Michelle Gabrielle Centamore

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Spring Awakening Brings Magic, Wonder To Stage at The Argyle Theatre

Set in Germany in 1891, The Argyle Theatre’s mesmerizing presentation of Tony Award Winning rock musical Spring Awakening is a brilliantly performed production that captures the timeless story of teenage sexual discovery and angst, and the grownups charged with their care.

Spring Awakening is based on the book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, and play by Frank Wedekind. The show stars Corrie Farbstein as the vulnerable Wendla whose desire to explore her sexual urges creates tragic circumstances; David Thomas Cronin as the shy, frustrated Moritz whose insecurity leads to the unthinkable; and Alex Joseph Grayson as the strong, passionate Melchoir. Together, with the rest of the incredibly talented cast, critical, real-life issues and powerful emotions — both of which are relevant to today’s youth — are brought to life on stage.

“This is one stellar cast,” said artistic director Evan Pappas. “You will remember each and every one of these characters.”

Argyle’s Spring Awakening brings back the magic and wonder of this heart-wrenching and dramatic story with the guidance of an exceptional creative team: director, Matthew Earnest; production stage manager, Ingrid Pierson; musical director, Jonathan Brenner; choreographer, Sara Brians; lighting designer, John Salutz; sound designer, Carlos Dias Jr.; set and costume designer, William Bezek.

All songs including “Mama Who Bore Me,” “Don’t Do Sadness,” and “Totally F’d” are performed with depth, fluidity, and exciting choreography and arrangements from the pit; lighting is literally spot on; the crew seamlessly works in scene changes and remarkably creative props leaving audiences with a jaw-dropping performance.

At Argyle, you get a “whole experience,” says Pappas. Extraordinary energy, feeling immersed in someone else’s story. No matter how fictional, you’re there, taking it all in and thoroughly enjoying the ride.

Next up: The Producers!

Argyle Theatre, 34 West Main St., Babylon. argyletheater.com, 844-631-5483. Spring Awakening tickets $74-$79. Through February 24. The Producers tickets $74-$79. March 14 through April 20.

Cleanse and Repeat For a More Productive 2019

Get rid of negativity in your life. Fill that New Year’s cup with positivity instead.

“Detoxication is essential and will welcome you into a new year that will give you a healthy outlook physically and mentally,” says Dr. Evelina Grayver, director of Coronary Care at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

There are lots of ways to detoxify your life. Here are some tips from the experts:

ENJOY GOOD NUTRITION

A balanced, fad-free diet, free of processed sugars, is critical for detoxification and overall good health.

“Processed sugars cause mental cloudiness and physical fatigue proven to cause cortisol surges and inflammation,” says Dr. Grayver.

She suggests sticking to three meals per day and drinking lots of water.

“When you’re drinking enough, you’re supplementing the enzymes that we have to allow for appropriate digestion,” the doctor adds.

GET FIT

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of both), plus at least two days per week of muscle strengthening.

Great “detoxifying exercises” include jogging, spinning, swimming, dancing — “anything that involves increasing your heart rate above your baseline,” says Dr. Grayver.

Plus, exercise releases endorphins. And endorphins make you happy.

REST YOUR MIND

“Cube breathing,” says Dr. Grayver, involves inhaling through the nose, holding, and exhaling through the mouth for a count of four with each.

Concentrate on nothing else for that time while cube breathing (also called box breathing or four-square breathing)

Breathe all the way in, and exhale all the way out. It seriously works wonders.

JUICE IT UP

Detoxify through organic juicing, suggests Craig Margulies, co-owner with Rowan Shifrin of Organic Corner in Massapequa and Wantagh. Organic Corner is soon to establish the first 100 percent organic plant-based restaurant on Long Island early this year, Margulies adds.

“The real benefit of a juice cleanse is you’re putting yourself into a digestive rest, giving your body enough time to heal,” he says.

GET ADJUSTED

Having a chiropractor perform an adjustment isn’t only for those with back trouble.

“A chiropractic adjustment supports detoxification through the elimination of structural interference relating to the nervous system, allowing for efficient flow and movement,” says Dr. Alan Sherr, founder and director of Northport Wellness Center in Northport.

It’s noninvasive and effective, he adds.

STRIKE A POSE

There’s a reason people leave yoga class in a good mood.

“All yoga postures have the potential to promote detoxification,” says Kristina Klimek, certified yoga therapist and yoga instructor and owner of Garden Yoga Therapy LLC in East Northport.

Yoga helps achieve “lightness in the body, clarity in the mind, and spiritual expansion,” she adds.

DECLUTTER

A cluttered living space can impede self improvement.

“The objects you keep within your home could be affecting your mood, memories, cognitive focus, stress, and anxiety levels,” says Laura Cerrano, a certified feng shui expert and CEO of Feng Shui Manhattan. “Whatever you do not need, use or love, let it go!”

Start slow and simple, perhaps with one shelf or drawer. Consider donating instead of throwing away.

NATURAL ONE

Including real plants in your home can reduce stress and anxiety, Cerrano says.

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” also helps achieve calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits.

It’s like bringing home the feeling of well-being discovered on a walk in the woods or on the beach.

DETOXIFY YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

“If you’re with a toxic, borderline narcissist — leave,” says Fred L. Holtz, Ph.D., director of Psychological Services Long Island in Hicksville.

You can’t negotiate or change toxic people, but you can disengage, even if it’s from a family member, he says.

Surround yourself with positive people who inspire. Be mindful of social media influencers and don’t compare yourself to others. And keep in mind the power of forgiveness.

“It builds toxicity in your mind to not forgive people,” including yourself, Holtz says.

Learn from mistakes and move on.

Rather than dwell on the negative, “Pause and appreciate the things and people that you do have,” advises Holtz.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Remind yourself of past achievements. Recite positive affirmations daily. Change your perspective.

“Most things in life are really just an inconvenience,” Holtz notes. “A flat tire is not a tragedy.”

Explore “life-affirming activities,” says Holtz. Learn a new language, train for a marathon.

When you detoxify your life, your self-esteem and your self-efficacy increases, says Holtz. You can effectively change your life. If you find yourself trying these strategies with little success, seek professional support, he advises.

We all deserve to be happy.

Reflect and Plan For Success in 2019

With New Year’s resolutions, we commit to creating change in the hopes our lives will improve.

“A lot of people see the new year as an end of one segment of time and the logical, natural time to hit the reset button and go after some changes,” says Striker Corbin, a speaker and success coach at Striker Corbin Hypnosis & Success Coaching in Hauppauge. “Anytime you look to improve yourself, that’s a positive thing.”

For some, reflecting on 2018 may be more of a reminder of what went wrong rather than right. If last year’s goals didn’t come to fruition or if you’re looking to set the bar higher this time around, fear not. We’ve got tips from the experts on how to make your resolutions stick for 2019.

CHANGE IS POSSIBLE

“It is paramount to believe in yourself because it’s your thoughts plus the emotions you attach to them that determine your outcomes,” says Corbin.

Assume you can do anything you set your mind to.

“Build your business but take time to do the things that feed your soul,” says Corbin. Do what makes you happy — and relaxed — as often as you can. “Remember to get out in nature and hike, listen to music, drive, meditate, work out.”

BE REALISTIC

Set an attainable goal for which you could see results sooner than later, suggests Marc Buccellato, who co-owns On the Marc Training, a Long Island mobile fitness company, with his wife, Monique.

Be specific in your language. Aim to lose a half a pound to a pound per week vs. 50 pounds this year.

“Just a like job and getting promotions, good things take time,” and work, he says.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

For people to stay fit and obtain their goals, it’s really about consistency.

“You want to be able to train three times per week to get results and maintain results,” says Buccellato. “Stay active on the days you are not training.”

Take a walk, ride your bike, or rake leaves.

MAKE A PLAN

If you want to save money, “break it down” says Alex Jamieson, a coach and mentor on Long Island. “Be the person who says ‘no’ to the impulse buys and who decides to cook at home rather than eat out.”

Start small. If your goal is to eat healthier, add healthier food to your grocery list. If you want to be more positive, “avoid toxic relationships and becoming overly focused on social media,” suggests Jamieson.

Will you need childcare? Can you afford to join a gym?

Discuss options with your partner or close friend. Make them aware of how important your goals are.

MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS

Utilize apps like Trello to track results — sleep hours, for example — or Google Calendar to note activities completed and missed, suggests Jamieson.

“How many days did I go outside for a walk? Have I gone to Pilates this week?”

Check in with yourself.

“How am I feeling?” Pencil in “me time” as well as quality time with friends and family.

START INSIDE

Whether it’s losing weight, exercising more, or saving money, “If a person starts working on their self-esteem or negativity, they are going to feel more deserving of setting certain resolutions and probably be more successful, too,” says Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, director and owner of Nassau Guidance and Counseling.

Practice gratitude, she suggests.

There may be underlying causes that make accomplishing resolutions challenging, says Dwyer-Blair.

“Consider, ‘Are there emotional obstacles preventing me from living the life I want?’”

A therapist can help identify the source of struggle and “help individuals work through it.”

PLAN FOR MISTAKES

“If you mess up, come from a place of curiosity,” advises Jamieson.

Was it an achievable goal?

“Successful people will make mistakes or fail, yet they see each step as an opportunity to grow their level of awareness,” reminds Corbin.

Gift Guide: Shop Local, Gift Local This Holiday Season

’Tis the season to give! Not sure what to get your special friend, colleague or loved one? Give the gift that keeps on giving this season by shopping local!

When you shop local, you’re making a positive difference by helping small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive and thus the community at large. A lot of heart goes into locally made products, too, which makes gifting these items that much more special.

Need suggestions? We got you covered!

Oyster Bay Brewing Co.
Cheers! Treat your bestie to a unique ale or lager in-house or gift a six-pack, growler, souvenir pint glasses, t-shirt and more from Oyster Bay Brewing Co., where high-quality beer meets a breeze of nostalgia, embracing the nautical history of the Gold Coast, too. Beers are crafted locally and carried throughout Long Island pubs and restaurants. 36 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay. oysterbaybrewing.com $5-$45.

The Chef’s Table Long Island
Feed the belly and the soul this holiday season with home-cooked meals delivered to your door! Prepared by a Long Island chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, The Chef’s Table Long Island offers hot and cold entrees, rice bowls, soup/salad combos. Serves West Islip and surrounding communities, Babylon, Bay Shore, Brightwaters. 516-241-4504. Facebook.com/TheChefsTableLI $70-$85.

Penny & Cooper
Take your senses to a winter wonderland at Penny & Cooper. Find great gifts like soaps, lotions, home sprays and bath balms that look good enough to eat and are so elegantly wrapped for that special someone. All-natural products, many of which are locally produced. The “Historical Collection” soy candles feature scenes of Northport that date back as early as the late 1800s. 154 Main Street, Northport. Facebook.com/public/Penny-Cooper $4-$100.

Em and Liz
Think pink and treat the young supergirl princess in your life to some sparkly girl-powered gifts by Em and Liz. Themed, monthly surprise girlie gift subscription items designed to foster creative, imaginative play and self-expression help girls experience and prolong the magic of girlhood month after month. emandliz.com $25-$255 plus shipping depending on delivery plan.

The Cat Bird Seat

The Catbird Seat
Nestled in Sayville, this affordable community art gallery is supplied and supported by talented Long Island artists. In addition to paintings, discover sterling silver jewelry, woodworking, and pottery plus home decor, pillows, and furniture. Give an “experience gift” with a certificate for an art class, geared for kids and adults of all levels. 18 Main St, Sayville. thecatbirdseat.us $4-$1,000.

locaLI bred
Enjoy Long Island-made products, edible and non-edible, through locaLI bred’s curated gift boxes and online marketplace. Each box features the company’s brownie and blondie bars and supports at least 10 local businesses across Long Island, from artists to jam makers, spice blenders to candle makers, and more. Subscription services and delivery available. localibred.com $50-$225.

Raleigh’s Poultry Farm
Kick it old school this holiday season! Shop local, eat local and gift local with Raleigh’s Poultry Farm. Bring their farm to your loved one’s table with organic poultry, fresh eggs, baked items, beef, eggs and wild salmon. 335 Old Indian Head Rd., Kings Park. raleighsfarm.com Prices vary.

Precious Scripts
What was initially started as a small personalized sticker company by two best friends from college is now a source for a fantastic gift and party experience. Personalize water bottles, large trays, handbags, accessories, buckets, statement piece(s) for your home. Customize napkins, cups or favors.preciousscripts.com $20-$150.

MakeEmjELLIE
Make happy dreams come true with dream catchers adorned with magical crystals, dried flowers from local flower shops, and whimsical ribbons. Fancy up a newborn with beautiful, floral headbands. Wine stoppers embellished with gemstones like rose quartz or amethyst are perfect for any wine aficionado! makeemjellie.etsy.com $8.95-$60.

Nuna Knits
Warm up this holiday season with Nuna Knits. Farm meets fashion with the manufacturing of responsibly harvested and local yarns and products including knitted socks and garments. Specialty items include felted soaps. 50 East Main Street, Riverhead. nunaknits.com $28-$300.

Long Island Elderly Claim Dignity and Independence at Home

Home healthcare aides are increasingly in demand (Shutterstock)

The so-called silver tsunami of aging Baby Boomers is creating a big spike in demand for home health aides to care for those who prefer to stay at home on Long Island.

Of 1.3 million Nassau County residents, more than 310,000 are older than 60 and the fastest-growing segment is those older than 85, who are expected to increase by 25 percent from 2015 to 2040. In 2015, Suffolk County had more than 320,000 residents age 60-plus and the population of 85-plus seniors is expected to more than double to 63,516 by 2040, according to the New York State Office for the Aging.

“Nassau County is getting older at a rapid pace,” says Jorge Martinez, deputy commissioner of the Nassau County Office for the Aging.  

In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor reported 2,927,600 home health aides and personal care aides employed in the United States. The BLS predicts a 41 percent increase in this industry by 2026 with 4,136,400 active employees.

“People want to age in their homes and in their communities as long as possible and not go to institutions for services,” says Bill Ferris, associate state director for advocacy for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “Home care is one of the ways that keeps people who need services in their homes.”

WHAT IS HOME HEALTHCARE?

There are two different types of home care agencies: licensed and certified.

“The certified agency provides skilled services, such as physical therapists, to go into the home and are primarily reimbursed by Medicare,” explains Nancy Geiger, director of Gurwin Home Care Agency, Inc., a licensed agency that provides health aides and companions to Nassau and Suffolk counties. “Most people access this type of service upon being discharged from a rehabilitation facility or hospital.”

Agencies like Gurwin also provide such skilled services as nursing, speech therapy, occupational therapy and social work.

“The licensed agency provides paraprofessional services that are delivered by home health aides,” Geiger explains. “Specific services include showering, dressing, meal preparations, laundry, etc.”

They can also support services provided by a certified agency, for example, motivating patients to exercise according to a plan prescribed by a physical therapist. 

WHO QUALIFIES?

“Anyone qualifies for home health care, but those who are in the most need are the elderly and people with disabilities,” says Greg Massimi, chief operating officer of TLC Companions in Bethpage.

When considering home healthcare, Massimi says it’s important to recognize if the patient is able to live independently or not.

“Can the patient do all of their necessary tasks independently?” he asks. “If not, then home health care would certainly be able to provide the patient with a higher standard of life.”

 WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

“An aide can alleviate the feeling of having no one to talk to while also assisting with tasks around the house,” says Massimi. “An aide [also] allows for the family members of the patient to continue to live their lives uninterrupted while having the peace of mind that their loved one is being taken care of,” he adds.

But family members should do their due diligence.

“When you’re looking for an agency, you really have to do your homework,” says Amy Recco, co-owner with husband Michael of Friends for Life Homecare in Massapequa.

An assessment or consultation will help determine what is covered by Medicare or long-term healthcare insurance, what can be afforded out of pocket, time or supervision required from an aide, and specific needs of your loved one, she says.

Transitioning to home health care is not always easy. Both patients and their loved ones need compassion and support.

“It’s a big change for the patient because they have come from a place of living alone — being totally functional by themselves — to becoming more dependent,” says Geiger. “A lot of times, they feel like they are a burden to their family.”

Rocco notes that caregiver support groups offer much-needed solace.

“It’s very important that the caretaker gets as much support and help that they need, knowing that they are not alone,” she adds.

Long Island Medics Help Survivors Beat Breast Cancer

A doctor assists a woman undergoing a mammogram x-ray test. (Photo by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

The American Cancer Society says breast cancer is the most common newly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death of women in the U.S. But due to advanced research, treatment and therapies, the survival rate is increasing, and quality of life is improving for survivors.

And there are quite a few on Long Island. From 2011 to 2015, the average annual cases of female breast cancer were 1,295.2 in Nassau County and 1,316 in Suffolk County. The average annual deaths ranged from 191 in Nassau to to 201.8 in Suffolk, according to the New York State Department of Health.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s to giving hope for patients diagnosed with breast cancer:

EARLY DETECTION

A major advance in mammography has been the development of 3-D digital tomosynthesis, “which takes multiple images at different depths of the breast and has a greater ability to distinguish cancer from non-cancer,” says Dr. George Raptis, breast medical oncologist in the Don Monti Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success.

“New York has joined other states to add the requirement that if a patient has dense breasts, they should be informed [by their doctor] to consider a sonogram in addition to a mammogram,” which can further assist in detecting abnormalities, Dr. Raptis notes.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 to 44 who are at average risk should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. Women age 45 to 54 should get yearly mammograms and women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or continue yearly screening.  Women who are at high risk for breast cancer should get an MRI and a mammogram every year, typically starting at age 30.

TARGETED SURGICAL TREATMENTS

“Oncoplastic techniques to treat breast cancer bring breast cancer surgery and plastic surgery together so patients now have a nicer outcome,” says Dr. Christine Hodyl, director of Breast Services at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. For patients who have a mastectomy, immediate breast reconstruction now has better results, less pain and a quicker recovery, she adds.

Today, “giving dose-dense chemotherapy for patients [diagnosed] with early-stage breast cancer is dramatically improving outcomes,” says Dr. Raptis. Also, utilizing the Norton-Simon hypothesis — which states that the rate of cancer cell death in response to treatment is directly proportional to the tumor growth rate at the time of treatment — while treating HER2-positive breast cancer (a breast cancer that tests positive for the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein), has further reduced the risk of developing metastasis cancer, he explains.

“Genetic testing and counseling is a big field; we know more about the genes and can better identify those at risk,” adds Dr. Hodyl, referring to BRCA1 and BRCA2 [specific inherited mutations that can increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers] among others.

INCREASED AWARENESS

Patients are visiting their physicians sooner than later, which can lead to a better outcome, says Dr. Hodyl.

“People are also making good health choices overall, with or without a breast cancer diagnosis,” she adds. These include exercising, eating fewer processed foods and red meats, and consuming less alcohol. These healthy habits may help patients diagnosed with breast cancer respond better to traditional treatment, she says.

Dr. Hodyl advises women to bring anything suspicious — any change, lump or change on the skin, something that looks or feels different than before — to their physician’s attention.

RESOURCES

Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center
Stony Brook, 631-638-1000

CloSYS Oral Health Products
Relief for mouth sores associated with chemotherapy, closys.com

Good Samaritan Hospital
Breast Health Center, West Islip, 631-376-3000

Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition
Great Neck, 516-829-1139

Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition
Huntington, 631-547-1518

Natural Pain Solutions
Medical Marijuana, East Northport, 631-262-8505

Northwell Health Cancer Institute
Lake Success, 516-734-8778

Planned Parenthood
Hempstead, 516-750-2508; Smithtown.
631-361-7526, plannedparenthood.org

West Islip Breast Cancer Action Coalition
West Islip, 631-669-7770

Warning Signs of Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer

The teal awareness ribbon is a symbolic bow color for supporting patient with Ovarian Cancer, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Illness awareness.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more fatalities than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

The ACS estimates that in 2018, about 22,240 women will be diagnosed with a new case and 14,070 will die from ovarian cancer. On Long Island, from 2012 to 2014, the ovarian cancer incidence rate was 718 per 100,000 — a regional incidence rate of 16.4 during that time period, according to the New York State Department of Health.

While a relatively uncommon disease, “Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of the gynecological cancers and one of the most lethal malignancies overall,” says Dr. Michael Pearl, the Director of Women’s Cancer Services and Medical Director of Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Stony Brook University Hospital. “Anything we can do to increase public awareness is really important.”

Because September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, here are some tips for what to watch for:

VAGUE SYMPTOMS

Of the four types of ovarian cancer — germ cell, stromal cell, small cell and epithelial — epithelial, which develops on the ovary’s surface, is most common, explains Dr. Pearl.

Early symptoms may include nausea, diarrhea, pelvic pain, and changes in appetite. As the disease advances, symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, bloating, vomiting, weight loss or gain, and difficulty with bladder or bowel functions.

RISK FACTORS

Women who have chosen not to have children or are infertile are at increased risk, says Dr. Eva Chalas, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at NYU Winthrop Hospital. Obesity is linked to increased risk, as well as genetics and family history.

“On Long Island, we have a lot of women with the BRCA [BReast CAncer genes] mutation,” she says, noting the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

These genes typically suppress tumors, however, when they mutate, they can cause more harm. The ACS reports that women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 35 percent to 70 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime and women with BRCA2 mutations have a 10 percent to 30 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 70.

“In the U.S., two-thirds of adult women are either overweight or obese, which has resulted in hazards to their health—cancer is one of them,” says Dr. Chalas. “Maintaining normal body weight and exercising regularly can minimize the risk of developing a number of cancers, including ovarian.”

There are no recommended screening tests to efficiently test for ovarian cancer, says Dr. Pearl.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against screening for ovarian cancer in asymptomatic women, determining that screening could result in harm, including false-positive test results and unnecessary surgical interventions. This applies to women with no symptoms who are not known to have a high-risk hereditary cancer syndrome.  

IMPROVING TREATMENT

“Chemotherapy agents have improved in effectiveness and tolerability,” Dr. Pearl notes. “Surgery has gotten better.”

PARP inhibitors, which help repair DNA, are available to patients with BRCA mutations.

“Most institutions are now doing molecular testing of tumor cells…there are ongoing trials looking at immunotherapies, vaccines and other targeted therapies,” Dr. Chalas says. “Survival for ovarian cancer has improved but we still have a ways to go.”

Additional funds for research and treatment are desperately needed, the doctors say.

Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer must be treated by a gynecologic oncologist, asserts Drs. Pearl and Chalas. Comprehensive treatment by an expert will provide the best outcomes.   

SHOW SUPPORT

“When a woman hears that she has ovarian cancer, it’s not surprising she’s absolutely devastated and frightened,” says Sharon Lerman, LCSW-R, OSW-C, Manager, Social Work – Oncology, Monter Cancer Center, Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success. “It’s very important to become educated about the illness, advocate for yourself and work with your medical team,” which can include doctor(s), nurses, loved ones, social worker, nutritionists, etc.

Learn what resources — physical, emotional, psychological and financial — will best meet the individual needs of patient and family, she says.

 

Is Social Media Harming Our Youth?

It’s rare to see a teenager without a smartphone in hand.

Ninety five percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they’re engaged in cyberspace almost constantly, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study entitled Teens, Social Media & Technology. Many of those teenagers appear obsessed with social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, but at what cost?

With alarming rates of teenage depression and suicide, some relating to cyberbullying — a tragic local example being the 2010 suicide of West Islip teen Alexis Pilkington — parents are finding themselves in unchartered territory.

Worried about the negative effects of social media on teens? Here’s what to look out for:

CYBERBULLYING

In online interviews with 813 teens between the ages of 13 and 17, plus 809 parents of teens, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) found 23 percent reported experience with online harassment or bullying and 24 percent said they’ve felt pressure to participate.

“Cyberbullying has become a mental health challenge for a lot of young people,” says Laura Campbell, director of education at Bellmore-based Long Island Crisis Center and trustee on the board of the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying in Farmingdale. “It is a very threatening thing to be a youth today and know that in a second, someone could have that kind of power to post something you did wrong.”

Signs of bullying include increased frustration especially following phone use, lack of sleep, sloping grades, anxiety, depression, and decreased self-esteem. Parents who notice these behavior changes should “reassure your child that you’re there to help and will include them in the process,” Campbell says.

Listen. Validate. Help them to feel empowered.

FOMO: FEAR OF MISSING OUT

For many teens, their world exists in social media, says Campbell.

“They always want to be connected and fear they’re missing out on something when they’re not,” she says.

This is why most teens get anxious when their phones are taken away. Like adults, teenagers often post highlights of their day, neglecting to disclose unpleasant experiences.

“It therefore puts unrealistic pressure on impressionable adolescents to compete and be more concerned about appearance and social status, rather than more connected and nuanced relationships,” says Dr. Julian Herskowitz, Clinical Psychologist Director, TERRAP Anxiety and PhobiaCare, Huntington.

He notes that cyberspace can be a lonely place.

“Much emotion and context is lost if a person communicates more electronically than in person and [this] can add to feelings of isolation, being different, or lowered self esteem,” he says.

This may lead to “the emptiness that can motivate drug use or abuse.”

Social media makes teens question who their real friends are.

“Sometimes people will like their posts and be friendly on social media but then when they see them in person, they’ll walk right past them and not invite them to a party,” Campbell says.

Posted party photos only deepen the wound.

INCREASED DISCONNECT

Twenty-two percent of teens say they often butt heads with their parents about screen time while 26 percent of parents admit arguing with their children about it, the NCSA study says.

“It is up to parents to learn about social media and how it fits into our kids’ lives so they can learn to use it wisely [and safely],” says Shane G. Owens, Ph.D., ABPP, psychologist and president, Suffolk County Psychology Association, Commack.

Today’s teens interact differently, often more through social media than face to face.

“This can keep kids from learning important social cues and rules for behavior,” Owens says.

There has to be a balance. Social media doesn’t have to be negative. With education, it can help to rekindle old friendships, gain new ones and connect with the world.

North Fork Community Theatre Marks Milestone

The North Fork Community Theatre is gearing up for major renovations.

Since 1962, the North Fork Community Theatre has performed more than 200 high-quality shows in a quaint, circa-1830 space rented from the Mattituck Presbyterian Church.

Determined to make the beloved space their permanent home, the NFCT launched a fundraising campaign, “Building on Tradition,” aiming to raise $1,000,000 to purchase and renovate the structure. The community wholeheartedly embraced the endeavor and NFCT bought the building in 2012 for half their fundraising goal. It is now partially renovated, with major renovations to commence following NFCT’s Youth on Stage production of Seussical, running July 19 to Aug. 5.

“North Fork Community Theatre is an integral part of the community,” says Mary Motto Kalich, board president of NFCT. “The joy of working really hard on a project with like minded people…it is good for everyone, especially kids.”

The all-volunteer organization presents a fall and spring musical, two winter plays and a Youth on Stage performance in summer, providing an opportunity for individuals to use their talents, learn and have fun.

Seussical will showcase an “outrageous level of energy and talent in the kids [ranging in age from 14 to 22],” she says. Following Seussical, the NFCT will extend the stage by three feet on either side, build an orchestra pit and rehearsal room below the stage, and add new lighting.

“The main goal is to keep the local charm and feel of the theatre but also enhance outdated technology so our patrons can better see, hear and experience live theatre,” says Kalich.

North Fork Community Theatre is located at 12700 Old Sound Ave. in Mattituck. They can be reached at 631-298- 6328, 631-298-4500, or nfct.com Tickets cost $25.

Suicide Prevention: Talking Down Depression

The recent passings of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain left many asking, how could two successful people who brought others such joy be so unhappy?

Their tragic deaths raised awareness of suicide and depression, shedding light on startling statistics indicating a national uptick in people taking their own lives. If there is any silver lining, it is that the back-to-back celebrity suicides sparked a healthy, open dialogue about depression and suicide because, most importantly, while increasingly prevalent, it is also preventable.

“Spade and Bourdain were human beings struggling with a core human emotion — a profound sadness that caused them to lose all hope and take their lives,” says Eda Franco, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Nassau County. “It could happen to anyone.”

Rates of suicide have increased by 30 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that each year, nearly 45,000 Americans take their own lives. Locally, Nassau suicides declined from 100 in 2013 to 91 in 2015 and 141 to 137 in Suffolk for the same time period, according to the latest statistics available from the state health department.

Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents. Poor, wealthy, famous or not. All ages, any race, gender, ethnicity. Depression does not discriminate.

WIDE-RANGING FACTORS

Contributing factors to someone committing suicide may be unrelated to mental illness, experts say.

“A loss of a relationship on top of other losses, coupled with a lack of coping skills — for some individuals that could be a significant reason for them to consider their life worthless,” says Garra Lloyd-Lester, director of Community Initiatives for the Suicide Prevention Center of New York.

Feelings of deep shame, embarrassment, and being trapped could also cause someone to act irrationally in a desperate state, he notes.

Individuals with depression who are taking prescription medication for depression, anxiety, etc. must be consistently monitored, says Karen Boorshtein, CEO of the Huntington-based Family Service League.

“All medications have side effects,” she says.

Alcohol consumption in addition to drugs such as opioids can increase feelings of hopelessness, she adds.

KNOW THE SIGNS

“Look for changes in behavior,” says Franco.

Extreme exhaustion, irritability, sadness, distraction, aloofness, decrease in work productivity, lack of motivation.

“When you’re in a deep clinical depression, you may experience prolonged sadness,” she adds. “You don’t want to move.”

UNDERLYING MOTIVATIONS

“They don’t know how to go on living at that particular moment in time with the psychic and emotional pain they are feeling,” Lloyd-Lester says. “They’re not able to see clearly at the moment and everything leads in one direction [for them],” he adds.

Bring them to the present.

START WITH CONVERSATION

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” Lloyd-Lester says. “It’s about being real and genuine and connecting with that person. So, if you ask someone directly and openly in a caring manner [if they are contemplating suicide] and they say ‘no’ and you don’t believe them, ask them if they ever did get to that point, what would they do or who would they tell?”

Most importantly, let them know they are not alone. Share resources. Trained professionals — counselors, therapists, psychologists, etc. — can help both the individual in crisis and their loved ones, too.

“People in the community can play a role in helping keep people safe,” Lloyd-Lester says.

It’s OK to talk more openly with kids, too, he notes: “How they understand it needs adult guidance.”

SUICIDE PREVENTION SOURCES

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
212-363-3500

Crisis Hotline and Services, Nassau County
516-227-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
800-826-3632

Family Service League, Suffolk County
631-427-3700

Long Island Crisis Center
516-826-0244

Mental Health Association of Nassau County
516-489-2322

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-TALK

Response of Suffolk County Crisis Center
631-751-7500

Suicide Prevention Resource Center for New York
716-816-2249

The Trevor Project (For LGBTQ Youth)
866-488-7386