What You Need to Know About Human Trafficking

Thanks to 24/7 access to global news and information, public awareness of human trafficking has grown over the past few years. Even so, it is a crime that lives in the shadows of too many communities in America and around the world. TBH wants to do its part to help educate families about this issue and the role we can all play to prevent and report this abuse of the most vulnerable among us. 

What is Human Trafficking?  

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act”. Although illegal in the US, it is believed millions of people are trafficked every year, but it is a significantly underreported crime. 

Types of Human Trafficking  

A common misconception is that human trafficking is synonymous with sex trafficking. Although sex trafficking is all too prevalent, human trafficking also includes forced labor. Below you’ll find some of the most common types of trafficking:  

  • Sex Trafficking: individuals are coerced into performing sexual acts including prostitution, participating in pornographic content, stripping, working as an escort, and sex tourism. Any minor who performs commercial sexual acts is considered a victim of sex trafficking, because they cannot legally consent to them.  
  • Forced Labor: victims provide labor or services through coercion and threats. Some common types include debt bondage and child labor. This type of human trafficking is less common in the US than sex trafficking, but too many unaccompanied minors, such as those entering the US alone, are at risk of being coerced by “sponsors” into “working off their debt” with long hours in tiring and dangerous jobs.  
  • Domestic Servitude: performing labor or services within an employer’s household. Domestic work becomes trafficking when the employer coerces or threatens the worker until he or she believes the only choice is to stay. Immigrants are often more vulnerable to this type of trafficking.  

What Groups Are Most at Risk?  

Although victims can be of any age, race, socioeconomic background, and gender, traffickers tend to prey on victims they perceive as vulnerable and easily controlled, so they’ll often go after people who are:  

  • Experiencing economic hardship 
  • Seeking opportunities to build a better life 
  • Struggling with addiction 
  • Suffering from mental health issues 
  • Emotionally and/or physically estranged or separated from family and friends  

More specifically, human traffickers will go after marginalized groups like:  

  • Homeless youth 
  • Children and teens who have been in the foster care system 
  • People that do not have a lawful immigration status 
  • People of color 
  • Individuals within the LGBTQ+ community  

Common Tactics Used to Lure Victims  

Traffickers employ various tactics to identify and entrap their victims.  According to Covenant House Toronto, 25% of their cases reported they were recruited by “friends or peers” who were also victims, and 33% reported they were lured by someone who was a romantic partner.  

While traffickers do use the violent, forceful approach of kidnapping victims and forcing them into servitude, the most common tactic is the “soft sell”, a more insidious method, where the perpetrator turns on the victim after taking time to form bonds of trust. The trafficker identifies and contacts a vulnerable individual, promising whatever they think will appeal most, such as love, jobs, money, and security. They earn their victim’s trust, then force them into the desired form of trafficking.  

What are Some Warning Signs?  

To fight against human trafficking in all its forms, start by learning how to identify “red flags” that may need to be reported to the authorities. If you know someone living under these conditions, according to the Department of Justice, these may be warning signs that this person might be a victim of trafficking 

  • They live with their employer in poor conditions 
  • They live with multiple people in a small, cramped place 
  • They have few or no identity documents 
  • They appear unable to speak on their own 
  • They are underpaid 
  • They exhibit submissive or fearful behavior 
  • Their partner may be significantly older and displays controlling and isolating behavior  
  • The person appears to be school age, but does not attend school 

It’s important that you share these warning signs with people around you, including your teenage children.  


Since so many perpetrators masquerade as people pretending to be romantic partners, discuss this tactic with your teen so they know when to be wary. Encourage them to tell you if they are talking to someone (whether in person or online), but something feels off. By making your teen and their friends aware of the risks, you can help to keep them safe.  

How to Support Victims 

If you think someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the national hotline at 888-373-7888 or text 233733 to report a case at the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You can also report it to local law enforcement by calling 911.  

Another way to support victims is to help them find resources. Here you’ll find a list of helpful services ranging from mental health care to employment aid.  

If you don’t personally know any victims, but still want to support them in some way, you can always raise awareness about this issue on social media. Whether it’s reposting statistics, telling someone’s story, or sharing information provided by local organizations, raising awareness helps to make everyone in the community more vigilant and willing to report possible situations in the future. 

Be aware that not all online sources are legitimate, nor is all content on social media accurate. In fact, lately many people have been sharing misinformation on this issue. Although most of the accounts posting about “possible” human trafficking tactics don’t mean harm, they misrepresent what it looks like.  

The insidious approach often used by human traffickers can make their crime difficult to notice and identify. Although it’s always good to keep an eye out for anything that looks or feels off, traffickers don’t often kidnap random people. Instead, they go for people who are particularly vulnerable.   

Organizations that Raise Awareness about Human Trafficking 

If you want to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, we encourage you to check out organizations focused on this issue. It’s always good to seek out non-profits near you, but in the meantime, we’ll leave you with three of the biggest and most trusted organizations you might want to support:  

  • International Justice Mission: This organization works to end all types of modern-day slavery, including the labor and sex trafficking of individuals regardless of age.  
  • Polaris Project: One of the biggest organizations, Polaris combats all forms of trafficking of individuals of any age. In addition to their work, they also dedicate their time to gathering data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline in order to aid more people. 
  • Love146: This international non-profit focuses on ending child trafficking. Love146 offers both prevention programs and services for survivors in the US and in the Philippines.  
  • United Abolitionists: this Florida organization focuses on acting as first responders for human trafficking cases, providing victims with care, and raising awareness.   


Need More Help?  

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, consider contacting professional help. Here at The Bougainvilla House, we’ll provide you with a safe space and compassionate care as you learn to cope, heal, and live a healthier life 

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.   

Navigating Changing Family Dynamics as Your Teen Goes to College

Picture of a family. Daughter is in front, holding box with her belongings. Mom's on the left, holding a pillow, and dad's on the left, holding a box.

You did it. You just dropped off your baby at college, and now you’re on what seems like the longest ride back home. Gone are the days of picking them up at school, making them dinner every night, ferrying them to activities, and seeing them around the house.  

So, now what? After 18 years, what are you supposed to do now that they’re off at college? 

The transition to college can be a challenging time for students and parents. While your teen is learning to navigate the world on their own, you’re re-learning how to lead a life that’s not heavily focused around them. It is only natural to feel a bit lost during these first few months. If you want some helpful tips on how to navigate family dynamics during the college transition, keep reading! 

How to Navigate Changing Family Dynamics as Your Teen Goes to College

It’s Okay to Miss Your Child 

It’s completely normal to miss your child and feel sad because they’re not at home with you, but these feelings will pass. Yes, you will always want to see them, but you’ll get used to their absence as time goes on. In the meantime, don’t feel embarrassed because you’re missing them. These feelings are totally okay. 

Set Aside Some Time to Call Them 

Even though going to college is supposed to help young adults to be more independent, that doesn’t mean you need

to cut off all contact with them. At the other extreme, don’t expect to hear from your child on a daily basis: they need space to build new relationships and routines. Talk with your child and figure out a good time to call or text them. This doesn’t have to be every day, but a couple of times during the week doesn’t hurt. 

Besides, they’re probably missing you too! They might not want to admit it, but once the initial wave of move-in excitement passes, many students struggle with homesickness in those first weeks and months of college. In fact, as many as 66% of first year students will feel homesick, so make sure you work out a ‘just right’ plan to keep everyone happy and in touch.  

Plan a Family Visit 

If you’re really missing your child, you can always plan a visit to see them. Did you know that most colleges have a “Parents’ Weekend”?  Find out when your child’s college will host theirs, and plan to go then to take advantage of any activities hosted by the school. It’ll be a great opportunity to see them in their new home! 

Find a New Outlet or Hobby to Distract Yourself 

You may be continuing to work or have taken a job to pay the bills.  That alone can be a big transition, along with 

your child’s move to college. But in your free time, you may find the best way to cope with this new reality is to immerse yourself in a hobby or activity. This can look like going to the gym, signing up for a class you’ve always wanted to take, or finding a new volunteer opportunity or activity you enjoy doing!

Think about it: as your children start heading off to college, you’ll start having more time on your hands to do things you want to do. Don’t feel guilty if you want to do something for yourself: it’s okay to focus on you as a person with your own interests.  

And this goes for both parents: if you see your spouse is also having a tough time, find a way to do something together that can take your mind off your teen. They’ll appreciate it.  

Find Other Parents in the Same Situation as You 

In times of change, it’s always good to have a community to support you! If you have any friends whose children are also in college, you will be a great support system for each other, as you get used to your new normal. If you don’t, no need to worry! You can go online and search for a parents’ group at your child’s college, where you can share your own feelings, and see how they’re coping too.  

When something goes wrong – and it will 

They get sick or injured. They fail a class. They have roommate issues. They run out of money. They may try and even have a bad experience with substances. They’re feeling anxious, lonely, or depressed. They aren’t sure the college or the program is right for them.

While you hope the first year of college will be smooth sailing, problems will crop up, and sometimes they aren’t easily resolved.  As parents, your job is to support your child, but be careful not to micromanage them, even though you may want to swoop down and fix the problem.   

Stay in touch and, as best you can, try to be a sounding board for your child as they work out solutions for themselves. It’s okay to offer suggestions and, if it is truly serious, to step in if you must, but wait until you know your child wants and needs more direct assistance. Be especially sensitive to mental and physical health issues and encourage your child to seek assistance early. 

And then they come home 

The first time or two that your student comes home, things feel different, for you and for them. Remember that they have gotten used to some independence, and that you all need to navigate this new normal. Our Home for the Holidays: A Survival Guide for College Students blog post explores some of the issues and feelings teens face when they come home for holidays and visits – it might be a useful read for you as parents as well!  

When your young adult goes off to college, it can be difficult at first. You will experience a lot of new emotions, and it can feel overwhelming, but understand this is the beginning of a new chapter in their life and in yours. Just because you won’t see your child every day doesn’t mean you need to stop caring for them; it means you’ll be taking on a slightly different role. You get to step back a little and let them take more control of their lives.  

Of course, if they ever need you, you’ll be there for them, but also trust yourself and know that you did everything you could to set them up for success.  

Need More Help? 

If you’re struggling with this time of transition, we can help. The Bougainvilla House offers parenting workshops to provide tools and strategies that may help you get used to this new chapter of your life.  

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337 

Celebrate and cheer – you have a college student in your life now! 

Supporting Your Teen Through Mental Health Issues: Anxiety, Depression, and Emotional Regulation Skills

Have you ever wished you had a magic wand to banish anxiety and depression from your teenager’s life?

Every day, your teen could be dealing with multiple sources of stress, including the pressure to:

  • excel in academics
  • meet family and societal expectations
  • fit in with classmates
  • secure a promising future
  • cope with big issues like gender, sexuality, economic, and environmental concerns

All while projecting an online life full of so-called Instagrammable moments! No wonder your teen can feel overwhelmed.

While we can’t conjure away these burdens, we can certainly provide you with some powerful strategies to help your teen preserve a sense of optimism, even while navigating through emotional distress.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the world of teen anxiety and depression and explore effective strategies for emotional regulation. These strategies will serve as a guide to support your teen when you recognize their emotional distress.

Understanding Teen Mental Health Causes and Issues: Your Role as Parents

The U.S. Surgeon-General has called the alarming increase in mental health issues among American youth “the defining public health crisis of our time”. In fact, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021, more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health in 2021. This emphasizes the importance of addressing these issues and providing support for your teen.

Icon of a brain thinking with a statistic below.

As a parent, it’s important to know that the teenage years are a crucial and often turbulent time affecting your child’s social and emotional development and their mental well-being. You can support them by encouraging good habits like practicing mindfulness, eating well, and getting regular rest and exercise, as well as helping them to develop strong problem-solving skills and supportive relationships. For good or ill, your teen’s friend group and the quality of your family’s home life also significantly impacts their well-being. In addition, watch for potential threats like bullying, violence, or possible substance abuse. Some youth may be at higher risk for mental health issues due to their specific circumstances and need additional care and support, including teens experiencing:

  • unsafe, unhealthy, or difficult living conditions
  • discrimination, poverty, and marginalized backgrounds
  • limited access to quality support and services
  • chronic illnesses, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, or other neurological conditions
  • pregnancy, parenting, early or forced marriages, or foster care

Signs your teen may be having mental health difficulties

In addition to more overt symptoms like mood swings, irritability, anger, and tearfulness, you may observe:

  • low energy
  • notable changes in sleep, weight, eating habits, or other everyday patterns
  • excessive exercising, or fear of gaining weight
  • loss of interest in the things they usually love, or quitting activities that they enjoy
  • spending more time alone, and withdrawing more than usual from friends, family, and community
  • canceling plans with their closest friends with little or no explanation
  • academic struggles that seem different or more intense: for example, failing quizzes in their favorite subject or refusing to do homework they used to easily handle
  • running thoughts or worries that won’t leave them alone
  • a whole new set of friends you’ve never met before
  • engaging in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
  • refusing to talk about what’s bothering them, even after you’ve made it as safe as possible to openly discuss hard issues
  • Obsessing over a certain goal, possibly with the belief that if they don’t achieve it, their life will never be the same
  • signs of drug, alcohol or other substance use
  • signs of self-harm such as cuts, burns, bruises, etc. that your teen tries to hide or can’t explain fully and credibly
  • indications they may be having suicidal thoughts
  • statements that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear

Remember, simply noticing one symptom from a list doesn’t necessarily mean your teen is facing a serious mental health issue. Biological changes, including hormonal shifts that all pre-teens and teenagers experience, can impact their mood, school performance, and more. However, if you regularly observe one or more of these signs, it’s essential to initiate a discussion about mental health with your teenager.

Emotional Regulation Skills: An Overview

Emotional regulation, the ability to effectively manage and respond to our emotions, plays a crucial role in maintaining mental well-being and can even alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we take the time to release our emotions in a suitable manner and allow ourselves to recover, we experience a sense of satisfaction in how we handled the situation. This feeling of accomplishment not only improves our current mental state but also equips us to better handle similar situations in the future. The good news is that you, or a professional, can help teens to learn and hone these skills – and by actively working on emotional regulation, they can cultivate a healthier and more resilient mindset.

Practical Tips for Parents: Helping Your Teen with Emotional Regulation

A few tips to help your teen develop emotional regulation skills include:

Identify and reduce triggers: This is an important step in helping your teen manage their strong emotions. Encourage them to look for patterns in their environment and situations when they experience intense feelings. Sometimes, these emotions can stem from deep insecurities or past trauma, making it initially challenging to pinpoint their cause. However, having awareness of triggers is empowering, as it allows your teen to avoid them when possible and feel more in control when they cannot be avoided. Prompt your teens to reflect on what is happening around them and why it reminds them of something painful. By understanding and acknowledging these triggers, your teen can take proactive steps to minimize their impact on their emotional well-being.

Tune into their physical symptoms: Emotions can be amplified by other physical factors (e.g. being hungry or tired) — like turning up the volume of their feelings. Recognizing and addressing these factors might help temper their emotional response. Ask your teens if they feel more overwhelmed when they’re ‘hangry’, haven’t slept well, or maybe about to get their period.

Consider the story they’re telling themselves: We can’t read our teens’ minds, but we can consider the story they might be telling themselves. Strong emotions can sometimes cause us to jump to conclusions, and not always the right ones. Advise them to hold off judgment for a moment, and ask them: “What other explanations might be possible?”

Engage them in positive self-talk: When emotions are running high, self-talk can easily turn negative. Your teen may internally say “I messed up again.” “I’m useless.” Instead, encourage them to treat themselves with empathy and to think positively. “I always try so hard.” “I’ll do better next time.” Positive self-talk helps calm their feelings and transforms the moment into a plan for doing better next time.

Encourage mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help your teen stay connected to their emotions without feeling overwhelmed. Engage in guided mindful exercises with your teen. There are numerous resources available, including apps and websites that offer guided meditations or mindfulness exercises specifically designed for teens. Here is one. These exercises can help your teen relax, reduce anxiety, and increase their overall sense of well-being.

Promote healthy expression of emotions: Let your teen know that it’s okay to express how they feel. Validate their emotions when they do. Take their feelings seriously — sometimes your teen just needs you to listen and be there for them.

Help them curb impulsivity: When your teen feels angry or afraid, it’s important to remind them that their reactions can sometimes hurt the people around them, including you. Advise them to think before responding, to take a moment to pause and take a deep breath. Counting to ten can also help bring some calmness to their mind. By doing this, they can create space for a calmer, logical and kinder response. It’s crucial to focus on what’s best for both them and you in these situations.

Shift their focus to positive emotions: Human beings are prone to ‘negativity bias’ meaning we pay more attention to negative emotions than positive ones. Positive feelings are less dramatic, but so important to your teen’s mental health. Encourage your teen to try to focus on the positive moments, and the way it boosts their resilience and well-being.

Encourage and suggest stress management techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, physical exercise, and creative outlets can help manage stress. Encourage them to explore activities that allow them to express themselves. These activities can serve as a healthy escape and help redirect their emotions in a positive way.

Remember, as a parent, it’s essential to model these techniques yourself. By practicing these strategies and encouraging your teen to do the same, you create a supportive and healthy environment for both of you.

How Parents Can Support Teens Struggling with Anxiety and Depression

Supporting a teen struggling with mental health issues can feel overwhelming to them and to you. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Validate their emotions: Let them know their feelings are real and important.
  • Build a strong support system: Encourage supportive relationships with friends and family and consider seeking the help of a professional counselor or therapist.
  • Seek professional help when necessary: If your teen’s symptoms persist or worsen, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. At The Bougainvilla House, we offer a range of services for youth and families.
  • Pay attention to your own mental well-being and seek help if you need it.

Early intervention is key in treating anxiety and depression. There are many professionals ready to help, from therapists and counselors to psychiatrists.

TBH can help

If your teen is having trouble coping with anxiety and depression, don’t be afraid to seek support for them.

If they want professional help, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for them, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment. We are ready to assist them and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support for them and your family: (954) 764-7337.

Conquering low self-esteem: How to boost a fragile sense of self-worth

Girl sitting on the floor with hands on her chin with low self-esteem.

Would you say an emphatic “Yes!” to the questions “Do I like myself? Am I a person of worth?”  

If you can’t say ‘yes’ with assurance, you’re not alone.   

Call it self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love, or self-acceptance — we all face issues with our sense of self-worth at some point. If you struggle to maintain a positive self-image, please know that you DO matter and you ARE a person of value. Period. But knowing it and feeling it are not always the same thing.  

Maybe your sense of self-worth is fragile, or maybe you just want to feel yourself again. Either way, here is some information to help you understand the many factors that affect a person’s self-esteem, and some tips to help you resist those moments of doubt. 

Your self-esteem changes day to day, impacted by factors such as: 

  • the small and not-so-small successes and failures you inevitably experience.  
  • the important people in your life, and how they perceive and interact with you. 

What is self-esteem?  

Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself and your worth as a person. It’s based on how you value yourself –similar to self-respect, which describes how confident you are in your abilities and attributes. 

Self-esteem develops during childhood and evolves throughout your teens and adulthood. During childhood, self-esteem is largely influenced by your school experiences and by your interactions with your parents, caregivers, and teachers. During the teen years, your sense of self-worth becomes increasingly influenced by your ability to meet your own expectations and those of others, as well as by your developing identity and self-perception. 

As a teen, just figuring out who you are and feeling good about yourself can be a daily challenge. But protecting and maintaining healthy self-esteem is critical. Your sense of self-worth and value can affect – well, everything! – your decisions, relationships, choices, mood, academic and social success, and your general mental and physical health. 

Let’s start by understanding the elements that together impact one’s sense of self-worth. 

Components of self-esteem 

Healthy self-esteem is formed at an early age by a combination of the following qualities. These components are based on the work of Toronto psychotherapist Dr. Joe Accardi.  

  1. A feeling of personal and interpersonal security – Feeling secure in yourself, your potential, and your familial relationships. 
  2. A sense of social belonging – Feeling accepted and cherished by friends, relatives, and groups (such as sports teams or school clubs) that are important to you. 
  3. A sense of purpose – Feeling encouraged to establish and strive toward your goals.  
  4. A feeling of being capable – Being empowered to make your own decisions and employ creative problem-solving, which develops a sense of mastery over your circumstances. 
  5. A feeling that you can trust yourself and others, and that they in turn trust you. 
  6. A sense of contribution – Contributing to a “greater good” and establishing the practice and habit of giving back. 
  7. A feeling of influence – Feeling the confidence to have some say in decisions or offer your opinion on a topic. 
  8. A feeling of self-control – Practicing self-discipline, thereby reinforcing the sense that you can manage your feelings and your life. 
  9. A sense of reward – Validation by others and the ability to praise yourself for the things you achieve, whether large or small. 
  10. A sense of family pride- If you are ashamed of your family, it may also be hard to love yourself. Learning about your family’s history can help you understand and appreciate their place in the past and present.  

Factors that influence self-esteem

No question, the ups and downs of daily life affect your sense of worth. You might feel good about yourself one day and not so good the next. But it’s also important to realize that some of the factors that impact your sense of self-esteem are more deep-rooted, and you may not be aware of the role they play. Your self-esteem may be affected by: 

  • Age 
  • Disability 
  • Genetics 
  • Illness 
  • Physical abilities 
  • Thought patterns
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Racism and discrimination 
  • Life experiences 

Research has shown that racism and discrimination can negatively affect self-esteem, as can genetic factors that help shape your personality. However, life experiences are thought to be the most crucial factor, including: 

  • Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical 
  • Poor academic performance in school, resulting in a lack of confidence 
  • Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble 
  • Poor treatment from a partner, parent or caregiver, for example, being in an abusive relationship 
  • Feeling unattractive/comparing yourself to others and on social media. 
  • Ongoing medical problem such as chronic pain, serious illness or physical disability 
  • Mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. 

If you’ve been through a tough time, (for example, perhaps you experienced bullying or abuse), it can make you feel like you’re not good enough or that something is wrong with you. Similarly, if you struggle to succeed at the things you care about, it can shake your confidence in yourself and your abilities.  

For example, if your parents put a lot of pressure on you to do well in school or sports, you might feel like your worth is tied to your grades or athletic achievements. If you don’t do well in these areas, you may feel like you’re a failure as a person. 

Assessing your level of self-esteem 

If you have low self-esteem, you tend to avoid activities where there’s a chance of failure or embarrassment. You might give up on schoolwork, prefer keeping to yourself rather than trying to make friends, or refuse to get involved in sports or other activities. But friends, family, fun, involvement, and a good school experience are all part of a healthy teenage life, so if you recognize behavior like this in yourself or someone you care about, it’s time to get help. 

If low self-esteem is not identified and treated, it can lead to problems such as: 

  • relationship troubles or difficulty making friends 
  • negative moods such as feeling sad, anxious, ashamed or angry 
  • low motivation 
  • poor body image 
  • drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs to feel better  
  • academic struggles, which may limit post-high school opportunities 

It’s normal to lack confidence from time to time — but if it’s escalating and becoming a pattern, it may be time for some self-reflection. If you are unsure about your self-esteem levels, look at these free quizzes to evaluate.  

Self-esteem quiz #1 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/personality/self-esteem-test  

Self-esteem quiz #2 – https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/self-esteem-quiz.html 

Building a healthy sense of self-esteem 

It takes effort and time to build up a positive sense of self-worth. Different approaches work for different people, so try only what is comfortable for you. Here are some ideas to think about. 

  • Know that feelings of self-doubt are normal and often, temporary.  
  • Treat yourself with kindness. 
  • Take time to take care of yourself (practice self-care). 
  • Set small realistic goals for yourself. 
  • Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. 
  • Remember you will always have good and bad days, but tomorrow can be a fresh start. 
  • Try to recall past achievements, or occasions when others have complimented you. 
  • Define your worth based on how you feel about yourself, not what others think of you. 
  • Try volunteering. It feels good to help others. 
  • Challenge negative thoughts you might be having about yourself. Remind yourself of your strengths. 
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. 

Self-esteem exercises to practice daily

It takes conscious effort and daily practice to push away negative thoughts and boost low self-esteem. Here is an exercise to try: 

  1. Write 3 things that make you feel good. 
  2. Write 3 things you’ve accomplished or that made you feel proud of yourself. 
  3. Write 3 things you love about yourself.  
  4. Ask someone close to you what they like about you. 

Reach out for help 

If you’re having trouble coping with low self-esteem, don’t be afraid to seek support from friends or family members who love you. 

If you want professional help, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment ready to assist you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.        

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.         

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Teen Sports and Mental Health – ending this year strong, starting the new year fresh!

As we head into a new year, it’s time to think about how you can make the upcoming year your best yet. And what better way to start fresh than enjoying regular physical activity and friendly competition?  

Playing sports is a great way to stay healthy, have fun, meet new people and escape from the stresses of everyday life. Bonus — participating in sports can also improve your mental health and well-being.   

Whether you’re struggling with self-esteem, depression, or anxiety, or just looking to try a new, healthy, and positive activity, here are five reasons why playing a sport is a great way to improve your mental and physical well-being.

And in case you’re worried, you really don’t have to be a star athlete to be a valuable team member.  You just need a good attitude, the willingness to work on improving your skills, and an interest in helping your teammates to do their best as well. 

Five ways sports can boost your mental well-being 

Improve self-esteem – Sports are all about setting and accomplishing personal and team goals, which is why taking part in a sport can help to increase your self-esteem and confidence. As you gain physical and mental strength, you’ll become more aware of your capabilities and more confident in your own self-worth and contribution to your team. Believe in yourself – you can do it! 

Ease Symptoms of Depression and Stress – Playing a team sport provides a sense of belonging and purpose that can reduce the symptoms of depression and stress. It’s also an outlet for releasing frustration, which decreases anxiety and helps to improve your mood. Studies show that taking part in a sport can help reduce depression by 20 percent. Physical activity helps release endorphins, which act as natural anti-depressants, making us feel good about ourselves, improving our mood and helping us cope with daily stressors. 

Girl posing with her tenis racket in the court

Grow Leadership and Team-Building Skills – Playing a sport helps develop the skills necessary to be a good team player and also a leader, on and off the field. Participating in sports encourages players to communicate well, think critically, take the initiative, and work together as a team. It also teaches team members how to handle adversity, work through disagreements, and cultivate mutual respect. All these skills can be applied to any situation, athletic or not, making them invaluable now and throughout your life. 

Keep Your Mind Sharp – Engaging in physical activity and exercising your body improves your mental alertness and cognitive abilities. Exercise increases the production of hormones that help protect the brain from damage. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve concentration and attention, boost memory, and reduce the risk of age-related mental decline. Your athletic efforts might also help your grades!

Boy running down a field

Build Resilience – When things aren’t going well during a game, players rely on resilience to see the game through to the end, no matter the outcome, and to learn from it for the next time. Whether a game is close and competitive or a runaway win or loss, the experience teaches us the resilience we need to handle success and failure, and deal with pressure in life, especially when things don’t go our way.  

Playing a sport can definitely have its tough moments, but a good team and coach will always support its players through good times and bad. Teammates help each other to work through setbacks and to grow as players. When you’re checking out a new sport, pay attention to the team’s culture and look for a group where you can learn, grow, feel supported, and share the love with others.  

And be realistic with yourself. It takes time and effort to become a better player. You’ll get there. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to keep the rest of your life in balance as well.  

Sports organizations in your area 

The great news is, there are all kinds of opportunities out there to learn a sport and to play for fun or competitively. Check out these organizations! 

Youth Impact Center YIC offers free academic, personal support, and athletic training for students ages 6-18, with two centers in Pinecrest Square.  Whether you want to get better grades, learn and play a sport, or make new friends—YIC is the place where you can do it all. 

City of Ft. Lauderdale Youth Sports Development League – Allows children and youth from ages 4-12 to try a variety of sports for one low annual membership! Members receive one free uniform for each sport played, attend sports camps and clinics on no school days, access homework/tutoring assistance, and more! 

I9sportsOffers fun, organized, and educational youth sports leagues throughout the Fort Lauderdale area. Children and teens receive age-appropriate instruction and choose from a variety of sports such as flag football, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, and even volleyball. 

Need help?  

 If your stress feels overwhelming, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment ready to assist you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.       

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.        

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Home for the Holidays: A Survival Guide for College Students

You did it – you made it through your first set of college final exams! You’re happy to finally begin your holiday break, but you’re about to return to the family nest, and family gatherings are on the horizon. While homecoming can be a joyful time for some, for others can bring anxiety and stress.  

As a first-year college student, readjusting to life at home can be uncomfortable and even overwhelming. During this extended visit, you’ll have to follow ‘house rules’ and interact with family members who may have different social or political views and values than you. It’s also more than likely that family life has changed since you left for college.  

It can be a strange time. Everything’s the same – but not. You’re different. Your family dynamic is different. Everyone has to adjust. 

It can be intimidating, but don’t worry. This article will provide tips on how to survive and enjoy coming home for the holidays. 

5 Ways to Survive the Holiday Break


  1. Communicate with your family before the break –  Before you leave campus, it’s really important to talk with your family to share plans and set expectations. Let them know how long you’ll be around and ask them if they have any special requests, events, or plans for your time together. Share any special plans of your own. If there are any conflicts or disagreements, don’t let them build up — talk about them now! This will help prevent awkwardness, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings once you’re home.
  2. Negotiate house rules- Your parents may have difficulty seeing you as an adult who has been living on their own. That’s a common experience for many college students returning home. As a result, they may try to enforce house rules that were fine when you lived at home, but now seem unreasonable or unnecessary. For example, if they want you to be home by curfew every night when there’s no particular reason why, talk it over with them and explain why these rules aren’t necessary anymore.  Remember – this is all new for them too! For your part, be aware that your lifestyle and daily rhythms might be very different from the rest of your family’s — for instance, you may no longer be the early-to-bed teen they knew!  As you settle in, be considerate of your family’s routines and hours.  
  3. Don’t spend too much time on social media– Sometimes we find ourselves spending too much time online instead of enjoying our family’s company or having meaningful conversations with them. Make sure you set aside time to catch up and talk. Your family will be interested in what has been going on in your life, your college experience so far, and your future plans. This is also an opportunity to hear about what they’ve been doing during the last few months.
  4. Catch up with old friends- If you are close with anyone from back home, talk to them ahead of time about their holiday plans. This will give you an idea of what’s going on around town and help you plan a few activities.  Knowing when you might see old friends can help things at home feel a little less stifling.
  5. Set aside “alone time”- You’ll have so many people to catch up with that it can get overwhelming at times, so make sure you take some alone time. Work out, take a walk by yourself, read a book, or watch TV in your room. This will help you relax and recharge, so you can enjoy the time you do spend with your loved ones. This is your break, and a busy semester awaits, so be sure to take time for self-care. 

When family gatherings get opinionated

When politics are brought up during family gatherings, things can get awkward and uncomfortable – fast. You may feel like you must choose between being honest and true to your views, and avoiding the subject, especially if your opinions differ significantly from those of your relatives. If the conversation is getting acrimonious, the best way to handle this situation is to listen, be prepared for different reactions from each person, pick your battles, and have an exit strategy ready. 

You can say something like “I don’t want to argue about this. Let’s talk about something else.” Or “I hear what you’re saying, but I also have some thoughts on the topic that I think are important too, so let me tell you what I think.” Then share your perspective in a calm tone of voice and let them respond without judging or interrupting them. If the language coming at you becomes inflammatory, condescending, or insulting, try not to get defensive — be the adult in the room and just say something like “That’s not right/true/fair/reasonable/acceptable” and then change the subject. You may feel strongly about the issue under discussion, but it’s a family event and nobody wants it to disintegrate into a shouting match. 

In the end, just enjoy and participate in family life as much as is comfortable. Pitch in and help out, spend one-on-one time with your close family, and remember to show appreciation – for instance, when your favorite foods are served! Share traditions or make new ones and let them get to know the cool young adult you are. 

Just as important, take time and space to rest and renew your social batteries, and speak up for what you need. 

Don’t let stress get to you! Instead, be open to new experiences and new opportunities, and do what you need to do to stay relaxed and positive. College life is exciting and busy, and being home can be a much-needed chance to recharge, so try to focus on all the positives of being home for the holidays. We hope it’s a comfortable, enjoyable time for all of you! 

Need help?  

If family stress feels overwhelming, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment ready to assist you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.      

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.       

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

How to talk about teen suicide – Guidelines by age group

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or child, or would like emotional support, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988 or using chat services at suicidepreventionlifeline.org to connect to a trained crisis counselor.

As professionals and as individuals, we are deeply grieved by the tragic loss of a senior student in our Fort Lauderdale community on October 6, 2022. We extend our sincere condolences to family, friends, and to the community who knew and loved this student. At this time of sadness and shock, may strong, loving support surround all who mourn, and may there be comfort in sharing positive memories of this special young person. 

The suicide of a young person is always a tragedy, one that happens more frequently than you might realize. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years old. So although talking about suicide is painful, it’s critical that we give our children and teens a safe space to answer questions and talk about their feelings. They need to know that they will be listened to, supported, and taken seriously and that there is no shame or embarrassment in admitting to the pain they feel.  

Honest conversations about suicide can help to destigmatize it, surface mental health issues, and provide an opportunity to offer assistance. We can’t afford to let our discomfort with the subject get in the way of saving a life.   

As a parent or trusted adult with young people in your life, you may want to know more about the warning signs of suicide and how to talk to those in your care about how they are feeling. Below, we offer a few thoughts and additional resources for further information.    

Suicidal Risk Behaviors 


While there are certain warning signs to watch for, it may not always be obvious that a young person is in emotional difficulty, and possibly even thinking about taking the ultimate step of suicide.  Your best warning system is your day-to-day effort to engage with your child, and if you have a concern, to address signs of depression or any other mental health issues early.  

Risk factors contributing to the rise of suicides among young people:

young person laying on the bed with hands covering her face. Text reading: suicidal thinking can start as early as the age of nine.

Suicidal thinking can start as early as the age of nine. Suicide among 9-year-olds remains relatively rare, and not all children who have suicidal thoughts will attempt suicide, but such thoughts are believed to increase a child’s risk. That risk carries on through the teen years.

Because adolescent brains are still ‘works in progress’ until about the age of 25, young adults are less able to control impulsive behavior. At this stage of life, emotions rule their choices, because the connections between two key areas of the brain are developing at different rates — the rational prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making, and the amygdala, responsible for processing strong emotions like fear. So, biology can play a role in leading a young person, struggling with other risk factors, to make a tragic decision. 

Young people face both personal struggles and serious concerns about the world around them. Many are struggling academically in the wake of the Covid pandemic and worry about college admission and job prospects. Their families may be experiencing financial difficulties. Many young people worry about climate change and its impact on their generation. War, political division, and other socio-economic issues are amplified on television and on social media.  

Add these concerns to normal adolescent development, including struggles to fit in and find their place in the world, and it’s not surprising that the pressures and anxieties facing young people can feel overwhelming. Young people live complicated inner lives, in addition to the stresses of the world around them. That’s why it’s so critical to sustain a healthy level of involvement with your child.   

Other risk factors: 

  • Genetic vulnerability: a family history of suicide, depression, or other mental illness biochemical factors and issues, e.g., faulty mood regulation isolation – physically and emotionally 
  • History of physical or emotional abuse, loss of a close family member, friend, or classmate by suicide or other sudden death 
  • Relationship breakup 
  • Previous history of depression or other mental illness 
  • Previous suicide attempts 
  • Threats, bullying, or violence from peers (especially with social media); as perpetrator or victim 
  • Substance use 

If you are concerned about any of the risk factors above or observe any of the signs listed below, take the time to talk to your teen. Even if they are not, in their case, a sign of suicidal thinking, they may still indicate some kind of struggle or mental health issue. We encourage you to seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional. The Bougainvilla House is here for you at (954) 764-7337. 

Warning signs: 

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use 
  • Sees no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life 
  • Anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep, or sleeping too much 
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Lack of energy and unwillingness to carry out regular tasks and responsibilities such as schoolwork or caring for a family pet 
  • Changes in academic performance – missing assignments, plummeting grades
  • Feels trapped – like there’s no way out 
  • Does not feel connected or have a sense of belonging 
  • Belief that they are a burden to others 
  • Hopelessness, feelings of failure, low self-esteem, harsh self-judgment 
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, activities, and favorite pastimes 
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, lashing out at and rejecting the support of loved ones 
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities without thinking 
  • Dramatic mood changes 

Young person leaning on a hall with the suicide and crisis lifeline number. Reading call or text 988 available 24 hours.

Urgent Warning Signs: 

  • Talking about suicide or a suicidal plan (verbalizing, depicting, or writing about suicide) 
  • Researching ways to harm or kill oneself 
  • Saying things like: “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I shouldn’t have been born” 

Take statements and actions like these seriously – they are truly red flags. Call 911 and/or get immediate professional attention. Note the important crisis hotlines and resources listed at the conclusion of this post. 

Talking About Suicide – Guidelines by Age Group 


Don’t worry that bringing up the topic of suicide will somehow ‘plant’ the idea in your child’s mind. Approach the subject honestly, calmly, and at an age-appropriate level, acknowledging their thoughts and emphasizing that assistance is always available. Remember to maintain an open mind and a non-judgmental tone. Young people need to know they are loved, valued, that help is available, and you will be there for them. And they can offer the same support to their friends. Here are some ways to open up a conversation.  


When talking to young children, keep it simple and short. Talk about it like any other health condition and use words that your child will understand. For example, “This person had a disease in their brain that made them really sad, and they died.” Follow their lead and answer their questions with short, clear replies. Keep the conversation positive with a hopeful outlook and reassure them that they are not responsible in any way. 

Children can understand that death is permanent and that a person who has died is not coming back. But they may continue to think or act as though the person is still present, able to see and hear them and to experience feelings.   

Pre-teens (9-12) 

With pre-teens, you can give more details and introduce them to the warning signs of suicide. Around this age, pre-teens experience strong emotions and sometimes may not know how to cope with their feelings or those of their friends. They likely have heard someone talk about depression or suicide, so ask them what they know about it and how it makes them feel. Listen to their answers and correct any misinformation. You may gain insights into the state of your child’s mental health or identify a concern they may have about a friend.  

Pre-teens can also understand that death is permanent, and they may even have questions about what specifically caused the death. They generally know when adults are trying to protect them by not telling the truth, and they often learn of suicide from other children or by overhearing conversations. 

Teens (13-17) & Young Adults (18-24) 

Teens have a good understanding of mental health conditions, and they likely know someone who has experienced mental illness, if they do not live with mental illness themselves.  Let them know that the pain of depression and other mental illnesses is real, and not something one can just “power through”. Reassure them that these conditions are not caused by weakness, but rather are illnesses that can be treated. 

Offer support and let them know you are there for them if they ever want to talk, whether about themselves or about a friend. Remind them it is okay, and, in fact, critical to reach out for help, and follow up with resources if they or a friend are in emotional distress   Be a good listener and allow your teen to talk openly and express their opinions and thoughts. Again, we can’t overemphasize the importance of maintaining a ‘healthy connectedness’ with the young person in your life. As adults, we want to fix whatever isn’t working for them, but ask yourself if it’s a time to intervene or a time to offer support and a listening ear. There’s such a thing as being too involved and intrusive, but also too hands-off.  

In mental health, as in many other situations, there’s a happy medium that will help your child grow and problem-solve for themselves — even fail sometimes — knowing you are there for them if they are struggling. 

For more specific questions to ask your child or teen about suicide visit here.

If you’re worried about a young person in your life, be the one who asks all the important questions — you could save their life.


Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Call or Text- 988 
Hours: Available 24 hours. 

Crisis / Suicide Intervention
24-Hour Helplines – Dial 211
First call for Help – Broward   County
24 hours / 7 days a week 

Teen Hotline
Phone: (954) 567-TEEN
Phone: (954) 567-8336 

Seek help  

If you or someone you know shows one or more signs of suicide risk factors or struggling with mental illness, or emotional distress, consider talking to a mental health professional. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with a safe space and an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.     

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.      

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Realistic goal setting and improved self-esteem: exploring the connection

It feels good to set a goal and achieve it. But there’s a much deeper connection between goal setting and self-esteem than you might realize, especially for those who struggle with self-doubts and negative self-talk. Here’s the good news: as you progress toward your goal, you can actually break that cycle of self-criticism, low self-esteem, fear of failure, and inertia.

As you commit to and work toward your goal, you’re also boosting your self-esteem in all kinds of important ways:
– motivation
– sense of purpose
– improved focus

Every small success you experience along the way releases positive hormones and builds your resiliency and your ability to deal better with any setbacks or emotional ups and downs. And you can’t beat that sense of satisfaction and achievement when you finally check that box – you did it! So, whatever your goal — starting a gym routine, saving money, finding a new friend group or hobby, or improving your grades –your journey starts with a strong inner voice telling yourself you can do it and that you deserve to succeed.

But if you struggle with low self-esteem, don’t let that stop you from going after a goal that matters to you. Self-worth is something you work on throughout your life. Just be extra aware, recognize when your negative self-talk is preventing you from making progress, and channel your inner cheerleader instead. Make a list of positive qualities and things you do well. If there’s a person in your life who lifts you up, reach out to them for support. With a positive mindset, you are ready to go to work! Here is a step-by-step guide to help you set, plan, and start achieving your goals.

What is your true ‘why’?

Before you start writing down or even thinking about your goals, you need to understand what you want to accomplish and why it matters to you. Think about your true ‘why’ as a word, feeling, or theme that you care about deeply – something that will affirm, motivate and reward your efforts.

For example, if your goal is to be financially independent and save money, then perhaps your true ‘why’ is ‘security’. Or if you want to make the world a better place by getting involved and volunteering, then your true ‘why’ could be ‘generosity’. A desire for more ‘confidence’ might drive you to set goals related to physical fitness. Think about what really matters deeply to you and set goals accordingly.

Your goals should align with how you want to feel in the end. If they don’t align or feel right, you won’t care as much about accomplishing them. Give yourself some time to think about your ‘why’ and then set your goals.

How to set realistic goals

Remember to keep your goals clear and concrete, using positive language: “I will” vs. “I won’t”. And try to create goals that play to your strengths.

1. Make your goal specific

Be specific when setting your goals. For instance, if you want to be more physically active, get into the details: “I’d like to work out at least twice a week at the gym for 3 months.” rather than a vague, easily procrastinated goal like “go to the gym.” Which goal would be more likely to encourage you to work out?

2. Set achievable goals

For example, if your goal is to get into an Ivy League school and your grades just aren’t up to their standards, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to attend a great college. It just means the Ivy League goal isn’t realistic. As you decide which goals to pursue, it’s good to know the difference between an ambitious yet realistic goal and a goal that isn’t achievable. The process of creating a plan to achieve your goal should help clarify whether or not your goal is realistic and reachable.

3. Plan for success

Now it’s time to get real and get detailed. Map out the decisions, actions, and habits that will make it easier to succeed. Think about possible barriers, and what might have to be changed or set in place in order to clear the way for you to reach your goal. And make your goal measurable: how will you define success?

Next, break down your goal into categories, and think about the action steps, tasks, milestones, and timeline that you will follow. Your plan is there to help you progress toward your goal, so as you move forward, rethink your action steps if you find they aren’t working for you. This is under your control – you can always revisit and revise your plans along the way.

4. Give yourself a deadline

Deadlines give you structure, allow you to plan, and create a sense of urgency, which can create momentum to help you reach your goal. Think about a realistic timeline that will allow you to successfully meet your goal while carrying on with day-to-day life.

5. Make yourself accountable

Don’t be shy about telling others what you want to achieve. By sharing your goals with someone who cares about you, you give yourself a 65% chance of success – and if you set up a weekly check-in with your ‘accountability buddy’, you raise your chances of success to 95%. When you share your goals, others can see and support your efforts — and celebrate with you when you accomplish them!

Try to minimize and eliminate temptations that might derail you. For instance, if you’ve set a goal to go out for a run at a certain time, set an alarm, get ready to go, and don’t get distracted by mindless scrolling or anything that might give you an excuse that “oh, now it’s too late.”

As you work toward your goal, pay attention to your emotions and state of mind, and try to curb any self-critical thoughts. This is your journey and it’s as much about positive mental health as it is about checking the box. You can do this – go for it!

Need more help?

If you or a loved one feel depressed or unmotivated to achieve their goals, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.

The insidious danger of fentanyl: facts to help you protect yourself, your friends, and your family

An extended hand full of prescription drugs (fentanyl)

As we enter September and National Recovery Month, we at The Bougainvilla House pause to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31st. Many wear purple to destigmatize drug-related deaths and remember the individuals and families tragically impacted by drug overdoses, including one of the most deadly and insidious of all — fentanyl. 

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared misuse of opioids, including fentanyl, a public health emergency and a crisis we continue to face today.  

To mark National Recovery Month, TBH wants to highlight and educate young people and families on the dangers of opioids, fentanyl in particular. In addition, we want to share resources that might save a life or help a friend or family member start their journey of recovery from addiction.   

What is Fentanyl? 

Fentanyl is a manufactured opioid drug, first developed in 1959 and introduced in the 1960s as an anesthetic and medication to relieve cancer breakthrough pain. The drug is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, making it difficult to identify unless it’s tested. It’s so powerful that an amount the size of two grains of salt is enough to overdose and kill. 

As an analgesic (pain reliever), fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl’s addictive properties and potential for abuse immediately concerned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To minimize this risk, fentanyl was initially approved only for use in combination with droperidol, a drug used as a sedative, tranquilizer, and anti-nauseant. In 1972, fentanyl became available for use on its own.  

Fentanyl abuse and death tolls continue to spike 

As early as the mid-1970s, cases of prescription fentanyl abuse were already being reported, due to theft, fake prescriptions and illegal distribution by patients and some members of the medical community.  

By 1979, illegally-produced fentanyl had hit the streets. From about 1000 deaths reported by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) between 2005 and 2007,  deaths from mainly non-prescription use of fentanyl have spiraled to more than 70 times that number. This past May, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 71,238 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021. To put this into perspective, that’s more people than a sold-out Hard Rock Stadium, and only a portion of all the opioid overdose deaths that year.

Why are fentanyl-related deaths so high? 

Illegally-produced fentanyl is sold by itself but, even more dangerous, it is often mixed with or sold to the unknowing buyer as heroin, cocaine, or in pills purporting to be oxycodone or other well-known legal pharmaceuticals. Fentanyl goes by the street names Apace, Friend, Murder 8, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Jackpot, King Ivory, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison, and Tango & Cash. 

Fentanyl use – effects on the body 

  • Confusion 
  • Changes in pupil size  
  • Cold, clammy skin 
  • Cyanosis 
  • Slow, shallow breathing 
  • Nausea, vomiting 
  • Drowsiness, dizziness,
  • The presence of coma, pinpoint pupils and slow, shallow breathing are strong signs of fentanyl or other opioid poisoning. 

Who is most vulnerable to fentanyl overdoses?  

Because fentanyl is so powerful, prevalent, and often disguised as other drugs, including prescription drugs, the reality is that anyone can be a victim of a fentanyl overdose. Someone who needs prescription painkillers, who uses drugs recreationally, or is just curious is at risk of becoming a victim of accidental addiction or overdose.  

Many famous celebrities have been victims of an accidental overdose:  

  1. Juice WRLDShortly after his 21st birthday, in December 2019, rapper Juice WRLD suffered a seizure after arriving in Chicago. The cause of death was an accidental overdose of codeine and oxycodone (opioids). 
  2.  Mac MillerIn September 2018, the rapper died at his home in the Los Angeles area following an accidental overdose of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. Miller had reportedly requested the painkiller Percocet. The rapper-producer was 26 years old.  
  3. Prince – The music legend was only 57 when he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, in April 2016. He believed he was taking Vicodin (a chronic pain pill), but his pills were laced with fentanyl.  

People who are dependent on opioids often also have a co-existing mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, and many turn to drugs as a way to cope. By recognizing and seeking treatment for mental health problems, vulnerable individuals get the support they need and learn healthy coping skills that might prevent them from turning to drugs. If you or someone you love suffers from mental illness, please seek help. It’s the right thing to do to improve quality of life, prevent addiction, reduce unnecessary deaths, and avoid the trauma and heartbreak that too many American families have experienced. 

How to talk to a friend or family member about their possible drug use

If you are uneasy about a friend or family member’s drug use (or suspected drug use), talk out your concerns. Give examples of times when you were worried about them or noticed a change in their behavior. Share your love and reassure them that help is available and that you will support them throughout. Encourage them to take that first step and seek help, sooner than later. 

In the meantime, educate yourself on the signs of an overdose and on how you can save a life by reversing an overdose. Here is a small list of resources in Broward and Palm Beach County.  


  1. The Bougainvilla House – Substance use therapy program.
  2. End.Overdose – Fentanyl test strips, Narcan and more.  
  3. Find Naloxone in your state – Nalaxone (also known as Narcan) is a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. 
  4. Broward County Recovery Center – Schedule an appointment to be evaluated for detoxification.  
  5. The Recovery Villagedetox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment centers.  

Need more help?   

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time with substance use, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.     

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.    

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.