El caso de Cheslie kryst: hablemos de suicidio

The case of Cheslie Kryst

Cheslie was a 30-year-old woman who not only distinguished herself for her beauty, but also for her academic and professional success. After finishing her law studies, she began her career as a lawyer dedicated to fighting for social justice. Later, she was recognized as Miss United States and began her work as a television correspondent.

According to information provided by newspapers and networks, Cheslie was greatly valued by her family, friends and co-workers. She was valued for her dedication to her profession as a lawyer, for her determination to change the situation of many people, as well as for the love she was able to transmit to those around her.

The reasons for her decision were not expressed by her before the event. Why did a woman so highly appreciated for her talent and intelligence, with such a promising future ahead of her, decide to take her own life?

A few days after the event, her mother revealed that Cheslie had been dealing with high-functioning depression. This is one of the most difficult forms of depression to diagnose, because people who suffer from it are able to continue with their habits, routines, occupations and projects, yet have great difficulty experiencing excitement, joy and satisfaction. Despite the external recognition they receive, they feel insufficient and worthless, and even lose the meaning of their lives.

Therefore, even though it is sometimes extremely difficult to realize that someone is going through such a fragile moment, it is very useful to know the signs that can help us to perceive and respond to an urgent need for help from a family member, friend or partner.

Signs of suicide risk

The people around Cheslie were unable to detect the risk the young woman was facing. This may have been because the most obvious and disturbing warning signs of suicide are verbal. When these are absent, it can be much more complicated to see the risk. Some comments such as «I can’t go on any longer,» «I don’t care about anything,» or even «I’m thinking of ending it all» should be taken very seriously, especially when they are consistently expressed over time.

On other occasions, the signs are less striking. Sometimes, they are difficult to recognize because they are non-verbal and less explicit signals. On the one hand, there are often observable emotional states, such as being extremely apathetic, hopeless, sad, angry or agitated. On the other hand, there are often drastic behavioral changes, such as withdrawing from friends and family, giving major gifts, eating or sleeping too much or too little, consuming alcohol or drugs more frequently, showing exaggerated mood fluctuations, or putting oneself in risky situations such as speeding.

It is very difficult to list all the possible signs, but three key components have been identified that indicate the possible presence of thoughts of suicide. First, emotional pain. Psychological suffering, which can have different causes, is often what people want to put an end to. Secondly, hopelessness, the belief that nothing can get better. Finally, disconnection from the world, from one’s job, hobbies, friendships and family.

What to do when someone is facing the risk?

When a person is at risk of suicide, they may feel that this is the only solution to their situation. It is very important to remind these people that they are not alone, that there are alternatives, solutions and reasons to stay in the world. To do this, it is essential to break the stigma surrounding suicide and address it directly.

It is necessary for family members and close friends to listen to the thoughts and emotions that the person at risk, so that they can offer real support that comes from a knowledge of the cause of the distress. Staying close to this person will help him or her feel accompanied and understood. An indispensable resource for people who find themselves in this extreme situation is to seek the help of a mental health professional. Psychologists and psychiatrists have the knowledge and professional tools to guide patients to find answers and alternative paths. In the clinic, they can feel listened to, actively helped and involved in their own process of improvement.

Finally, in Spain there is an anonymous, confidential, free telephone number, staffed by specialized professionals, to assist all people with suicidal thoughts, ideations or risk of suicidal behavior (this number is 024). The main objective of this line is to provide help in times of crisis and to put these people in contact with specialized entities. But also, to convey a message to the entire population: if at any time you find yourself in this situation, remember that you are not alone, ask for help, because there are people willing to help you.

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Psychologist
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé


Moving to another country with two pre-teens

Moving to another country with two pre-teens

Question

*Our family is moving again. The 12 and 10 year old boys have already experienced two changes of country. I feel this time it is more difficult as they are pre-teens. Any advice on how to help them?»

Answer

International moves are always difficult, especially when the attachment to the home country is strong. However, having lived through two previous country changes can be a protective factor for children to cope better with the transition to a new culture. On the one hand, because they have already experienced what it is like to leave a special place behind.

The strong emotions produced by the “goodbyes” are no longer new. This does not mean they will not appear, but at least the children will be more aware that these emotions will eventually disappear. On the other hand, because they have already experienced new beginnings and adjustment processes. As a result, they may have developed useful skills and strategies to embark on the next change.

However, it is true that the fact that the kids are close to adolescence may pose an added difficulty. During childhood, children have the main priority of being close to their family most of the time. But in pre-adolescence, the peer group begins to gain greater importance. Spending time with friends and doing activities with peers often come to the forefront of their lives. Therefore, it is especially important to be cautious about preparing them for the change, and to be mindful of the relevance of goodbyes to friends.

At the same time, the integration into the educational system of the host country can become more challenging. Academically, the contrast of the educational level may be more drastic than in previous moves. Especially for the older child, who is in transition to secondary education.

At the social level, the boys are entering an age in which the process of developing their identity begins, for which relationships with peers have a great impact. In this sense, pre-adolescent children begin to point out their differences and to share their similarities, creating small groups based on things with which they feel identified (hobbies, tastes, styles…). In this context, it seems important to pay attention to the children’s possible feelings of being «the different ones», «the odd ones» or those who «do not fit in». Social integration is a challenge that must be addressed in order to achieve both their emotional well-being and the proper development of their identity.

In addition, in pre-adolescence, many other changes begin: physical changes, greater need for parental autonomy, increased contact with technologies and social networks…It is possible that, in the host culture, these changes are addressed in a different way than in the culture of the previous country or the culture of the parents. For example: it may happen that in one culture it is more common for children of these ages to play video games than in another. In these cases, it is advisable to adopt the customs (in a flexible manner) of the host country, in order to achieve a better adaptation to the lifestyle and social behavior of that culture.

Other tips to facilitate a better moving experience for your children are:

  • Prepare for the change in advance: ensure a good farewell from family and friends to facilitate the grieving process.
  • Try to generate realistic expectations about what they will find in the host country, emphasizing the positive parts.
  • Communicate with your children, let them know that you understand how difficult it is for them. Provide them with a space to express their emotions and thoughts. Be honest with them and try to make them feel safe.
  • Address possible fears with them: What will school be like? What are the kids like there? What if I don’t make friends?
  • Keep the bond with your culture and family alive to strengthen their sense of identity. At the same time, adapt the routine and some customs to the culture of the destination country to help them adapt.
  • Help your children make new friends by meeting other children who also have an international life experience.
  • Communicate with educational institutions to involve teachers and other professionals in their adaptation process.

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Psychologist
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé


¿cómo celebrar las tradiciones siendo expatriados?

Expats: How to celebrate the holidays in a different culture?

The holidays are finally approaching, a time that for many of us means an exciting reunion with our family and traditions. Normally, in Spain, people come together to sing Christmas carols, eat roscón on Three Kings’ Day and celebrate together the beginning of a new year. Through these traditions we get closer to our community and reinforce our sense of belonging to the culture that surrounds us, preserving our cultural identity.

For those who live in the country of their culture of origin, participation in traditional events, rites and festivities is often a natural, intuitive and simple approach to their own culture. But what happens to families who are immersed in a culture different from that of their country of origin? How do they adapt to the customs of their country of destination? How important is it for them to maintain the customs of their own culture?

Cultural identity in TCKs

Cultural identity is the unifying element within a social group. In other words, it allows people to develop a sense of belonging to a community with which they share a series of common elements. Culture, therefore, is made up of all social facts that are common to people within the same group: language, norms, values, religion, artistic manifestations, expressions, humor, symbols… Moreover, its acquisition is essential for the construction of the individual identity.

These cultural patterns are acquired through primary socialization, that is, at home, and continuously in other social contexts. That is why parents play an important role in transmitting their customs, values and traditions to their children.

As previously mentioned in this blog, one of the groups most likely to experience situations of ambiguity in framing themselves within a specific culture is that of third culture kids, TCKs (https://www.sinews.es/en/challenges-of-third-culture-kids/).

For some of these children and adolescents, the abandonment of the activities of their culture of origin, as well as the difficulty of adapting to the cultural practices of their country of destination, constitute one of the most complex challenges they usually face: the definition of their own identity.

Cultural assimilation and distancing from roots

Through the process of cultural assimilation, these children and adolescents adapt to the characteristics of new cultures. This is a progressive, natural and essential process for their correct adaptation to a new culture and for their proper social and school functioning. However, it is usually accompanied by a loss of some of the characteristics of their original culture.

The immersion of TCKs in a new sociocultural context can generate certain barriers in the expression of typical behaviors of their culture of origin. For example, it will be much more difficult to celebrate the traditional celbrations of their culture due to the absence of context.

In addition, in the new environment, these families are involved in different dynamics and cultural expressions that may indirectly contribute to an omission or oppression of their own culture. In other words, factors related to the new culture, such as administrative issues, socioeconomic level, school, language, activities, calendar or festivities, may pose certain «obstacles» to the maintenance of the culture of origin.

This process of assimilation explains the ease with which TCKs can distance themselves from their culture of origin, developing a complex sense of «loss or abandonment of their roots», of disconnection from their traditions and of loneliness in the world.

The importance of cultural transmission: some tips for parents

The purpose of this article is to explain families that, just as adaptation to new cultures is important for TCKs, so is the maintenance of the culture of their country of origin. This is relevant to their well-being and the development of their own identity.

By transmitting the culture of origin, the parents of these children and adolescents can foster a sense of belonging to a community, facilitate the understanding of their own behavior, broaden and enrich their vision of the world, and give greater continuity to their own values and customs.

Here are some tips for transmitting your own culture to your children:
a) Maintain the language alive at home: try to make them learn the language as fluently as possible, including its expressions and gestures. Language helps us build our ideas about the world, so speaking it will help them understand and identify with your culture.
b) Don’t forget to celebrate important holidays: dress in traditional clothing, listen to the music that has always been played on this day, dance as you would have done in your country of origin, and invite your children to celebrate with you. Invite them to feel the union with their roots.
c) Cook and eat traditional dishes with them: a flavor can remind us of a country, a culture, a moment or even a person. Food can be an excellent vehicle to transport your children to their previous cultural context and, at the same time, take pleasure in it.
e) Educate them in the activities and customs of the culture: talk to them and teach them those activities that in their culture of origin imply a pleasant way to spend time or having fun. Some examples might be playing musical instruments, playing games, playing sports, craft activities, etc.
f) Share with them the art and folklore of your community: one of the most special ways in which people connect and communicate our culture is through music, dance, writing, painting and any other artistic expression. Promote your children’s curiosity in the art of your culture and educate them in the most representative creations of your community.
g) Travel to the country of origin: one of the most obvious ways to transmit your culture to your children is to put them in direct contact with it, promoting the link with the land in which this culture was born and developed.
h) Place your children in schools that keep your own culture as a reference: this will help your child to find in school a community of children and adolescents in the same situation, with whom they can share common experiences and concerns.
i) Make use of new technologies: through blogs, videos, games, movies and many other online contents, you will be able to educate and bring your child closer to his or her culture, in a broad, entertaining and very accessible way. Through video calls, they will be able to maintain contact with their previous environment in a more frequent and less expensive way.

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Psychologist
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé


influencia del apoyo familiar para la salud mental de los jóvenes lgbtiq+

The Influence of Family Support on the Mental Health of LGBTIQ+ Young

Traditionally, lesbian, gay, transgender and other non-normative sexual orientations or gender identities have been discriminated and subjected to multiple hostile attitudes and behaviours.

Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Furthermore, it was not until 2007 that the right of any person to feel male or female was recognised in Spain, and not until 2013 «Gender Identity Disorder» was removed from the DSM (Los transexuales ya no son enfermos mentales, 2012).

Fortunately, in recent decades, Western societies have undergone an important and necessary transformation in terms of people’s sexual rights. Sexual diversity is now more present in the media, in the law and has become a more visible and common reality, especially among younger generations. However, this transformation has not been easy, nor has it been quick, nor can it be considered complete, given that heterosexual and cisgender people still maintain a privilege over other less socially accepted groups.

Mental health in LGTBIQ+ people

Numerous research studies have tried to explain the consequences of stigma towards LGTBIQ+ people, finding lower levels of well-being and a higher frequency of mental health problems in sexual minorities, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders and suicidal tendencias. More recent studies confirm that despite social progress in terms of acceptance of sexual plurality, these minorities continue to suffer more psychological disorders, clearly not as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity per se (Trevor, 2020).

To understand this mental health disparity compared to the heterosexual and cisgender population, it has been argued that young people who belong to sexual minorities, or are perceived as such, experience elevated levels of stress throughout their psychosocial development. This stress generally goes hand in hand with an internalisation of widespread homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society, as well as concealment of sexual minority status (Katz-Wise, et al, 2016).

The main source of stress experienced by sexual minorities comes from their immediate social context, so that poorer mental health among sexual minorities is often the result of a hostile or stressful social environment. Some life experiences, such as peer victimisation in educational institutions, a phenomenon better known as bullying, have been largely associated with the psychological distress of these young people. However, there is one social factor that has received less attention in psychological studies that can have an enormous impact on the mental health of these individuals: family acceptance and support.

Importance of family support

Family is a central source of support in adolescence, and appropriate family dynamics are essential for young people’s well-being and development. Moreover, adolescence and emerging adulthood often mark the time when individuals become aware of and manifest their sexual orientation and gender identity, and the family has a very important place during this process (Rosario and Schrimshaw, 2014). Furthermore, the experience of disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity is a potentially stressful event for LGTBIQ+ youth, as family rejection can become a major threat to their psychological well-being (Newcomb et al., 2019).

Unfortunately, these young people are more likely to experience parental rejection because of their sexual minority status. Because of the stigma attached to this population, some parents find it difficult to understand and accept their children’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and may adopt rejecting or overprotective attitudes. Sometimes parents interpret their children’s sexual orientation as a «phase», transmitting parental denial or ambivalence to their children.These behaviours and attitudes within the family can have a very detrimental effect on the psychosocial development of adolescents.

However, one study shows that if an LGTBIQ+ adolescent receives adequate family support, the protective effect on their mental health can be reflected both directly and indirectly. Directly, by influencing their self-acceptance, self-esteem and sense of self-confidence. Indirectly, by being able to educate them in appropriate ways to deal with homophobia or transphobia, as well as to prevent or deal with incidents of bullying outside the family context. In this sense, the family can be a key element in protecting sexual minorities from internalising the effects of victimisation or other societal attacks (Sidiropoulou et al., 2019).

How can we work with these families in therapy?

From the previous paragraphs it can be concluded that working with the families of LGTBIQ+ young people can be of great importance in preserving their mental health. Through psychological therapy, it is possible to help families to recognise and modify their false beliefs about the group, their stigma and to foster attitudes and behaviours of acceptance and support towards their children.

It is equally important to address the psychological stress experienced by LGTBIQ+ people, as well as the possible mental health problems linked to it. This therapeutic work should be carried out by professionals trained to work with sexual and gender diversity. It is particularly important to pay attention to issues of parental acceptance and rejection, and to work together with parents, with the aim of helping young people develop a healthy sense of self in terms of their sexual orientation.

At the same time, individual therapeutic work should focus on the appropriate handling of homophobia and transphobia in the individual’s different social contexts, as well as the psychological effects of possible experiences of discrimination. This requires a modification of false self-beliefs and a strengthening of self-esteem on cognitive and emotional levels, as well as learning behavioural strategies to cope with potentially stressful situations, e.g. social skills.

References:

  • Alfageme, A. (2012, 5 diciembre). Los transexuales ya no son enfermos mentales. El Paí­s. Recuperado de https://elpais.com
  • Katz-Wise, S., Rosario, M., y Tsappis, M. (2016). LGBT Youth and family acceptance. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 63(6), 1011-1025. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2016.07.005
  • Newcomb, M., LaSala, M., Bouris, A., Mustanski, B., Prado, G., Schrager, S., y Huebner, D. (2019). The influence of families on LGBTQ youth health: A call to action for innovation in eesearch and intervention development. LGBT Health, 6(4), 139-145, https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2018.0157
  • Rosario, M., y Schrimshaw, E. W. (2014). Theories and etiologies of sexual orientation. En D. L. Tolman, L. M. Diamond, J. A. Bauermeister, W. H. George, J. G. Pfaus, y L. M. Ward (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology. APA handbook of sexuality and psychology, Vol. 1. Person-based approaches (p. 555–596). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14193-018
  • The Trevor Project. (2020). 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The Trevor Project.
  • Sidiropouloul, K., Drydakis, N., Harvey, B., y Paraskevopoulou, A. (2019). Family support, school-age and workplace bullying for LGB people. International Journal of Manpower. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-03-2019-0152

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Psychologist
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé


Challenges of third culture kids

Challenges of third culture kids

Helena is a 17-year-old teenager with parents of Turkish origin, a British passport and who has lived in three European countries throughout her life. Now that she has moved to a different city due to her parents’ jobs, she is excited to make new friends. However, although she enjoys meeting new people, it is not always easy for her. Especially when the most feared question comes up… Where are you from?

This is when she starts to get nervous, feels a knot in her throat and thousands of thoughts uncontrollably land in her head: «Should I talk about the country where I grew up as a child, or the country where I lived the last eight years of my life, or maybe the country where my family is from?» Finally, she chooses to tell the short version of a long life story full of airports, goodbyes, welcomes, languages, schools and experiences.

The complexity hidden behind a simple question

«Where are you from?» is one of the easiest questions to answer for most people. However, for some minorities, it is one of the most difficult. Helena feels a different attachment to each of the countries she has lived in, as well as to the country her family comes from. From each of the cultures in which she has found herself immersed throughout her life, she has acquired different ways of interacting with others, habits, values and ideas. However, she has no sense of belonging to any of them.
«Where am I from?» she has asked herself several times. This is the question often asked by people who, like her, belong to the collective of «third culture kids», TCK´s for short.

What does it mean to be a Third Culture Kid?

TCK’s are those children/adolescents who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the culture of their parents or the culture that would correspond to them by the nationality of their passport.

The first culture refers to that of the child’s parents. The second culture is that of the host country (or countries) in which the child has lived. The third culture corresponds to the fusion of the first two, in which the child adopts certain traits of each to create his or her own cultural identity.

This is, however, a very basic definition, as each child has his or her own history. The term TCKs encompasses not only children who have grown up in a culture different from that of their parents, but also children adopted by families from another culture, and even children of parents with different cultures. While some of the sepnd most of their childhood jumpimg from one place to another, others remain almost all their childhood in the same place, cohabiting permanently with different cultures inside and outside the home.

Nowadays, due to the high level of globalization achieved by society, it is very difficult to define the various circumstances by which a child can be defined as a TCK. However, there are two aspects concerning this group that are clear. On the one hand, due to the exponential increase in migratory movements, it is a group in constant growth. On the other hand, although the history of each TCK is unique and unrepeatable, this group of people share the singular characteristic of having grown up in intense contact with different cultures.

Advantages of being a TCK

From childhood, people tend to adapt to the culture around them, internalizing the attitudes and behaviors promoted by that culture. We acquire habits, such as eating or sleeping at certain times, we learn to relate and communicate with others in different social contexts, and we develop our sense of humor, as well as our opinions on what is right or wrong. Through our culture, we build our own glasses for observing the world and our guidebook for living in it. It is therefore not surprising that the coexistence of different cultures in a child’s life, or the change from one to another, has a great impact on his or her psychosocial development.
Numerous positive aspects of this experience have been identified:

  1. TCKs have a strong international background and tend to maintain a lifelong interest in learning about new cultures. They have a great capacity of adaptation and a great sensitivity to appreciate the value of the richness of each individual’s culture.
  2. They tend to develop an open mind, as well as an interpersonal style based on tolerance, respect and empathy.
  3. They quickly acquire social skills, communication skills and are often fluent in two or more languages.
  4. The diversity of the situations they face, makes them become people with a high level of autonomy, high problem-solving skills and willing to help others.

Challenges of being a TCK

On the other hand, the cultural changes that TCKs experience from their first years of life also bring with them some difficulties:

  • As described in the introduction to the article, TCKs may have great difficulty in defining their own identity, as they are not bound to a specific culture. A behavior considered perfectly normal in the culture of the place where they live may be forbidden according to the culture of their parents. A joke that is funny in one of the cultures in which they have lived, might be offensive in another. As a result, they undergo a complex process when internalizing the values and habits that define them as individuals. In other words, when it comes to understanding who they are.
  • For some TCKs, the feeling of not having a home base to which they can always return can generate a sense of insecurity and loneliness in the world. For these children, the widespread cliché «home is where the people you love are» is a very important reality. For them, home is not defined by a place, but it is wherever they can live with their loved ones.
  • On many occasions, TCKs feel like they are the different kids, the odd ones, the ones who don’t fit in, the ones who don’t share interests, hobbies or ideas with their classmates. The ones who don’t have the same way of speaking, accent or expressions. And sometimes, those who have a different physical appearance than the rest. This may sometimes cause them a feeling of being «left out» or isolated, especially when it comes to new beginnings.
  • For most people, it is never easy to say goodbye. Some of these children spend several years in one place, until one day they have to pack up their bags and say goodbye to everything they have built there: friends, teachers, activities, routines… The emotions produced by these constant goodbyes can be very strong and painful for some TCKs. This feelings also get in the way when creating new social connections in the places they are moving to, as they sometimes wonder «What´s the point of making new friends if we’ll be leaving again in a while?».

Tips for TCK parents

It is normal for parents to have many doubts when it comes to educating their children in a culture different from their own. Many times, parents have experienced a very different childhood from the one their children are facing, and may feel lost when it comes to empathizing with their experience and identifying the aspects in which they may need more support.

Here are some general tips that may be helpful to these parents:

  1. Try to remain aware that being a TCK can bring difficulties in many ways. Be honest with your child, let him or her know that you are aware it’s not easy. Be open about it and try to make your child feel as safe as possible when talking about his or her feelings, toughts and needs.
  2. Keep the bound with your home culture and family members alive to strengthen your child’s sense of identity and belonging to a culture. Try to communicate with your child in your language and to make him/her participate in the traditions of your culture (food, customs, festivities…).
  3. Help your child to establish new relationships in the places where you are moving to, by encouraging them to meet other children who have lived the experience of being a TCK. In this way, he/she will be able to feel more accompanied and understood by friends of his/her age.
  4. Communicate with your child’s educational institutions, explaining his or her specific case, and involving teachers and counselors during the adaptation process.

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Psychologist
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé