health and well-being

A Heart In Pieces

Written by Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

I was in a local grocery store recently. As I entered the store, I was bombarded with signs that Valentine’s Day is once again upon us. Red roses with white bows. Balloons reaching for the sky. Bouquets of candy bars. Sweets for the sweet. As I wandered about the aisles, my mind drifted toward the hearts that will be broken on this day when love is celebrated.

Somewhere there is a young boy who will be taunted and shamed by other boys who notice the small valentine he has clutched in his mittens for the teacher. They will grab the delicate card he worked hard to make and they will stomp it into the snow as they call him names. He won’t shed a tear – at least not now. He has learned not to cry. He knows that showing he has a heart will only make things worse. The older boys will get bored and move on to other targets. He will pick up the pieces and carry on.

Somewhere there is a young girl who has loved being daddy’s secret valentine until the day his touches made her scared. They made her uncomfortable. They made her confused. Now, when daddy says “I love you”, she nods her head and prays that he will not want to come to her when mommy goes to work. On this day, she will think God must have been too busy and as her father leaves her room she cries her heart out – and then she will pick up the pieces and carry on.

Somewhere there is a young mother who has worked all afternoon to make sure the right meal is on the table. Her husband will come home and she will know the drinking began before he ever left work. Her efforts will be buried under criticisms of how the food tastes, how the house looks, how she has changed, and how she disappoints him. She has long ago stopped hoping for a card or a rose. She nods in agreement to every word with the hope that her gift on this day will not involve touches filled with rage and disgust. As she looks in the mirror that night, she thinks about how she will cover the new bruise. She will pick up the broken pieces of the mirror and carry on.

Somewhere there is a father who will lose his job today. He has been saving every penny to pay bills that have filled his mailbox since his heart attack last year. The company can no longer afford to insure him so it found other reasons to let him go. He sits in his truck in the parking lot and takes out the handful of singles in his wallet to see if he has enough to take his wife a small gift for Valentine’s Day. He knows he must have gas in the tank to look for new work so he heads home and knows the woman who sat by his side while he recovered will stand by his side through this new challenge. She has his heart and together, they will celebrate the gift of life and carry on.

Somewhere there is a family surrounding a young family member in a hospital bed. Each member of the family prays for a miracle that is getting harder and harder to believe in. Their hearts are breaking and they ask the questions – Why him? Why now? Why? If he passes on this day their memories will be forever connected to their love for him and the pieces of their spirits that will travel with him on his journey. They cannot imagine or trust in the strength they have to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Our world is full of people who celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of love, romance and endless possibilities. Our world is also full of people who see every day, including this one, as another day of heartbreak, fear, worry, and loneliness. Youth care workers, domestic violence counselors, workforce advocates, and hospital personnel are just some of the many hearts that do important work every day. They commit themselves to helping lift up others in times of need. On this day of love, please take a moment to thank someone for the gifts they share with others and know that the heart they lift up may someday be yours.


National Prevention Week: May 17-23

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

A note from Mr. William H. Bentley, Associate Commissioner, Family and Youth Services Bureau, and Frances M. Harding, Director at Center for Substance Abuse Prevention:

Dear Colleagues,

This week is National Prevention Week, a time for all of us to focus on behavioral health, the essential role it plays in the overall health of young people and their families, and its importance to our productivity and prosperity as a nation. The Administration for Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau is a partner with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in supporting National Prevention Week.  During this week, and throughout the year, we encourage you to bring awareness of the behavioral health issues that may be experienced by the children, youth, and families you work with every day.

The daily health themes of National Prevention Week cover many behavioral health issues, including: tobacco use, underage drinking, excessive alcohol use, opioid and prescription drug misuse, illicit drug use and youth marijuana use, and suicide.  By increasing awareness and educating others about these issues, we will make great strides in overcoming the challenges of youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy, and domestic violence, and help our nation’s young people and their families lead healthy, productive, and violence-free lives.

In honor of National Prevention Week, community organizations in every U.S. state and many U.S. territories are hosting events ( to inform the public about the risks associated with substance use and misuse and ways to promote personal health. State and federal agencies and national organizations are sharing information about actions communities can take to prevent mental or substance use disorders.

I invite you to join us in recognizing National Prevention Week by taking the Prevention Pledge ( and encouraging the youth and families you work with to do the same. In taking the Pledge, we demonstrate to others that we care and are actively working to advance behavioral health.  I also invite you to take a photo of how you maintain a healthy lifestyle and what inspires you to choose prevention.  Share your photos via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #ChoosePrevention ( to inspire others. Thank you for your commitment to National Prevention Week and the health and well-being of our young people and their families.


William H. Bentley
Associate Commissioner
Family and Youth Services Bureau

Frances M. Harding
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

Alleviating Stress

By: Lindsey Collier, MSSW Student Intern with RHYTTAC

Quiz time!

I know you are probably thinking, “What can one more quiz tell me about myself? Haven’t I already learned everything I could possibly need to know about myself from Facebook?” I’m confident you already know what breed of dog you are, what your Smurf name is, and what your spirit animal is…but indulge me and take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you ever feel like your plate is so full you just can’t possibly take on one more task, answer one more phone call or email, or deal with one more crisis?
  2. Have you lost sleep, changed your eating habits, or noticed a difference in your interactions with colleagues, family, or friends? Have they noticed a difference in you?
  3. Is your hair falling out?
  4. Are you always tired and maybe even a little irritable?
  5. Can a vegetarian eat an animal cracker?

Just kidding about the last question…however, it is an important question to ponder.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be stressed. I have never met you, but I would venture to guess that if you are reading this, you will answer yes to at least some of these questions at some point in your life. As with much of life, the real questions is how you respond.

So, what do you do? First, you should figure out just how stressed you are. There are many different types of stress. The two most common forms you will encounter are acute stress and chronic stress. For more information on other types, like burnout, vicarious traumatization, and toxic stress (hint: toxic stress isn’t something adults experience), please click the following link where you will find tip sheets with more detailed information on stress in its various forms:

Acute vs. Chronic Stress – How do you know what you are dealing with?

Acute stress is a brief stress response that doesn’t persist over time. For example, your heart rate and respiration increases in response to an impending car accident. Chronic stress is a longer-term stress response that can become so ingrained that a person may not realize their symptoms are related to a stress response. For example, a person loses interest in social activities and exhibits depressive symptoms as a result of their work as an elementary school teacher in a severely under resourced inner-city school where nearly all children are living in poverty and many have witnessed community, gang-related violence.

Basically, if you feel like you are living Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for a day or two, then you are probably dealing with acute stress. On the other hand, if you feel like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad describes your entire life and has for the last several weeks, months, or years, then you are probably dealing with chronic stress.

Now that you know what kind of stress you are dealing with, what do you do about it?

Acute stress will typically resolve on its own once the stressful experience is over and your mind and body have a chance to return to baseline.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, may require action to mitigate. It could be as simple as taking a few days off work to recharge, or as drastic as making a job or career change. Perhaps you have taken on too many responsibilities and need to prioritize what matters most. Depending on the nature of the original stressor, some type of therapy may be in order. The bottom line is that chronic stress is, by definition, chronic and will not go away without some action on your part.

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, do yourself a favor and do one thing this month to alleviate at least some of the stress in your life. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, reconnect with a friend over coffee or dinner, take a weekend getaway, try making sleep a priority. Treat yourself to some quality time with your significant other…or, if you are like me and don’t have a significant other, some quality time with a good book. I can also highly recommend changing your phone wallpaper or computer background to pictures of cute puppies. You can’t not smile if you are looking at cute puppies! If your stress level is chronic, have courage to make significant changes in your job or career. Consult trusted family and friends and seek professional counseling, if necessary.

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