All posts by Matthew Chouinard

Multitasking, Attention-Deficit Trait, and Boundaries

Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)

Why Multitasking Doesn't Work at Work

There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

— Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Here’s a fun fact: the term multitasking originated in the field of computing, where it describes a computer’s ability to perform two or more processes at the same time. Today, we often use the word when we’re talking about people doing multiple things at once, such as reading a book while watching TV and sending text messages.

Our brains function a little bit like biological computers, but there are some important distinctions. One of them is that while computers are very good at doing many things simultaneously, human brains are awful at it. For humans, trying to multitask is a surefire recipe for performing all of our tasks poorly and mentally burning ourselves out in the process.

The Myth of Multitasking

On the surface, multitasking seems like the ideal way for us to get more done in a shorter amount of time. But the reality is that while the number of tasks we complete might increase, the quality of our work universally declines.

Research has shown that multitasking temporarily lowers our IQ by 10 points, making us less capable at solving complex problems. We also process information differently when our attention is divided, leading to poorer retention and less understanding of learned material. And to top it all off, the time-saving benefits of multitasking are small because our brains can’t process two decision-making operations at once.

Armed with this knowledge, it would appear that the solution to multitasking is simple: just stop doing it. But it can be surprisingly difficult to avoid distractions in a world where distractions have a way of coming to you.

Rise of the Attention Deficit Trait

In our modern technological world, we face more challenges to concentration than ever before. Phone calls, email, text messages and social media give us unprecedented connectivity with others, but they can also serve as near-constant interruptions that erode our ability to focus on what we’re doing.

Over time, an environment filled with continuous distractions can cause us to develop a neurological phenomenon called attention deficit trait, or ADT. First identified by psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADT shares many symptoms with ADHD, including distractibility, impatience and a feeling of inner frenzy. In short, ADT is the byproduct of information overload as we struggle to cope with incessant demands on our attention.

Under these conditions, people who are normally smart, talented and responsible suddenly find it incredibly difficult to solve problems, be creative and manage their time effectively. Luckily, ADT is a temporary condition that can be reversed with a little practice.

Set Boundaries to Save Your Brain

The best way to avoid falling victim to ADT is to set clear boundaries. One goal of setting boundaries is to minimize distractions and confine interruptions to designated times, but it’s also about not overworking ourselves so we aren’t as easily distracted in the first place.

Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow when you’re trying to get work done:

  • Turn off notifications or silence your phone. This will eliminate the distraction of incoming calls, texts and emails so you can focus on the task at hand. If you can’t afford to go completely off the grid, at least silence alerts from social media and nonessential applications.
  • Establish designated times for checking your email and messages. This might be at the beginning and end of each day, or perhaps at a few intervals throughout the day. If possible, try to schedule this during parts of the day when you are naturally less productive.
  • Post office hours and times of availability. Let co-workers and clients know when they can call or meet with you and when you need uninterrupted time to work. Keeping others informed of your schedule will help them minimize any distractions they may cause you.
  • Don’t take on more work than you can handle. An excessive workload or unrealistic deadlines will only create stress and tempt you to try to multitask. Saying “no” to assignments can be uncomfortable, but reasonable co-workers and clients will understand.
  • Take breaks and set times to stop working. Exhaustion from overworking can seriously impair our ability to concentrate. This is why it’s important to take regular breaks and refrain from working at all hours of the day. Take the time to refresh your mind and body, and the quality of your work will benefit from it.

Remember: humans are the sum of what we pay attention to. What we focus on determines our experiences, our knowledge, and our fulfillment in life. If we want to truly be in control of our own lives, we must dole out our attention wisely and with purpose.

For more tips on taking charge of your thoughts and emotions, take a look at this post on “eustress,” the positive form of stress!

Perfectionism and the Imposter Syndrome

Embracing Your Inner Expert: Perfectionism and the Impostor Syndrome in Mental Health

“The problem was that I carried around with me a tendency to feel that other people’s respect for me would vanish if what I did was second rate. And while I accept that this ‘perfectionism’ is likely to stimulate the production of better work, it doesn’t, unfortunately, go hand in hand with a relaxed and happy attitude to life.”

— John Cleese, television and film actor

Have you ever felt that your best isn’t good enough? Have you faced pressure from yourself or others to be better than great—to be perfect? Even though we all know no one really is, this unrealistic self-expectation can still creep into our minds regarding our relationships, our hobbies, and especially our jobs.

Mental health professionals are no exception. Due to the demanding nature of their work, therapists and counselors may feel the need to know everything and have all the answers for the people they serve. And if they don’t have all the answers for their clients, they might feel unknowledgeable or unqualified for their job.

Even though such thoughts and feelings aren’t based in reality, they can fill us with anxiety and slowly eat away at our confidence. Over time, we might even start to feel like we’re living the life of an impostor.


The Impostor Syndrome: A Threat Lurking Under the Surface

In 1978, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes published a study on 150 high-achieving women who did not believe they deserved their accomplishments. Despite their educational honors, professional successes and recognition from peers, they secretly considered themselves to be intellectual frauds and lived in constant fear of being exposed.

This was the first documentation of the impostor syndrome. Today, we know this condition affects both women and men equally and is especially prevalent in academic and workplace settings. People who have this condition don’t believe they are as competent as others think, and they attribute their successes to luck or hard work rather than innate ability.

Someone suffering from impostor syndrome has an internal monologue that sounds like this: 

“I feel like a fake.”

“I must not fail.”

“I just got lucky.”

“If I can do it, anyone can.”

As mental health professionals, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to obtain the proper certifications and licenses. It’s been ingrained in us that we need a certain level of expertise and permission from people who are smarter than us to practice psychology. Ironically, even once we’ve obtained that expertise and permission, we may wonder if we’re really good enough for the job.

We can fall prey to the impostor syndrome if we let these feelings get the better of us. Fortunately, there are several things we can do to prevent this.



Unleashing the Expert Within

Just like with other anxiety-related issues, combating the fears of perfectionism requires us to examine and adjust our thought patterns. We can start to regain confidence in our professional worth by confronting our faulty self-perceptions with reality.

Here are some of the best ways you can do this:

  • Recognize your expertise. The simple fact of the matter is that if you have the education and certifications to be a practicing counselor or therapist, then you are an expert in your field. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for you to continue building on your expertise, but it does mean you’re more than qualified to provide treatment for your clients.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Mental health professionals sometimes develop the belief that because their job is to counsel others, they aren’t allowed to make any errors themselves. This is simply not true. Everyone messes up from time to time, and therapists and counselors are entitled to the same forgiveness for mistakes as the people who are seeking their help.
  • Reframe thoughts of self-doubt. If you find yourself repeating the internal monologues of the impostor syndrome, change your mental chatter to focus on your strengths and abilities. Instead of obsessing that you aren’t good enough, remind yourself that you will continue to improve over time. Reframing your negative thoughts can be especially helpful right before an achievement event, such as before an appointment with a client.
  • Talk to your peers. The worst thing we can do when struggling with negative thoughts is stay inside our own heads. Discussing your feelings with your colleagues can create opportunities for positive reinforcement and provide you with a realistic perspective on your abilities. You might also discover that they have perfectionism fears of their own, which can help you feel less alone in your struggles.

Those working in mental health may sometimes feel the need to be perfect, but we should remember that being professional does not mean being infallible. The best way to serve our clients is to be confident in our abilities and let our inner experts shine through.

If you liked this post on perfectionism and the impostor syndrome in the field of mental health, you might also enjoy our blog post on peer-based recovery support!


LGBTQ Pride 2019: Explaining the Gender Unicorn with Youth MOVE

Gender, Sexuality, and Mental Health

Youth MOVE Indiana

Alot of people don’t know how to talk about this sort of topic; It’s been sort of a taboo subject in years past, and people are nervous“, explains Madeline Zielinski of Youth MOVE National.  At the state level, April Moody of Youth MOVE Indianapolis (YMIN) works to help children with mental and behavioral issues. YMIN’s mission is to inspire and unite youth to bring real change by furthering acceptance, tolerance, and understanding of mental health.  Youth MOVE has facilitated LGBTQ trainings for companies across the country, including ICAADA locally.   This PRIDE month, we asked Youth MOVE experts April Moody and Madeline Zielinski for a general update on mental health as it relates to the LGBTQ community.  

Five Dimensions to Sexuality

April and Madeline are opinion leaders in the field of mental health and sexuality, and their concern is both personal and professional.  As the book Headcase explainsMany studies indicate that LGBTQ communities are at higher risk than heterosexuals for substance use and mental health disorders–eg; 27.6% compared to 10.5%.”  This Pride month, we asked April and Madeline to explain the curriculum covered by the trainings they facilitate across Indiana with Youth MOVE.  To encourage understanding, they use a framework of five dimensions, organized into a handy meme by

The aforementioned experts from Youth MOVE like to use the gender unicorn as a basic way to organize our thinking about sexuality.  

  • The rainbow shows that gender identity is self-configured.  It cannot be observed from the outside.  
  • Then we have our gender expression.  This is our appearance, which includes how we dress, walk, talk, etc.  
  • Sex assigned at birth: This one is not on a spectrum, yet.
  • Physically attracted to the male and/or female form, as opposed to
  • Romantic/Emotional attraction, as when attraction is distinct from falling in love. 

Youth MOVE explains that many other cultures dont rely on a binary, black-and-white model of sexuality.  Please like and share this article to encourage understanding and show support for your friend or family member.   As April says, “The real goal is to create a culture in which ‘coming-out’ isn’t even a thing.  Sexuality is an important part of us, but it does not define us.”

Happy PRIDE Month from Cummins BHS!

Seize Control of Your Social Media Time with These Simple Setting Suggestions

Do you ever feel like social media can be just a bit too social?

Connecting with friends, family and loved ones online is wonderful, but we all know there are certain things that can bring these good times to a screeching halt. Maybe it’s a harassing message from a stranger or friend of a friend. Maybe it’s a series of upsetting posts from that relative who doesn’t know when to stop sharing. Or maybe it’s simply too many alerts and notifications at a time when you’d rather not be disturbed by them.

Fortunately, Facebook has a variety of features that can help you take control of your experience on the app. In this post, we’ll walk you through eight of the easiest things you can do to change WHO can see your activity, WHAT activity you see, and WHEN you see it.

(All screenshots below are taken from the iOS version of the Facebook app.)

Controlling WHO Can See You

Adjust Your Privacy Settings

If you want to limit who can find you on Facebook and see what you post, you’ll want to review your account privacy settings. Here you can specify whether your profile is visible to all users, friends of your friends or your friends only, and you can also choose who can see your posts, post on your page or send you friend requests. You can also designate who can see the personal information listed on your profile page.

To get to your privacy settings, start by tapping the menu icon in the toolbar (this runs across the bottom of the screen on Apple devices). In the main menu, scroll down to the bottom of the list and tap “Settings & Privacy,” then select “Settings” from the expanded menu. Once on the settings page, scroll down to find the section titled “Privacy,” then tap “Privacy Settings.”

You can also reach your privacy settings by selecting “Privacy Shortcuts” from the expanded menu under “Settings & Privacy.”

Block an Abusive User

If another user is harassing you with insulting, annoying or otherwise unwanted messages, you can easily block them. This will prevent them from seeing any of your activity, posting on your profile or adding you as a friend.

To add users to your blocked list, simply locate the “Privacy” section of the “Settings” menu and tap on the heading that reads, “Blocking.” Once in the Blocking menu, you can search for a user by name and block them with a single tap.

You can also block someone from their profile page. Just tap the “Manage Friendship” button and select “Block” on the following screen.

Hide Your Posts from Specific People

Most of us have that certain someone on our friends list who is likely to respond negatively to posts they disagree with. If you want to post something but don’t want to deal with their reaction, you can choose to make your post visible to everyone except them.

When creating your post, tap the button that says “Public” by default. This will bring you to a second screen. Tapping the “Friends except…” option will pull up a third screen where you can search your friends list and select anyone you would prefer not to see the post.

Controlling WHAT You See

Choose Which Posts You See First

You may have many friends on Facebook and follow many pages, but there are probably some people and pages whose posts you value more than the others. If you want to ensure you don’t miss updates from these people and pages, you can prioritize their posts to make them appear first in your news feed.

From the “Settings” menu, scroll down until you see the heading “News Feed Preferences” under “News Feed Settings.” Tapping on this selection will bring up a new screen containing the option, “Prioritize who to see first.” Choosing this option will bring you to another screen where you can search for friends and pages and tap to add them to your favorites.

Alternatively, you can reach this same screen by selecting “Your Time on Facebook” from the “Settings & Privacy” pull-down menu, then selecting “News Feed Preferences.”

Finally, you can also prioritize the posts of a user or page from their profile page. From a user’s profile page, tap on the “Manage Friendship” button and select “Following” on the next screen. A pull-up window will then allow you to change the priority of their posts. To prioritize a page that you follow, you can find the “Following” option by tapping the icon with three dots below the name of the page.

Unfollow a Person or Page

Just as we may have Facebook friends who frequently find issue with what we post, we might also have friends who tend to post things that upset, annoy or aggravate us. If you’d like to remain friends with these people but stop seeing their posts on your news feed, you can choose to unfollow them.

From your news feed or the post itself, tap on the three dots to the right of the poster’s name. A pull-up window will appear containing a number of possible actions, including “Unfollow X.” Unfollowing a user will make their posts stop appearing on your news feed, but you will remain friends on Facebook. Unfollowing a page will simply remove its posts from your news feed.

Just like with prioritizing a user’s posts, you can also unfollow their posts from their profile page. Tap on the “Manage Friendship” button,  select “Following” on the next screen, and choose the “Unfollow” option on the pull-up window. To unfollow a page, you can find the “Following” option by tapping the icon with three dots below the name of the page.

Snooze a Person or Page

If you’d like a break from a specific user or page but aren’t sure you want to unfollow them completely, you can decide instead to “snooze” their posts for 30 days. This works exactly like unfollowing, except their posts will begin populating your news feed again after a month’s time. You can use the snooze feature as a trial run to determine whether or not you want to unfollow someone for good.

To snooze a user or page for 30 days, tap the three dots to the right of their name on any of their posts. Then choose the “Snooze X for 30 days” option on the pull-up window.

Controlling WHEN You See Activity

Modify or Turn Off Notifications

Let’s be honest: sometimes Facebook sends us so many notifications that it can get frustrating to keep track of them all. Fortunately, it also gives you the option to choose what you receive alerts about and where you receive those alerts. You can modify your notifications to specify which activities (e.g. comments, tags, friend requests and birthdays) generate alerts and how you receive these notifications (via email, text message or push notification). You also have the option to mute all push notifications from the app or limit the number of text notifications Facebook will send you in a day.

You’ll find your notification settings in the “Settings” menu under the heading, “Notifications.” From here, you can choose to modify all your notification settings at once or review only your text messaging and email settings.

Set Daily Usage Reminders

It can be easy to lose track of time while browsing Facebook. Between your news feed, notifications and messages from friends, there’s a lot to grab your attention. If you find yourself frequently using Facebook for longer than you intended, you can set a limit on your daily usage.

From the main menu, select “Your Time on Facebook” under the category “Settings & Privacy.” On the next screen, scroll down and tap “Set Daily Reminder.” A pop-up tab will allow you to set how long you’d like to use the app that day, and you’ll receive a reminder when you’ve reached that limit. Keep in mind that this setting will only track your Facebook usage on that particular device, not across all your devices.

We hope this article helps you make better use of your time on Facebook and create a less stressful, more fulfilling experience with your social media! If you enjoyed our post, please share it with your Facebook friends so they can take control of their time on the app, too!

Remember This Next Time You’re Feeling Stressed

Many doctors tell us to find a way to cut stress out of our lives.  New research suggests this isn’t practical advice.

Perfectionism and 'Hurry Worry'

The Stress Paradox

Pursuing happiness takes work.  The process of building healthy relationships or attaining any worthwhile goal involves enduring ‘stressful’ situations.  Stress serves an important evolutionary purpose:  to prepare the mind and body to perform in difficult times.  Today our overactive stress responses prevent us from thriving–unless we can learn to look at stress in a different way.  


Stress isn’t inherently bad, though Western culture has made the term ‘stress’ synonymous with distress.  Eustress (or ‘Good-Stress’) is moderate psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the person experiencing it.  It is a positive cognitive response to stress which creates feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, and pride.  Eustress can even improve memory, learning and decision-making

Applying careful stress to the Violin's string is needed to create music.

We can seek out and cultivate this stress in our lives, and help our friends and family do the same.  Interestingly, distress/eustress is defined not by the stressor type, but rather by how a stressor is perceived (e.g. as a threat or a challenge).  This can be most easily seen in ‘play’ behaviors–meant to mimic real-life stressors in a safe, controlled setting.  Exposure to stress and eustress in childhood years can help kids develop skills and coping strategies for dealing with distress.  

The Therapeutic Powers of Play explains that “The interplay between our thoughts, individualized biological and neurological reactions, and environment results in large variations in our responses to situations perceived as stressful.”  On the other hand, ‘toxic stress’ is the result is the result of strong, frequent or prolonged activation of the body’s stress responses systems in the absence of the buffering protection of a positive relationship with a friend, coach, teacher, counselor, or family member. 

Individuals in these roles can help to set up small, predictable stressors which dissipate quickly, providing opportunities to “practice coping skills rather than exhaust them, thereby creating a more resilient, flexible stress response capacity.”

For example, joining a new fitness class may be stressful in the short-term, but the possibility of finding a fun new activity would make this stress worthwhile in the long-run.   

Next time your doctor tells you to cut the stress out of your life, show them this article!  Stress within the appropriate parameters is healthy, but like anything else in life–this outlook requires practice!

Interested in learning more about handling stress in positive ways?  Check out this post on the Eight Dimensions Of Wellness!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
— Constitution of the World Health Organization

The pursuit of wellness is one of the most important and rewarding endeavors a person can embark upon. Living in a state of wellness can dramatically improve a person’s life, providing them with fulfilling relationships, happiness and a sense of meaning.

But what exactly is wellness, and more importantly, how can someone work toward achieving it?

The Connection between Health and Wellness

We should start by distinguishing between wellness and health, which are related but distinct concepts.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” By contrast, the National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

Breaking down that definition can help us more fully understand the concept of wellness:

  • An active process” means wellness is an ongoing effort that a person must invest themselves in, not something that can be granted to them. It also means improvement of a person’s wellness is always possible.
  • Through which people become aware of” means that wellness is dependent upon a person seeking out and discovering new ways to improve their lives. People don’t always know how they can improve until they learn new information that can help them.
  • And make choices toward” means that a person can and should consider a variety of options for improving their life and attempt to select the best ones for their circumstances. It also means the person must act on their own behalf to achieve desired outcomes.
  • A more successful existence” means a life filled with well-being, happiness, accomplishments and purpose. Every person must decide what these things mean for them.

    In some ways, then, wellness is a method by which we can achieve complete physical, mental and social health.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user DaisyFig [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Even though we’ve defined wellness, it may be difficult to know how to start practicing wellness in your life. After all, a wide variety of factors contribute to a person’s happiness and well-being.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) divides wellness into eight separate dimensions that take all the major aspects of life into consideration. Understanding these dimensions can help a person evaluate their wellness in each category and form plans for improving their life.

Here are SAMHSA’s eight dimensions of wellness along with a few ways you can increase your own wellness in each area:

  • Physical wellness means recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep and nutrition. To be physically well, you should strive to stay active, even if it’s only through small actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You should also do your best to make healthy choices when eating and get plenty of sleep each night.
  • Emotional wellness means coping effectively with life and creating meaningful relationships. An important part of emotional wellness is being aware of your feelings and sharing them with people you trust. Pay attention to what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way, and reach out to people who are close to you when you’re struggling with upsetting emotions.
  • Social wellness means developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. To develop and maintain your personal relationships, try calling, e-mailing or visiting an acquaintance at least once a day. If you’d like to make new friends and relationships, consider joining a club or volunteer group.
  • Occupational wellness means getting personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work and hobbies. In order to find satisfaction in your work, you should try to pursue career or volunteer opportunities that align with your interests and passions. When at work, take breaks to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and try not to set unrealistic performance expectations on yourself.
  • Intellectual wellness means recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills. Reading books, whether they are informational or for entertainment, is a wonderful way to stimulate your mind. You might also consider attending community events that interest you or enrolling in skills training classes at your local library.
  • Financial wellness means finding satisfaction with current and future financial situations. Make an effort to learn about finances so you understand which financial behaviors are wise and unwise. Then work toward creating financial stability by following a budget that allows you to save for your future. You can also seek out advice from financial experts if needed.
  • Environmental wellness means achieving good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. In general, you should spend as much time as possible in calming or uplifting places. Take the time to go outside and appreciate nature, and donate or recycle things you don’t need to make your home a less stressful environment.
  • Spiritual wellness means expanding your sense of purpose and meaning in life. Practicing a religion can improve spiritual wellness for many people, but any activity that enhances your sense of connection to yourself, nature and other people is also good. Discover what values, principles and beliefs are most important to you, and do your best to help others when they’re in need.

If you regularly work on maintaining and improving these eight dimensions of wellness, you’ll be better able to create a life full of health, happiness and purpose.

How One Indianapolis Police Officer Is Fighting Teenage Substance Abuse

How Indianapolis Police Officer Chase Lyday Is Fighting Teenage Substance Abuse

For many people, the temptations of tobacco, drugs and alcohol first rear their ugly heads during adolescence.  Unfortunately, this is precisely when we are most susceptible to falling under their influence.  Although teenage drug use and substance abuse have seen encouraging downward trends in recent years, they remain serious health risks for high-school aged children in America.

The 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey, conducted every year by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found moderate rates of substance use among 12th graders across the country:

  • 58.5% had used alcohol at some point in their life, and 30% used alcohol in the past month
  • 24% had ever smoked a cigarette, and 30% reported consuming nicotine via vaping
  • 6% used marijuana daily, and 7.5% consumed marijuana via vaping in the past month
  • 12.4% used illicit drugs other than marijuana in the past year

In response to the threat tobacco, drugs and alcohol pose to young people, a number of central Indiana organizations are working to combat teenage substance abuse and help set youth down a better path in life. One such organization is doing this by nurturing strong community and familial ties and providing drug users with treatment instead of punishment.

Strengthening Families with the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition

“Most of the things that we do in the community are things that high school students and middle school students can participate in, and adults as well. We really try to provide opportunities for families to serve together,” says Chase Lyday, Executive Director of the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition.

As an Indiana State School Resource Officer for the Decatur Township School Police Department, Chase Lyday has witnessed firsthand the drug-related struggles that teens face. Wanting to do more for his community, he founded the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition to help keep local youth from the harms of drug use.

“Our mission is to prevent and reduce drug use among youth by strengthening families and collaborating with community resources,” Lyday says. A large part of this mission is accomplished through free community events, which give students and parents the opportunity to learn about drug use prevention and grow together as a family.

The Coalition also leverages its presence in schools to provide drug prevention education in the classroom. Students are then asked to discuss what they learned with their parents, providing another opportunity to develop family bonds.

“The last program that we have kicked off this year is a social/emotional learning curriculum for all of our kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. That is a tremendous tool that we have to teach kids how to have social competencies to repel drug use. But also, we partner with parents in that initiative by sending home discussion guides for the parents to be able to engage in some of those discussions with their kids,” Lyday says.

Emphasizing Treatment, Not Punishment

Chase Lydel, Indianapolis police department officer, speaks to a captive audience as the executive director of the decatur township drug free coalition
““At our coalition meetings, we will have volunteer opportunities for people to participate.”


Too often, a child or teen who admits to struggling with substance abuse is faced with punishment. They may be kicked off their sports team, suspended from school or even expelled. This encourages students to keep quiet, which only prevents them from receiving the help they need.

The fact is that substance abuse is frequently the result of underlying emotional problems. In a recent survey, the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition asked 564 students what they thought was the biggest reason some high school students abuse drugs, and the results were telling: 64% said to escape their mood or feelings, and another 56% said to deal with anxiety.

“With our coalition, we’ve even started an alternative to arrest program,” Lyday says. “Some of our kids that have mental health needs or social and emotional needs, instead of arresting them, we send them to a program where they can serve with us, get connected with the communities and school social workers that we have, and get connected with some of our school resource officers. We really try to come around them and build them up rather than shun them or punitively arrest them, or kick them out of school.”

Bringing in Help from Mental Health Organizations

“Right now is an exciting time for school-based services,” says Stephanie Whiteside of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, citing increased mental health funding and proactive state legislation.

One of the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition’s partners in its initiatives is Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, which provides school-based mental health services in over 150 schools across central Indiana. Cummins works alongside the Coalition in cases where therapy is the right treatment solution for a student battling substance abuse.

“We provide behavioral health services,” explains Stephanie Whiteside, Director of School-Based Operations for Marion County. “Within the schools, the home, and the community, we provide traditional therapy services for a wide range of mental health needs. We also provide skills training like coaching and modeling so kids can develop better skills for decision making.”

Like Lyday’s Coalition, Cummins strives to involve parents in their children’s mental health issues and treatment. This includes providing education about mental health disorders and access to resources for families strapped by time or money. “A lot of the areas we work in are families that are stretched to the limit,” Whiteside says.

Together, the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition and Cummins Behavioral Health Systems are working to empower families, build supportive communities and reduce substance abuse among our youth. If you’d like to help, you can get in contact with the Coalition through its website or its increasingly popular Facebook page.

Working together with the decatur township

Indiana State Representative Wendy McNamara has pushed for legislation providing increased resources like these for schools.  She reports that, “Its important for people to understand that teachers and schools cannot do this alone.  We need every tool available to help students in need.”  Wendy also recommends reading the Governors Task Force on School Safety Report from Aug 2018. Learn more about these legislative efforts here.


Wendy, along with Cummins sincerely thank Chase Lyday and Stephanie Whiteside for their dedication to helping our kids!