News Reel

Back to School & Mental Health Concerns

Back to School


Children and teens around the nation are heading back to school. The beginning of the year brings a range of emotions – from excitement to anxiety – that they are trying to cope with. To help facilitate the process, Mental Health America  has put together a toolkit of information for parents, teachers and students.

Back to School

Kids and teens today are dealing with some heavy stuff — cyber-bullying, body shaming, community violence, abuse, neglect, unstable home lives, drug exposure, sexual orientation, immigration issues and more. Some young people may not have the tools that they need to effectively handle emotions like fear, sadness, and anger, which are often at the root of misbehavior. All too often youth who misbehave aren’t given a great deal of attention until they get into trouble at school. Getting in trouble at school usually means adults implement disciplinary measures like time-out, detention, suspension, expulsion, or even arrest. Oftentimes, those who are disciplined are almost always left feeling that they are labeled as a “bad kid” and end up being excluded from their peers in the process.

Yet, before behavior problems surface, there are emotions that young people are unable to deal with. These emotions come about from the environment and situations that kids and teens are exposed to.

While we can’t completely shield young people from all the stressful or traumatic situations they may be facing, we can help them learn to manage their emotions and reactions in ways that cultivate resilience. Equipping young people with appropriate coping skills for when they are struggling with emotions leads to better mental and physical health in adulthood.

MHA’s 2017 Back to School Toolkit aims to increase emotional intelligence and self-regulation through materials for parents, school personnel, and young people.

If you have a child or teen struggling with mental health issues and believe they need additional help, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Teens & Sexting


As time passes, each generation gets more and more sexually aware, and this one is no exception. Social media, easier access to the internet, and sexual promiscuity add fuel to an already burning fire. A big problem now with the pre-teen and teen age group is sexting. Sexting is defined as sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone. Sexting at any age can have repercussions, but at an age where brains are still developing, bullying is on the rise, and the consequences can be far reaching, the trend is even more disturbing.

The writers and directors of “Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age” focus not only on the issues around technology use and kids, but they also send weekly emails about current trends and what to watch for. The following information was recently sent out, titled “Beggin’ for Sexts.”

Beggin’ for Sexts

I hear from many pre-teen and teen girls that they or their friends have been asked by boys via social media to send nude pics. In one discussion I had with a 10th-grade girl this week, she told me it “happens all the time” to her. This is so very disturbing.

Now here is the real killer. The guys have been known to make threats if the girls don’t comply. Girls are threatened with social embarrassment on many fronts.

Sexual exploration is a natural part of growing up—and growing up is so much about being seen as cool and desirable by peers. Girls get a lot of attention for their sexy looks, and guys get kudos for interacting with girls – and sometimes that means getting “pics.”

According to a 2016 survey from Statistics Brain, 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys say they have sent or posted sexually suggestive content to a boy or girlfriend.  Here is what I find very interesting—”48% of young adult women and 46% of young adult men say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.”

It is imperative that we try to have conversations with our sons and daughters about the pressures, internal and external, of looking “hot” and sending “hot” photos. We need to arm girls with ways to respond to pressures. Talking to our boys about what are the messages of guys on how to be cool, why is there so much asking girls for pics, and what as a culture can we do to decrease this?

Start a conversation with your children about pictures and social media. The key is CURIOSITY. Teens will likely be very defensive with this conversation unless we approach it with kid gloves. Teens are at a time when the worst thing we can do is judge them. Being curious about the pictures culture can make for much better conversations.

  • Which celebrities show the most revealing photos these days?
  • Have you heard of girls being pressured into sending sexy photos?
  • What are some reasons guys may be pressuring girls to send them photos?
  • Should health classes discuss these issues or should they just be for home discussion?

Parenting teens, especially around topics involving sexuality, is never easy. But having open conversations early can help facilitate healthy boundaries. If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate sexual behaviors, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Screenagers Showing Hosted by TAG Counseling


Recently Tamara Ancona partnered up with other mental health and educational professionals to host a showing of the film “Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age” for other community professionals. After the showing Tamara and four additional mental health and educational professionals led a panel discussion and provided additional resources to the attendees.

“Screenagers” is the first feature documentary to explore the impact of screen technology on kids and to offer parents proven solutions that work. Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston decided to make “Screenagers” when she found herself constantly struggling with her two kids about screen time. Ruston felt guilty and confused, not sure what limits were best, especially around mobile phones, social media, gaming, and how to monitor online homework. Hearing repeatedly how other parents were equally overwhelmed, she realized this is one of the biggest, unexplored parenting issues of our time.

Director Ruston turned the camera on her own family and others—revealing stories that depict messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.

Tamara has a Master of Arts in Psychology with a Clinical Counseling Specialty and holds her certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Georgia. Her area of specialty prior to establishing her educational consulting practice has included counseling individuals and families in the acute care, corporate, and private practice settings. She also has vast experience facilitating therapeutic, educational and experiential groups with both the adult and teen populations.

Since 1998, her focus as an educational consultant has been to provide families within the Southern Region and across the United States with distinct educational options or therapeutic alternatives for their struggling teen or young adult children.

If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate screen usage call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Teens + Screens = A Good Thing?!?

teens on computer

Teens and screens get a bad rap. Too much screen time has negative consequences, and often times teens get into trouble by misusing their time online. But what if we could turn that around? Instead of banning all screen time this summer encourage your teen to make good use of their time.

NetSmartz is a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps educate children and teens about smart online activity. Parents can go here to learn more about keeping kids safe online. They also have a site dedicated to teens, where teens can play games, watch videos and look at comics dedicated to making better online choices.

And, if you think your teen can take their knowledge to the next level they can go here and download a kit to help teach their peers about online safety.

By involving teens in the conversation about online safety we give them the opportunity to be leaders among their peers and create a safer future for their entire generation.

If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate screen usage call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Sober Living & Nightlife


Sober living can pose challenges to young people looking for activities to do at night, especially when the things they used to participate in revolved around using substances. Passing up chances to spend time with old friends for the sake of sobriety can be overwhelming.

To get you started, here is a list of 11 sober things to do at night, published by  Turnbridge Addiction Recovery Center, that will not put your hard-earned recovery at risk.

  1. For sports fans or athletes: Go to a local sports game. And if you want to get involved, join a sports league in the nearby community. Committing to weekly games will help you get active and meet new people in your area.
  2. For art and history buffs: Not only are museums educational, but they also serve as a great, quiet space for reflection and meditation. If you need a night out of the house, you may consider checking out a nearby museum. Or, if you enjoy a bit of history, you may consider researching local walking tours in your area.
  3. For film lovers: There’s always the option to catch a flick at the local theater. Grab a friend and make a night of it by doing dinner and a movie. Plan ahead and you may even find a nearby film festival. Or, you can invite some friends over, pop some corn, and host a film fest of your own.
  4. For those with a little bit of wanderlust: Travel. Take a mini-road trip or go on a little adventure with a friend. Often, getaways to new places bring out the most enlightening and positive experiences while in recovery. And when you’re sober, there is always a designated driver!
  5. For learners: Take up an online or evening course at a nearby community college. Study a foreign language. Or, visit the local library or pick up a good read at the bookstore. Feed yourself knowledge and you will find yourself going places you would never have imagined.
  6. For those who like a thrill: Want a bit of a thrill? Take a trip to an amusement park! Or, grab some friends and hit up a game room, arcade, laser tag, or bumper cars! If you’re looking for some seasonal sober activities, research haunted houses or spooky happenings in the area.
  7. For those looking for a breath of fresh air: Go for a late night hike or find a nearby rooftop to enjoy. If you are looking for sober, holistic activities to do, pull up YouTube and try some yoga!
  8. For fitness fanatics: Challenge yourself. Is there a 5k you want to run? Train for it! It will feel very rewarding when you do. If you need help keeping up with an exercise regime, join an evening running group or find a personal trainer for that extra push.
  9. For the antsy: Grab a friend and take a walk – anywhere your feet will bring you. Walk to a coffee shop, to get a slice a pizza, or to do some late-night window shopping. You may find the fresh air and a good conversation rejuvenating.
  10. For entertainers: Got good space at your place? Become a host! Have friends over for Sunday night football, plan a pumpkin carving contest, or host a “Friendsgiving Dinner” this November… any occasion is a great occasion to have a sober get-together with your closest friends. The best part is, you will actually remember these parties the next day.
  11. For those who need support: Sometimes, it’s as simple as just attending your 12-step meetings. The majority of people you will find in those meetings are also looking for new friends or something to do at night. After the meeting’s end, suggest going out for coffee or ice cream. Stay at a favorite spot and talk for hours. You may even find yourself shutting it down like you used to do at the bar! And if you want to take it a step further, consider getting dressed up for meetings. Switch out the sweatpants for your favorite pair of jeans to make yourself feel good about who you are and where you’re going. In life after addiction, this is one thing that many people miss – getting dolled up to go out at night.

If an adolescent or young adult in your life is struggling with addictive behaviors and you think they need help call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.