Stanford psychiatry department to host interactive parent-ed event

'Theatrical' workshop aims to give parents of teens practical advice

Imagine you're the parent of a high school student. You find out your child didn't complete a homework assignment or study for a test the next day, and you get into an argument. Your child storms out. Was there a better way to handle it?

Staff from the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry will be leading an interactive, theatrical event in Palo Alto next week to offer practical ways to address these very real scenarios for parents of teenagers. The event is free and open to all Palo Alto Unified School District parents, though it is in part targeted at Asian-American parents, said Rona Hu, a psychiatrist and clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford.

The idea for this style of parent education was born from feedback district parents gave after a panel on youth mental health the Department of Psychiatry put on in 2015 that focused on Asian-American families. On questionnaires handed out after the panel, many parents wrote, "Can you please do something practical?" Hu said.

So Hu, along with other faculty members and one undergraduate student, all volunteering their time, developed a set of "vignettes" for different real-life scenarios parents encounter with teenagers. One is the fight-over-homework scenario; others include how to handle a bad grade, talking about depression, dating, the classic teen sentiment of "parents are so embarrassing!" and parents showing children affection. Some vignettes come from their own lives — the affection one was developed by the undergraduate student, whose mother did not hug him when he left for Stanford. They hope to address "cultural mismatches in expressing affection," Hu said.

The vignettes are "applicable to many families, but we paid special attention to the needs of Asian families since there are additional stresses from the different assumptions based on one's upbringing," she added.

Psychiatry staff will play out one version of each scenario, stop and then have a moderator and audience ask questions of the actors (in character or not), then play the scene again, "showing different consequences of a different communication style," Hu said.

For example, in the first dating "vignette," the parents forbid their daughter from seeing a certain boy. In the second, they "express their concerns about the boy and they don't feel like enemies," Hu said.

If there is time at the end, parents will be invited to submit ideas to play out and even, if they want to, participate onstage as either parent or teen.

"We hope to provide parents with some practical strategies for dealing with difficult situations," Hu said.

The event will be led by Hu with the help of other psychiatry faculty serving as actors and moderators, plus psychiatry residents and fellows, a post-baccalaureate intern and the undergraduate student.

The group hosted its first "performance" at Palo Alto High School on Monday evening. The next event will be on Monday, March 21, 7-8:30 p.m. at JLS Middle School, 480 East Meadow Drive, Palo Alto. Live, simultaneous interpretation in Mandarin will be available, and a list of resources will be provided as well. No registration is necessary.

The event is targeted at parents of high schoolers, but is open to everyone, Hu added.

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38 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2016 at 8:26 am

Can they please include something for how teens and parents deal with bullying by teachers or administrators, or how to deal with the bigger issues of things like excessive homework? Sometimes seeing the bigger picture and solving problems helps with stress more than anything. Sometimes it creates more stress uf people feel helpless.

46 people like this
Posted by Just like Stanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2016 at 8:49 am

As always with Stanford, too, too little....too, too late

29 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2016 at 9:47 am

"As always with Stanford, too, too little....too, too late"

Since when is Stanford responsible for providing all solutions to you? Where does it say in their charter, "The primary mission of the university is to solve all of Palo Alto's problems."


25 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2016 at 10:53 am

As retired CEO of El Camino Hospital, as parent and as a grandfather, I commend local parents, students and Stanford for their innovative interventions to complex community health issues. Thanks.

18 people like this
Posted by Caroline V.
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Caroline V. is a registered user.

Thank you for addressing the cultural issues with a practical exercise. Once again we have to embrace all the facts to fully understand the current crisis in the Bay Area. First of all the current administration controlling education and healthcare has given preferential treatment to certain ethnic groups without teaching them our American values, our laws and rules put in place to warrant equity and equality within this unique multi cultural environment. Secondly, is not our administration's responsibility to set an example and abide by the rules and respect our laws? California laws and our Constitution prohibits bullying, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, sexual assaults and retaliation in public entities. I was discriminated based on my race and nationality at San Jose State University and by CSU administration. I was retaliated for disclosing a pattern of abusive and illegal conduct by SJSU alumni who happen to be of the Asian culture but trained by SJSU faculty to act this way. SJSU and CSU has the laws and requirements in place to prohibit abusive and illegal conduct, yet when I reported this to the appropriate administrative and executive powers I was subjected to more harassment and intimidation. Then I discovered a network among SJSU/CSU personnel collaborating and manipulating my due process, ignoring Executive Orders, and ignoring the requirements under the Education Equity Act, Civil Rights Act, Bane Act ....etc.I notified SJSU Campus police and law enforcement in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County. They all received the details of the hate crimes, the discrimination, the repetitive fraudulent activity, the retaliation and collaborative efforts to cover this up. I am now advocating for students, healthcare professionals and educators because this administration retaliates against anyone who discloses abusive and illegal conduct. It is our very own administration that uses mobbing, which is group bullying using the 5 step mobbing process to intentionally expel someone out of the group because we do not fit in with the current group norm. Mobbing uses harassment, intimidation, public humiliation, and defamation causing severe emotional distress and confusion. At the end mobbing uses the help of administrative and executive power to push the victim in a defenseless and powerless position because they ignore all rules and all laws put in place to warrant due process, to warrant safety, equity and equality. Mobbing is targeting people who demonstrate integrity and excellence, and we do not fit in with the current norm of lowered standards, incivility and cheating. Mobbing is also used to silence the co-worker and peer who witnessed the abusive and illegal conduct. No witnesses will come forward because they fear losing their job or fear that they will not graduate. It is our very own administration that is violating discrimination laws and civil rights laws. Governor Brown signed Prop 30 to warrant equity and safety, but as State Governor and President of the CSU Board, Governor Brown has refused to demand that his CSU administration abides by the rules and respects our laws. State Superintendent Torlakson and Lt. Governor Newsom are CSU Trustees. All have been reminded of our laws and the rules put in place to warrant equity and proper conduct by faculty and staff, but all have ignored my complaints and requests for due process and due diligence since 2012. CSU Chancellor Reed was forced to step down, but nothing has changed under CSU Chancellor White. Senator Yee introduced SB 1336 to hold the CSU accountable. The last Whistleblower/Retaliation case won in court against the CSU Board of Trustees cost over 1,5 million dollars and took over 4 years. Since then, Governor Brown closed the bipartisan board overseeing postsecondary education. No citizen can afford these high litigation costs and the groups who did try are facing an appeal by state officials, the CTA, the CTC, and the Teachers Union. What I experienced at SJSU and the CSU administration is happening at Stanford, UC campuses and in our K-12. Abusive and illegal conduct is not only taking place in our education system, but also in healthcare and a variety of jobs that receive government funding. Responsible professionals who fulfill their responsibilities are retaliated against and no longer have due process. We are silenced by high litigation costs, lack of media reporting, and fear of further retaliation. We have the laws in place to prevent abusive and illegal conduct and we have the rules in place to keep civility within our multicultural environment. Those rules apply to everyone and our administration, state officials, and community leaders controlling education and healthcare should not be excused, rather should set an example for proper conduct. Thank you again for your community efforts to address cultural differences, to bring awareness for these differences, and to act with effective solutions like role play; however, the problems will not be solved until our administration is held accountable and is mandated to respect our laws.

39 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Because Stanford boasts of its success with the primary goal of rejecting the greatest number of qualified students, I refuse to take advice from their self proclaimed experts. With the core value of elitism and the self destructive pursuit of achievement at all costs, Stanford and its representatives foster so much of the bad parenting and mental illness in our community that any supposedly helpful advice coming from there must be held in suspicion. The very fact that they are staging these events should give parents pause.

Even when preaching these parenting techniques, the hidden message is always, Stanford knows best, Stanford is all knowing, Stanford will give parents the secrets of tricking your kids into falling in line and sacrificing their lives to this cold, ruthless, soul crushing race to nowhere. Stay away!

22 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 16, 2016 at 2:44 pm

My Take- Stanford University and Stanford Hospital are not one in the same. A psychiatrist who is fairly new to Stanford, Dr. Steven Adelsheim, is working hard in our county to make some real improvements in youth mental health. Just this week, he presented at a public meeting about Stanford's efforts to promote online suicide prevention tools. Also, LPCH, El Camino and Kaiser jointly answered SCC's Request for Information on a proposed Children's Acute Psychiatric Hospital stating that they are working to create a partnership to build a facility to treat youth. Right now our county has zero inpatient beds for anyone under 18 who is having a mental health crisis. Such a partnership would be a godsend to families whose children are struggling. I believe these community events show that Stanford Hospital is beginning to treat illnesses of the mind with the same compassion and expertise that it provides to physical health concerns.
Mr. Buchanan- We would so grateful if you could support the proposed partnership with the current BOD of El Camino Hospital. Thank you.

26 people like this
Posted by Mo
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Keeping an open mind
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 16, 2016 at 6:02 pm

It sounds like a group of psychiatrists and students from Stanford are going to teach insights and skills they have learned from their own experiences as students and parents. This seems like a genuine effort to help from people who have a unique gift for tackling mental health issues. Let us see how the performance is on March 21.

38 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Marie is a registered user.

When Stanford applied for approval from PACC for their new facility, adding 3000 new employees and projected intersections going to an F level of traffic, they stated that a world class Hospital is the public benefit. Now we find that while there was plenty of money for exclusive wings for wealthy people from allover the world, there was no money for a psychiatric ward for teenagers despite the need. Stanford used to have such a facility. But since this "nonprofit" requires every department to be profitable all the time, it was discontinued. I don't know when that happened but definitely before the suicide clusters.

I'm happy to know Stanford is partnering with two other hospitals, "stating that they are working to create a partnership to build a facility to treat youth" of course with no timeframe attached, I doubt you will ever find Stanford in particular actually providing space for the hospital and I doubt you will see such a facility in less than 4-5 years. If Stanford really wanted to offer a psychiatric ward, they could do so within a year as part of the major expansion of LPCH, going on as we speak. But not unless they can see a profit.

This is similar to the psychiatric profession in Palo Alto. Is there even one psychologist, MSW or psychiatrist with available hours in Palo Alto who will accept assignment of insurance, even as part of their pro bono work? At a time when a family is in crisis, the first goal for the psychiatric profession is to add the additional work of filling out forms and arguing with insurance or worse, having the family pay the exorbitant bill privately with no reimbursement. That is fine for billionaires, but not for most parents for whom paying for the for psychiatric help is another huge source of stress on the family.

28 people like this
Posted by Courtney
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Just an opinion....
I can't really see how putting on a production would be that helpful with the topics of teens and parents and homework and mental health but hopefully it does.
I belive sharing TRUE AND REAL stories from peoples own experience would be the most beneficial. There could be a gathering of 10 different parents/teens from different countries who speak on the subject because that is actually people getting RESULTS.
If we see and hear how others navigate out of difficult situations that is the best form of help in my opinion.
Trying to show practical strategies from actors doesn't really drive home much confidence, especially in such topics and issues in our area..

23 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Here's a 'True and Real' story:
Palo Alto students toil in the shadow of Stanford, the local university, knowing they have almost no chance of getting in.

Meanwhile, Stanford is boasting and braying about its awesomeness, its sports teams, hospital, research, and 'experts' on all sorts of things constantly held up to our children, our whole community as the gold standard; its enormous financial endowments paraded before us all.

Our children go to school and face the impossible challenge of reaching the pinnacle, whether it be Stanford, or its brethren on the other coast. In the thrall of the endless crowing, who would actually buy the fable that any other college could possibly measure up?

The students whither, trapped by the burgeoning mountain of meaningless work, seeing their parents fabricating startups, inventions, heart touching charities in their name to puff up their resume. The message that you are not and will never be good enough further drilled into them by their peers, they fall into despair, only to be confronted with, guess who? more 'experts' from Stanford to tell them what is wrong with them! The answer? Lower your standards! This from an institution whose primary marketing strategy is the very exclusiveness, the very elitism they are scolding our children for adopting.

Shame on this Dickensian institution! Do not take parenting advice from its minions, however well meaning. Their very credentials are badges of child abuse and bullying.

8 people like this
Posted by Someone involved
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 17, 2016 at 11:57 pm

As someone helping with this event, I wanted to voice that the Psychiatry department is interested in becoming more involved in and partnering with the Palo Alto community to promote the overall well-being of our students. We would appreciate any honest feedback you have after attending the event (evaluations will be distributed at the end). We can't say we know the best, most helpful way to partner with families and students in our area, but we're taking the small steps that we can and are hoping to hear more thoughts on ways to improve!

23 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2016 at 12:46 am

Someone Involved, here's my feedback.

It would be most helpful if you would turn your efforts toward improving Stanford and its influence in this community.

If people associated with Stanford were to turn their efforts from talking down to parents and students,and turn toward lobbying within the university, demanding that Stanford change its core values from worshiping itself and rejecting the most students possible, to instead setting the goal of accepting the greatest number of qualified students possible and offering them an excellent education. This one change would ripple out through this community and beyond, transforming Stanford from a hypocritical and despotic institution, worthy of Dotheboys Hall to a beacon of hope and inspiration for students in Palo Alto and beyond. Until this change happens, every word on the subject of student well being that comes from Stanford and its representatives is so much hogwash.

3 people like this
Posted by Rona Hu
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

We're glad there's so much interest in this topic and hope we can be helpful. Dr. Adelsheim, mentioned in one of the comments, has been advising us on this project from the beginning, months ago, and has mentored members of the team. As mentioned in the article, we wanted to respond to requests from the parents to do a practical workshop in a non-lecture format. We aren't professional actors at all, but we use examples, some from our own lives, of what really happened and the consequences, so we hope that Courtney's request will be as close as possible to what we are doing. We considered having teens act out the vignettes themselves, and at first they were very enthusiastic, but then the teens felt that parents would be inhibited by their presence. In fact, Paly teens themselves are putting on a workshop on Wednesday March 23 from 7-9 pm at the Media Arts Center, called "What your teen wants to tell you, but can't." We hope that parents can go to that one, or the Monday event at JLS, or both.

3 people like this
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Many of the "critics" in these comments are so ready to accuse Stanford of responsibility for being the "carrot" at the end of many parents' "stick". That a penultimate silliness. Stanford is only what the external public concocts.

Stanford University and Stanford Medical Center are not the same identity. An academic in a given field is not necessarily the same as a practicing professional in that field.

Whatever Palo Alto, or any other surrounding community, does for its community is separate from Stanford and its operation. Stanford provides a public service with this parent-ed program, like it provides in many other ways that make it so attractive to live in the Stanford vicinity. Now local quasi-savants want to accuse Stanford of ills that are present everywhere, with or without Stanford's presence. Stanford is doing the "academic thing" by sharing information and insight that derives from its academic diligence. If this does meet one's personal needs, how is that a worldly negative?

4 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2016 at 9:58 am

@Someone involved,
I think sharing practical strategies through skits is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the event at Paly and still find coping with the experience of the JLS years so difficult, I do not wish to have anything to do with that place. Will you be offering the event again, or posting it as a video online?

Secondly, as a member of the community who has tried to reach out to people supposedly concerned like in the HEARD Alliance with information, and know others who have, I have found there is no two-way conversation. Please find a way to start an ongoing conversation. A conversation means people on both sides are open to hearing and being changed by what is said by the other side, even acting on the information. (Is there a model for that in psychiatry? Sincere question.)

Thank you for your efforts. I think it will be far more effective than a lecture.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Hi, Mom- The SELPA 1 CAC mental health subcommittee welcomes your input and involvement. The SELPA 1 CAC is a group of parents, educators and community members from Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos who work with our County and school districts on special education issues. A few of us formed a mental health subcommittee a year ago. My contact info can be found on the website under the "About Us" tab. I look forward to connecting with you.

9 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2016 at 8:30 am

Dear Sarah 1000,
I appreciate your reaching out, but I am aware of Selpa CAC and am not really sure what could be accomplished. The wonderful parents volunteering are as beleaguered as anyone else and not really able to advocate in a meaningful way for most issues. (Look at all the records issues families have and the CACs haven't so much as lodged public complaints or sought help from outside for members.) The HEARD Alliance was actually getting the district to change in limited ways, but unfortunately there is no way to communicate with them.

Thank you for your public advocacy, though. You can't do everything yourself, but I appreciate what you are doing to make teen hospital beds available in our county.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 21, 2016 at 10:21 am

Mom- Two of my fellow subcommittee members have started a free, peer-to-peer support group called Parent Chat for parents/caregivers of youth who have emotional/behavioral/mental health issues. It meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at the Los Altos Library at 7 pm and is moderated by Monique Kane, the former director of CHAC. We also maintain an Instagram account (@mentalhealthSELPA1) where we post local mental health events and the latest news on youth mental health. (And, fingers crossed, we'll have some beds in our county soon. There were four provider groups who responded to the County's Request for Information. The Request for Proposal will go out in the next couple of weeks.) We don't feel at all "beleaguered". The County encourages our participation and we welcome anyone else who would like to help.

11 people like this
Posted by One BIG Problem
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm

One problem that more and more people are having with Stanford--or any teaching hospital-- is that they are so expensive, and they let med students practice unsupervised. We, and many other people, have had rather poor care there.

More insurance companies are removing Stanford and other teaching hospitals from their approved provider list because of the high costs and low quality of care--especially psychiatric!

If no insurer, or only a couple of "Cadillac" plans, will cover care at Stanford, why go there? Very few insurance companies will cover any psychiatrist on the Peninsula, the North Bay, or the South Bay, citing excessive cost of services. There is also the problem with the number of psychiatrists ( or specialists) who will accept insurance, Cadillac plan or otherwise.

Psychiatric bills, as with other medical bills, are among the top causes of bankruptcy and home foreclosure in California!

1 person likes this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm

I meant the Palo Alto CAC - talk to the parents who are beleaguered.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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