantage of the brain’s reward system, says Strohman.

An enjoyable TikTok, for example, can trigger the brain’s reward pathway. Subsequently, this causes the brain to release a chemical called dopamine, which Strohman describes “as a hit or a high” for the brain. The dopamine surge tells the brain that scrolling through social media is pleasurable and that we should do it again. Because another attention-grabbing Tiktok plays immediately when the first is over, this process starts all over again immediately. 

“The brain is rewarded every time because of how the feeds and algorithms are set up so that anytime we’re not on the app, we think we’re missing something,” explains Strohman. “That makes us want to go back on it again.:

The same process applies to adolescents—possibly to a more significant effect. Pion-Berlin explains that because the prefrontal cortex is one of the last brain areas to mature fully, younger people are more impulsive and have less self-control than adults. With less self-control, it may be easier for teens to fall into this rabbit hole of social media content, she says. In addition, the limbic system—a part of the brain involved in behavioral and emotional responses—is also more sensitive during our teenage years, which makes them likelier to prioritize pleasurable and desirable activities.

What are some ways to stop infinite scrolling?

While infinite scrolling isn’t great, that does not mean you need to quit social media altogether. On the contrary, there are some benefits to staying on the apps, such as building communities among people with a shared hobby or interest, maintaining relationships with family who live miles away, raising awareness for a particular cause, and learning from credible experts.

[Related: All the ways you can reduce screen time across your devices]

To make the most of your time, you’ll want to become an active rather than a passive user. Active users interact with others— in practice, this could look like commenting on posts or creating content. The high engagement gives you a specific purpose for being on the app, allows you to nurture and maintain online friendships, and is associated with improved well-being

Meanwhile, infinite scrolling is a passive activity because you’re socially disconnected from others and lurking in the background. Of course, sometimes you just want to take a break from life and watch some mind-numbing videos. In these situations, you’ll want to set a timer to limit the time you spend online and know when it’s time to log off, Strohman says. 

Another suggestion from Strohman is turning off notifications. People often fall into mindless surfing when notified or tagged in something. And while you might start out looking at the relevant post, you can easily find yourself lost in a comment thread or other recommended videos. 

“Have a clear purpose when accessing social media,” Strohman says. If a friend shares a post, tell yourself you will only watch this one video and not spend the next two hours on TikTok. 

“The more you scroll, the less settled you’ll be,” advises Strohman. “Be mindful, recognize your part in it, and try to do what you can to manage yourself in those online worlds.”

Date: April 11, 2023

Holiday Season Brings Uptick in Calls to CA Parent & Youth Helpline®

Source: Public News Service

Active crisis calls have jumped 50% in the run-up to the holidays, according to officials at the California Parent and Youth Helpline.

The helpline is staffed by trained professional counselors who can listen, help people with self-calming techniques, and direct the caller to appropriate help. It’s open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in English and Spanish, with translation services available in other languages.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, president and CEO of Parents Anonymous, which runs the California Parent and Youth Helpline, noted calls have continued to grow.

“We have been getting more and more urgent suicide ideation calls,” Pion-Berlin reported. “Kids reaching out to us, to text and live chat. So, we’re seeing an uptick, in that people are calling us in the middle of a crisis to get vital emotional support. That definitely has increased.”

She pointed out callers can also sign up for free online weekly support groups. The helpline is different from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, because the helpline is tailored specifically to support children, teens, parents and other caregivers. The number is 855-427-2736. People can also live-chat on the group’s website.

Pion-Berlin added some people may feel more comfortable calling the helpline because it is not a government agency.

“At Parents Anonymous, we have a slogan, ‘Asking for help is a sign of strength.’ Whether you’re any age — child, parent, grandma, auntie — we want you to call, text, or live-chat the helpline to get that help early, and before anything escalates,” Pion-Berlin explained.

Date: December 22, 2022

A Unique Support Group Helps Parents of Children in Foster Care

Source: Imprint News

A Unique Support Group Helps Parents of Children in Foster Care
Stills from the film “Failure to Protect” show parents gathered for a support group. Photo courtesy of “Failure to Protect” filmmaker Jeremy Pion-Berlin.

Parents caught up in the child welfare system have to tell their stories to social worker investigators, lawyers and judges as they fight to keep their families together.

But what happens when they share their stories with each other?

A nationwide network serving parents who battle mental health challenges, substance abuse disorders and domestic violence shows regular participation in a support group may make all the difference.

The groups are run by the national nonprofit Parents Anonymous and provide participants with an outlet and coping strategies. In line with growing attention nationwide on preventing maltreatment rather than dealing with its aftermath, they are open to parents and caregivers with children in foster care — and those at risk of future involvement with the child welfare system. 

“The child’s well-being is intricately linked to the parents’ well-being, and those parents need support to dig down deep to deal with their own history,” said Lisa Pion-Berlin, president of Parents Anonymous. “We talk about being a trauma- informed field, but many of these systems traumatize people, and don’t help them and don’t believe in asking the question: How can I help you parents?”

Launched in 1969, Parents Anonymous is one of just five programs designated by a federal review panel as an “evidence-based” path to improving child safety. It is also the only reviewed program in the federal clearinghouse for child maltreatment prevention programs shown to do so while simultaneously improving parenting skills and caregivers’ mental health and substance abuse.The California-based organization runs hundreds of free, confidential two-hour weekly sessions with financial backing from local governments in California, Oregon, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory near the Phillipines. 

More than 4.5 million parents, caregivers and their children nationwide have participated, numbers that have grown when the programs went virtual in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A safe space for caregivers

Support groups led by Parents Anonymous were pivotal for Antonia Rios of Southern California. By the time she found out she was pregnant with her sixth child, she’d attended therapy, court-ordered parenting classes, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Her first five children had been taken into foster care, and this time she was determined to try, once more, to fight for her family. 

Suffering from addiction, mental health struggles and the crippling effects of traumatic events over her lifetime, Rios, 45, learned of Parents Anonymous in 2007 from a rehab counselor.

Her 15 subsequent years of attendance in the support groups, she said, have been transformative. The group conversations are free of judgment, and with the highest stakes on the line — their children — participants commit to change and growth.

“I got not only the safe space, but the support to address my underlying fears and concerns and issues and trauma,” Rios said. “I got all of this from Parents Anonymous that I had never gotten from anywhere else.”

Three years later, Rios managed to bring her children home from foster care, and has since taken in a disabled niece to care for as well. Rios also now serves as a senior parent partner providing support and mentorship to fellow group members navigating child welfare cases, and chair of the national and California Parent Leadership Teams. 

Embedded in landmark child abuse prevention

The origins of Parents Anonymous date back to 1969, when a struggling California mother identified as Jolly K. was attempting to reunify with her child who’d been in foster care. Desperate for resources to help her succeed in keeping her family intact, she organized a parent support and advocacy group with the help of her social worker. Within a few years, the group caught the attention of then-U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale, according to an account published in the journal Pediatrics. At the time, the now-deceased Mondale was helping craft the nation’s landmark 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). 

At Mondale’s invitation, Jolly K. testified before Congress, helping to shape the policy and get the law passed. The senator-turned vice president Mondale would later say that Jolly K.’s testimony taught him “what child abuse was about.” 

CAPTA mandated federal funding for Parents Anonymous, the only program mentioned by name in the final version of the law, as noted in a 2014 report by the federal Administration for Children and Families. 

As Parents Anonymous has grown over the decades, its support group members have pursued local, state and federal advocacy and policy work. Parent participants also help facilitate research projects, including a recent study conducted by the nonprofit research and consulting foundation Casey Family Programs.

The group is currently conducting a randomized controlled study of the Parents Anonymous model, aiming to upgrade the evidence base in the federal clearinghouse from “supported” to the highest level, “well supported.”

Work that is ‘deep and real’

Each Parents Anonymous meeting begins with meditation. 

The lights are dimmed, and participants close their eyes as they’re encouraged to “drop into their bodies” before the conversations on a monthly theme begin.

The meetings are led by ​​a participant-appointed parent group leader, and each gathering includes a group facilitator with a master’s degree in social work, psychology, early childhood education, or other behavioral science field. The facilitators offer clarification and interpretation as the conversations unfold. Both group leaders and facilitators receive 40 hours of training and shadow other support groups before heading up the discussions.

Before joining the support groups, parents are interviewed about their challenges, goals and needs, as well as their families’ strengths and protective factors, such as social connections and support networks. Accounts of adverse childhood experiences and substance use are kept as anonymized data.

Serving a child welfare system that is overwhelmingly populated by low-income groups and people of color, the organization describes its work as an “anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-classist approach to helping others.”

Lisa Pion-Berlin, president of Parents Anonymous.

The program is voluntary for more than half of participants, and the length of participation varies. Some parents attend as a result of court orders in child welfare and custody cases, or they’ve received referral through the juvenile justice system or divorce proceedings. 

Whether or not a court official has ordered a parent to attend the groups, Pion-Berlin said, “they still have to decide they want to go on this journey.” They must be present and fully engaged over the two-hour sessions, she added: “We’re not a rubber-stamping program.” 

On average, parents attend meetings for roughly three to five months. Hundreds of caregivers are on lists, waiting for a spot to open up. While their parents meet, children can attend similar groups designed for their age group — focusing on social-emotional learning, identifying emotions, breathing techniques and self-regulation strategies. 

Prior to the pandemic, the support groups were held in community centers, churches, schools, shelters, mental health clinics, drug and alcohol treatmentprograms, military installations and prisons. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, meetings have been held over Zoom. 

Understandably, the conversations are heavy. So each support group ends with an uplifting activity, like giving shout-outs or sharing self-care activities planned for the week ahead. In between meetings, participants are encouraged to call each other or the group leader if they need extra support. 

“What parents are doing here is deep and real — not skipping around what the real issues are,” said Pion-Berlin, who has led Parents Anonymous since 1992. The organization also manages a helpline for parents and children that just received $4.7 million from the recently passed California state budget. 

‘Supported’ by research

The national clearinghouse of foster care prevention programs ranked Parents Anonymous as “promising,” the second-highest rank on a four-point scale evaluating its evidence base.

California’s statewide clearinghouse rated the support groups “promising” in their effectiveness preventing child abuse and neglect. 

The most recent study of the support groups was funded by Parents Anonymous and conducted by researchers at Arizona State University and Evident Change, a research firm that produces risk assessments for child welfare systems. Using county data, researchers compared more than 200 Parents Anonymous participants with similarly situated parents in the child welfare system who did not attend the support groups.

The 2021 study found that within one year, parents who did not participate were twice as likely to have new allegations of child maltreatment substantiated against them. Participants were also far less likely to be the subject of abuse and neglect reports. The study looked at the rate of subsequent removals into foster care between the two groups as well, but found no statistically significant difference.

“The findings are important for the child maltreatment prevention field because Parents Anonymous offers a cost-effective, easily scalable approach to reducing child maltreatment,” the authors concluded. They noted that given the prior history of the parents studied, the results were encouraging. 

But they stated that more study is needed: “The findings suggest that participation in Parents Anonymous may have a positive, long-term impact on improving child safety among parents involved in the child welfare system.”

Earlier studies show other promising results. As early as 1978, a published studyfound that in questionnaires of participants, 19% of parents reported physically abusing their children “almost every day,” before attending Parents Anonymous support groups. Immediately after participating, that number dropped to 1%, although it is unknown how long the effect may have lasted.

Additional studies published in 2010 and 2011 found that participation for six months “significantly decreases certain risk factors in parents, such as parenting distress, parenting rigidity, psychological aggression toward children, life stress, intimate partner violence, alcohol use, and drug use.” Participants described an “increased quality of life,” greater emotional and social support, and an improved sense of competence as parents. 

Preventative intervention

Maggie Vega first found Parents Anonymous in 2019 when she was isolated with two small children at home, battling postpartum depression and navigating a turbulent time in her marriage. In an interview with The Imprint, she said she found herself resenting her youngest daughter, and riddled with guilt for those feelings. In certain moments, she had even contemplated self-harm. 

But at the time, reaching out for mental health care was fruitless: She was put on a waitlist for the rare psychologist in Rialto, California who accepts Medicaid, and is still on that list four years later. 

One day, she broke down to a neighbor, who pointed her to Parents Anonymous. The first time she shared in the group, she sobbed. But the other moms cried along with her, she recalled, and offered comforting embraces. 

Vega, 36, said the group not only became her community, but helped her avoid losing her children to foster care — a direction she fears she was headed toward had she not received such support. 

“It was a prevention for me and my children, to avoid getting taken away,” she said. “Because if I didn’t get this support, this mutual support from parents, I would have probably gone into postpartum psychosis. I was at my lowest point.”

Both Vega and Rios said their children, too, have benefited from support groups run by Parents Anonymous, and their participation has been instrumental in improving family dynamics. Sharing what they each learned after meetings helps to reinforce their new skills. The kids communicate their needs more effectively, even when there’s conflict or uncomfortable topics arise, both moms said. 

Now, Rios shared, “I have an open relationship with my children that their feelings and fears can be addressed. They can come to me and tell me: ‘You make me feel like this,’ and it’s not blaming and shaming — it’s communicating, and we’re working through it.”

Date: August 3, 2022

Parents Anonymous® Supports the Empowerment Journey of ALL Youth

Understanding Youths

Parents Anonymous® has been supporting the empowerment journey of Diverse Parents, Children & Youth since 1969 through Evidence-Based programs and practice. Recently, the CDC warned of an accelerating mental health crisis among teens. Many teens have reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless.” Due to the extended COVID-19 lockdown, depression and anxiety among youth has risen significantly. Coming of age through the pandemic during the last couple of years has created an environment where so many feel the pressures of social isolation resulting in self-doubt, grief, and overall uncertainty. This Pride month, we want to focus on taking action to support mental health healing for underrepresented members of the community. Promoting open-minded interaction with family and friends like using the pronouns that people ask you to is key to valuing the identity of every person.

Connecting with Youth

Some groups were more likely to be affected by severe mental health issues. LGBTQ+ youths, black teens, and especially women were more likely to report suicidal thoughts. What parents and families can do is communicate openly from their heart, share activities with their adolescents (even at school or simply doing homework!), and communicate regularly with school administrators and teachers – even volunteering when it’s possible. Blame and shame must be avoided for young people to open up about scary thoughts and emotions. Feeling safe is key. Ask those critical questions: How are you? How can I support you? Simply showing youths that they have a support system of people who want to help is the first tool in their toolbox against mental health decline. Parents Anonymous® Free Weekly Groups are a great emotional support for improving the well-being of parents, children and youth.  

How Parents Can Support Youth

Providing opportunities for youth to develop positive social connections at school, or anywhere outside of the home, helps build resilience by exposing adolescents to their peers. Advocating alongside youth at their schools to provide adequate mental health services, integrating social emotional learning into staff training, and changing discipline policies to address equity issues,  can all build safe and supportive environments at school that have a sincere effect on youth. Those who reported feeling connected at school were more likely to be mentally healthier, strengthening vital protective factors for children and youth.

At the end of the day, paying close attention to our children, our parents, and our community overall will provide a supportive environment to address the ups and downs of emotional issues of everyone – especially vulnerable members of our community like LGBTQ+ youth. Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength® – call/text the California Parent & Youth Helpline® at 855-427-2736 or live chat the caparentyouthhelpline.org, 8AM – 8PM 7 days a week for free evidence-based emotional support.

For more from the CDC, find a study summary here.

Parents Anonymous® and the California Parent & Youth Helpline® Featured on Univision Statewide

Watch Now!

California Parent & Youth Helpline, Parents Anonymous® Online Groups, and Community Vaccine Pop-Up Clinics were featured on Univision in September of 2021.

The pandemic has disrupted our routines, and if you’re feeling the stress in your family, you’re not alone. Free emotional support is available in all languages at caparentyouthhelpline.org.

La pandemia ha interrumpido nuestras rutinas, y si siente estrés en su familia, no está solo. El apoyo emocional gratuito está disponible en todos los idiomas en caparentyouthhelpline.org.

Below, find the video that describes how Parents Anonymous® has functioned as a source of vital emotional support for parents, children and youth during the pandemic. For Maggie Vega and many more like her, Parents Anonymous® believes that Asking for Help is A Sign of Strength®.

For those who do not speak Spanish, please consider changing the Closed Captioning settings to translate to your language of choice.

A Message from Dr. Lisa On 30 Years of Service

Parenting Through It All

In reflecting on the past 30 years as the President & CEO of Parents Anonymous® Inc., I realize it has truly been a wondrous and beautiful journey, filled with many milestones and continuing challenges for me. This has been a labor of love.  Every day, I remind myself that advocating against anti-racist, anti-classist, and anti-sexist policies, laws, and procedures that harm and traumatize Parents, Children, & Youth is necessary for preserving the values of family and well-being. 

My most important role in life is being a Mother to two wonderful adult children, along with being a wife, woman, friend, and community member. We must ensure justice and equity are addressed. Peer support has been validated at the community level, and parent leadership with those with lived expertise has been acknowledged, but new, evidence-based structures need to be created that ask and respond to what Parents need help with. We have replaced blame and shame with strength and hope.

I am most proud of our research results increasing safety and enhancing the well-being of all Parents, Children & Youth who attend Parents Anonymous® Groups and use the Helpline. As an organization, we have changed the conversation and outcomes by developing and spreading Shared Leadership® Initiatives and Programs, which continue to be the hallmark for securing meaningful and long-term change. In the next 30 years, we will continue Parents Anonymous® with respect and humility for diverse and empowered Parents, Children & Youth worldwide in order to safeguard positive outcomes, ones that build thriving and resilient communities. 

Our theme of National Parent Leadership Month® is Parenting Through It All. Throughout February Parents are being honored and celebrated for all that they do to ensure their personal well-being, enhance the growth and development of their children, support schools, improve workplaces, and improve neighborhoods. We all know that Parents are the unsung heroes of the pandemic. We at Parents Anonymous® believe the future depends on parents who are both courageous and unrelenting.  These past 2 years have challenged Parents given the worry, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety a worldwide pandemic has produced with long-term consequences to all of us. No matter what Parents stepped up to create stability in uncertain times, provide uncompromising love and support to see everyone through, and be the rock for their Children & Youth no matter what. We at Parents Anonymous® believe in the strengths of all Parents in good and bad times.

Parents Anonymous® asks individuals, government, philanthropy, and businesses to invest in the hope of the future: Parents, Children & Youth, so no one is left behind, overlooked, or blamed and shamed because Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength®. With Parents in the driver’s seat, we assure a future where empowered Parents, Children & Youth have a brighter future!