How do you manage through times of emotional distress, depression and anxiety?

Major crises, such as the loss of a job, health or relationship, can put anyone into this situation.

Dr. Gregory Schramka is a behavioral health supervisor at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

I just learned of a dear friend, who lost her job due to the economic downturn. She responded as many people do – she became sad, she suffered from low self-esteem, she lost motivation to keep searching for a new job. I wondered what I could do to help her.

Greg Schramka, PsyD, Director of Behavioral Health Therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, describes this as avoidance behavior – staying in bed, withdrawing from friends, exercise or normal routines – that can tend to lead to, maintain or worsen depression.

“People often resort to avoidance to escape stressful events and depressive feelings. Individuals need to identify personally meaningful activities and be encouraged to schedule them into their week and carry them out regardless of their mood.”

So I will encourage my friend to take action (one of the concepts behind a research-supported therapy used by Dr. Schramka called Behavioral Activation), and to break patterns of avoidance. I understand that is may be far from easy for her.  And if she needs more help, professional therapy is available.

For more information about treatment for individuals experiencing emotional distress, feelings of hopelessness, or depression, visit the web site for Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.


Caregivers bring holidays home for hospitalized children

How would you feel if you were hospitalized over the holidays?  Our young patients especially miss the traditions and treats of the seasonal celebrations.

At a time when they cannot share the holiday with their families, familiar holiday activities can be so comforting to a child who is hospitalized.

Offering the annual Santa & Rein-dog event at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital is one way of providing comfort to our patients. So on a Saturday in December, the caregivers at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital helped to make the patient experience a little more merry.

Many traditional family activities were offered, providing that “feeling of home”, including watching Frosty the Snowman and other holiday videos, and visits with Santa. Creative activities – like decorating your own graham cracker gingerbread house, and creating adorable felt ornaments to take home – offered the healing benefits of art therapy.

Children were also inspired to help other children in need by creating a tied fleece blanket, which was donated to a local community children’s organization. What a great way to demonstrate kindness and gratitude to our young patients.

Volunteer pets, disguised as Santa’s Reindeer, joined the celebration. The therapy dogs regularly visit our child inpatient units, and make a difference for our patients throughout the year, so it was natural to include them in this special event. The dogs are a nurturing, fuzzy friend to many of the children hospitalized at our facility.

Other familiar guests were on hand to make the children feel special.  North Pole Elves and The Gingerbread Man greeted the children and gave them extra attention, adding to the family atmosphere.

I feel lucky to work at a facility which puts the patients’ needs above all, and I thank our caregivers for providing this example of exceptional patient care.

Aurora Psychiatric Hospital offers an ideal setting for individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse problems. Located on a beautiful, 30-acre wooded campus in Wauwatosa, Aurora Psychiatric Hospital has been a leader in behavioral health care since 1884. Find out more about Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

Tips for parents with strong-willed children

Do you know of a strong-willed child?  Is it impossible to get your child to go to bed?  Does your child struggle with taking directions from you?  If you’ve answered yes to these two questions you may be dealing with a strong-willed child.

Parents of strong-willed children are often left feeling frustrated.  They spend countless hours feeling guilty for vacillating between feelings of dislike for their children and questioning what went wrong to create such a child.

Children who are classified as strong- willed tend to be overly independent, stubborn, screams, has increased temper tantrums, demands attention,  is sassy, and can be aggressive.  As they become older, parents may report behaviors such as defiance, disrespectful and even verbally and/or physically abusive.  However, these same children when channeled appropriately can become kind, nurturing, are fast learners, and display leadership qualities.

The question is how do we promote more compliance and create a calmer environment from children that are stubborn or strong- willed?

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers a few quick practices to help a parent get on the right track:

  • Try to structure the child’s play as much as possible to avoid moments of unobserved frustration.  It is important to observe the child trying to make sense of their world, in order to assist them with the correct way to respond to challenges.
  • Physically interact and play with your child.  It is easy to become distracted in our busy day to day lives where we allow our children to entertain themselves with the ills of technology and media.
  • Ignore inappropriate behaviors.  Children will often engage in behaviors that are annoying, disrespectful and bad-mannered.  If the behaviors do not pose a physical threat to yourself or your child, ignore them.
  • The most important thing we can do to diminish stubborn behaviors is to “catch them being good” and reward those behaviors.  Rewards are often viewed by parents as paying a child to do something that they should naturally be doing.  However, social rewards are the most effective rewards.  Social rewards involve praising a child for good manners, acknowledging sharing with a smile, and a pat on the back for working hard.  These are the rewards that children yearn for and that parents most often take for granted.

There are many ways to begin to alleviate those frustrating behaviors displayed by a child.  It is important for parents to understand that you cannot create a strong -willed child.   Unfortunately the combination of one’s environment and a child’s temperament can influence problematic behaviors from strong- willed children. Specific situations such as divorcing parents, alcoholism within the family, inconsistent responses to behavior problems, and overall family stress can trigger strong-willed behavior in young children.

The most difficult challenge for parents is to recognize that they may need to change how they are responding and interacting with their child.  Problematic behaviors can be exacerbated through inconsistent interactions and attending to inappropriate behaviors.

If you’ve recognized any of these behaviors in a child and want further resources on how to deal with strong-willed children, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services for outpatient counseling or access to the Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Program.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.