Brett.Ullman

Overnight summer camps are better for your kids than SAT prep classes

I saw this article on Social media this morning and thought it was too good not to share. My kids have been attending Camp Mini-Yo-We since they were 7 years old). My wife and I both grew up going to camp. Dawn was a camper at Circle Square Ranch and Camp Mishewa and worked at Muskoka Woods for 5 years. I grew up at Pleasant Bay Camp and Camp Widjitiwan. These are just a few of the amazing camps just in my small part of Canada. Please feel free to post the camp you were a camper at or where you worked.

Away from the city, technology and academic pressures, kids can grow in creativity, independence and other qualities of successful people.

Summers provide a much-needed opportunity for my children to unplug, achieve focus and develop those creative thought processes and connections.

Click here for the entire article.

My new research: loneliness

One of the most common questions we seem to ask each other is “How are you?”

For many years as people asked me that question the one answer in the back of my mind I have always wanted to say is “… I feel lonely”

So let me say it. I feel lonely. I am surrounded by people in my life and I feel desperately lonely.

Lonely you say. You are married, have 2 teenagers, speak to tens of thousands of people a year, coach baseball, involved in church, and so on.  You should not feel lonely.

All I know is that I am.

So I have decided that I want to begin a personal journey looking at loneliness. I am hoping in time that this journey becomes my newest talk.

Here is where I would like your help. I don’t think I am alone in this journey (no pun intended) If anyone wants to share some of their struggles with loneliness I would love to hear them. I am also hoping to put out a large survey sometime this summer and begin to look at how many people feel the way that I do.

If you come across any books, blogs, articles, youtube videos, documentaries, quotes or basically anything you think might help me as I delve into this concept of loneliness please send it through to me online or privately.

thanks for any support.

Nearly 70% of university students battle loneliness during school year, survey says

Growing problem not just for University students but for people of all ages and stages.

A new study of Canadian university students found more than 66 per cent reported feeling “very lonely” in the past year.

And the problem was worse for female students, with nearly 70 per cent feeling very lonely at least once in the last year, compared with male students at 59 per cent.

More than 43,000 students were surveyed for the National College Health Assessment.

It found about 30 per cent of students “felt very lonely” within the last two weeks.

What are your thoughts on loneliness?

Click here for the entire article.

Mental Health and Mental Illness: A Christian Psychiatrist’s Perspective- Dr. Jonathan Lee

Really good balanced talk here on mental illness and Christian faith.

Is depression really the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain? Is anxiety always a sin? How should a Christian understand PTSD? One in five people in our churches will be affected in their lifetime by depression or anxiety, but mental illness remains a hotbed of controversy, misinformation and stigma. In this practical session, Dr. Lee will offer a holistic Christian perspective– incorporating both medicine and theology– to equip laypeople, pastors and biblical counselors to serve those who are suffering from mental illness with greater empathy.

Check it out!

Demand for youth mental health services is exploding. How universities and business are scrambling to react

Everywhere I speak these days mental health conversations are the biggest question I get from students, leaders and parents.

Data collected from across the country shows the extent of the problems. “There is a perception that this age group is healthy, but they’re not.”

Among the findings:

  • A Star/Ryerson survey of 15 universities and colleges across Canada found all but one have increased their mental health budgets over the past five years. The average increase has been 35 per cent.
  • Academic “accommodations” (special arrangements for students with mental health issues allowing for added time to complete assignments and exams) have also been rising — 143 per cent at the University of Toronto, for example, since 2009.
  • There has been a 344-per-cent increase in calls to the Mental Health Helpline run by ConnexOntario (a toll-free mental health services information line) since 2010 by people 25 or younger.
  • A major survey of 25,164 Ontario university students by the American College Health Association showed that between 2013 and 2016, there was a 50-per-cent increase in anxiety, a 47-per-cent increase in depression and an 86-per-cent increase in substance abuse. Suicide attempts also rose 47 per cent during that period.
  • A growing number of major Canadian corporations that employ young people, including Starbucks and Manulife, have dramatically increased mental health benefits in response to growing demand.
Click here for the entire article.

’13 Reasons Why’ holds many important lessons for parents of teenagers

As a full time speaker who spends 1/2 of his life speaking to high school age students I think this article is a great wake up call for parents. I find that many students today seem to be raising themselves with parents who are so busy with the downward spiral of their own lives that they have little time / capacity left to be actual parents to their own children.

Successfully parenting today’s teens requires close supervision, effective limit-setting and SM monitoring. Identifying symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts is imperative for early intervention and improved outcomes. But what is most important for parents — and lacking in 13 Reasons Why — is curiosity. Curiosity about teens’ friends, hobbies, homework or hairstyle choices. Parents too often dismiss their teens’ emotions as entitled, or their school-related struggles as trite, which leads to a feeling among teens that they are misunderstood and alone. But adolescence isn’t trite. High school experiences and the decisions made during those formative years shape teens’ mental and emotional development for life.

Please take a few minutes to read this article.

Click here for the entire article.

Oxford High School students begin project called ‘13 Reasons Why Not’

Last week I posted a blog on 13 Reasons Why. TOns of amazing conversation happening online and offline with students, parents and leaders. It was great to see this news story on social media today. Whether we want to have this conversation or not it seems we are starting to have it. Love what these students did.

Beginning this week and continuing for 13 days, a recording of a different student will play during the morning announcements. In the recording, played for the entire student body, the teens reveal a problem they’re struggling with. At the end of the recording, instead of blaming someone, the students thank a classmate who has helped them.

Click here for the entire article.

13 Reasons Why… Some thoughts

13 Reasons Why.

The New York Times best seller by young adult novel writer Jay Asher that came out way back in 2007 has sold over 3 million copies to date.

I read this book a few years ago and found it … I find it hard to find the correct word: riveting, eye opening, scary, sad, hopeless and yet necessary in bringing out a conversation we seem to refuse to want to talk about as a culture.

Since reading the book I have heard very little on this topic. No conversation on social media about it. No growth in conversations on the problems of suicide in our culture today. Then suddenly 13 Reasons Why is released on Netflix and presently I have had over 500 messages, emails and conversations from parents all over asking the simple question: “Should I let me kid watch this?” or “Should I watch this with my teenager?”

As a 45 year old I have watched thousands of hours of TV in my life. This would rank as the most powerful show I have ever watched. I have watched countless hours of mindless entertainment in those 45 years and this show WAS different.

It was different because it touched on so many topics: sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, peer pressure, divorce, bullying, self-harm, isolation, loneliness, disconnection from adults, lack of supports and of course suicide.

If I had to give you a very quick review of this series I would say:


Everything Affects Everything

You are responsible for yourself

You are responsible for your actions

You are responsible when you do nothing

We need to start talking about all the stuff no-one wants to talk about

This show starts us talking….


“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

In almost every review I have read comments that this show is triggering. It shows too much for students, glamorizes suicide, over sexualized, too much language, and deals with too many issues. I would say that the show is a great conversation starter for people of all ages. It is raw and tough to watch.  The suicide scene was brutal and one of the hardest things I have ever watched on TV. Maybe the fact is that suicide is brutal for everyone and this scene is meant to bring that home.

I do find it hypocritical that people are upset at some of these topics in this show. I don’t see most people talking about triggering when there is self harm (including suicide) in music videos, TV shows, movies and much of todays music is laced with sex. Yet the scenes in this show are too much? Are teens not triggered daily by just being a teen in our modern day culture?

If we are going to say this is too much for students I don’t seem to see many people offering any better way to talk about these tough issues.

I wonder when is the right time?

What is the right way?

I find that this is one of the first things I have seen that has people (especially teens) talking about suicide amongst other issues. We cannot just go back to ignoring this conversation especially the conversation around suicide.

There is no place that is immune to this.

So here is the tough question.

How do you talk about a tough conversation without triggering people and increasing the risk of a suicide contagion and copycat behaviour?

I think we need to be honest where we presently sit as a society with this conversation. I think people are already triggered by this topic with or without this TV show. Do a quick google search:

Canadian Stats:

  • 22% of teens thought of suicide this year  (Click here for the article)

Myth: Young people rarely think about suicide.
Reality: Teens and suicide are more closely linked than adults might expect. In a survey of 15,000 grade 7 to 12 students in British Columbia, 34% knew of someone who had attempted or died by suicide; 16% had seriously considered suicide; 14% had made a suicide plan; 7% had made an attempt and 2% had required medical attention due to an attempt.
Canadian Mental Health Association (Click here for the article)

U.S. Stats

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
  • http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/

Parents are asking if we should watch this show with our kids but I cannot answer this for you. Will I be watching this with my Grade 9 daughter or my Grade 8 son? If they are interested – Yes. I will also NOT be showing either of them the suicide scene in the last episode. With that being said is this the first conversation I will have had with my children on conversations on these topics … no. These are conversations we have been having for years in our home. If the first time you talk about suicide, mental health issues, sex, drugs, bullying etc is this TV show then I would not suggest watching this show before you have conversations in your home about these tough topics.

You might need to check as a parent and see if they have already watched the show. Many parents who have emailed me have said my kid already watched the show what do I do now. If this is you then I would sit down and talk to them about the show. Ask their thoughts and feelings.

What did they like about the show?
Do they think that the show fairly represented current teen culture in High School?
What did they dislike about the show? If they have watched it I would highly suggest watching the 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons which is on Netflix as well. It is the cast & creators with conversation on all aspects of the movie and why they did the certain scenes like they did.

Be very direct with your kids and let them know that there is nothing in the world that could change how you love them. You want them to know that if they are ever struggling with these topics in this show that you hope they could come and talk to you. And then together you would look at getting supports in place for them (doctors, counselling etc).

I would also suggest you be really careful if your son/daughter is struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, bullying etc. This show could act (I am not saying will) as something that might make suicide look like a good way out for their struggles they are having. If you were going to watch it I would suggest watching it with them.

If as a parents you are thinking “I have failed in these conversations” you can start having them now. Just to mention some of the main themes in the show again:

  1. Sex
  2. Multiple rape scenes
  3. Drug & Alcohol use and abuse
  4. Dating relationships
  5. Peer pressure
  6. Divorce
  7. Bullying
  8. Self-harm
  9. Isolation
  10. Loneliness
  11. Disconnection from adults
  12. Lack of supports
  13. and of course suicide

These are conversations that you need to be having in your home, school, and church environments.

Are there some things I wish this show had done better. Yes, for sure:

  1. I wish there was more shown on how to help people if they are struggling. What do you actually do if you are struggling (Talk to an adult you trust, medical doctor, counsellor etc) We need to talk about where we can turn for help. In my mental health talk called The Walking Wounded I talk about addressing tough issues like this from 3 fronts: Body (Doctor), Mind(Counsellor), and Soul. Each of these areas can be pursued simultaneously.
  2. They showed such a disconnected youth culture from parents, teachers and other adults. This is not always the case.

    In tone and style, it resembles a more serious, grimmer cousin of Freeform (formerly ABC Family) series like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Twisted.” Like them, it literalizes the idea that teenage life is a mystery, one that adults can’t hope to solve. (New York Times article)

  3. I did not like that they showed the physical scars from people struggling with Self Harm. As someone who speaks on this we do know that this is triggering for people who struggle.
  4. I don’t like the fact that with this story it seems that you can sort of reach out from the grave after suicide and take revenge on people. It did a good job of showing the destruction that suicide leaves with the friends and family who are left after a suicide.
  5. I wish that with all the pain they also showed that there is hope. There is always hope. You might not see it, but that also does not mean it is not there.
  6. I wish they had not been so graphic with the suicide. I think it is unnecessary and is the one major scene that might make people NOT watch a show that could have been for a larger audience if not for the graphic scene. I also realize that the brutality of the suicide was done for a reason to show … to show how brutal suicide is.

In my talks a line I use when speaking about suicide is:


Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.


If you are having suicidal thoughts I beg you to do a few things

  1. Go tell an adult immediately. If that adult does not listen then tell another. Get parents and teachers and doctors and counsellors and any other people you trust surrounding you as you walk through these tough times
  2. Hold on.
    Dr. Dan Siegel says “We need to help children understand that the clouds 
of their emotions can (and will) roll on by.”
    What you are going through is a season … and seasons change.
    Please hold on.

In the last episode Clay Jensen (one of the main characters) says “We can all do better.” I agree.
So how can you do better?

I end with the simple summary I gave at the beginning

Everything Affects Everything

You are responsible for yourself

You are responsible for your actions

You are responsible when you do nothing

We need to start talking about all the stuff no-one wants to talk about.

This show starts us talking….

Love to hear what you thought of the TV show if you watched it? Did it help? Did it hurt?
Love to hear your thoughts on this.
Love to hear any great resources for people who are struggling.


13 Reasons Why Official Website
http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

Other articles on 13 Reasons Why:

  1. http://www.altpress.com/news/entry/twlohas_founder_pens_blog_in_response_to_13_reasons_why
  2. https://cpyu.org/2017/04/17/13-reasons-why-looking-for-true-north/
  3. https://cpyu.org/resource/episode-36-13-reasons-why-a-discussion-with-amy-flavin-and-kara-twining/
  4. https://themighty.com/2017/04/should-i-watch-13-reasons-why-review-suicide/
  5. http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/18/15275846/13-reasons-why-male-gaze-voyeurism-rape-suicide-contagion
  6. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/25/health/13-reasons-why-teen-suicide-debate-explainer/index.html
  7. https://www.nasponline.org/
  8. http://www.cmha.ca/news/cmha-national-statement-responding-netflix-series-13-reasons/#.WQPswUFE2Ef
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/arts/television/netflix-13-reasons-why-tv-review.html
  10. http://www.pluggedin.ca/tv-reviews/13-reasons-why
  11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/13-reasons-why-criticism-1.4091960
  12. http://www.averageyouthministry.com/average-youth-ministry/13-reasons-why-youth-workers-must-be-at-the-top-of-their-game
  13. https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Differences-Between-13-Reasons-Why-Book-TV-Show-43404725