Author: Yolanda Evans, MD, MPH

Teens and risk of DUI

A recent article in the Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was one of the first to look over time at teens’ risk of driving under the influence (DUI) or riding with a drinking driver (RWDD). Motor vehicle accidents are one of the top 3 leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the US. We have written about the dangers of driving while texting & driving while using drugs in the past.  At the same time, we’ve emphasized that parents are crucial in setting expectations, boundaries, and consequences for teen drug use. This article provides even stronger evidence for characteristics and perceptions that are risk factors for teen DUI. Read full post »

How do we teach compassion?

iStock_000014694151XSmallFor many of my friends and colleagues the holiday season from the months of November through January is their favorite time of year. We have family gatherings, time off of work to spend with our kids, great meals, and exchanging of gifts. However, I just drove into a parking lot of a large home improvement store and saw numerous people waiting for the opportunity to do work. Others who had holes in their jackets and looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, and some who simply held signs asking for any help a person could spare. Seeing all of these people was a blunt reminder that not everyone has all of their basic human needs met. I drive by this store routinely, but I’ve become desensitized to the people in the parking lot. It made me ask, “Where has my compassion gone?” Read full post »

Mental Health in Teens: What to expect at the Doctor’s Office

Mental health disorders afflict many teens (nearly 1 in 3 will have thoughts of sadness). In this post, guest Dr. Laura Richardson provides information on making the diagnosis of depression and what types of treatment your doctor may discuss.

How will my teen’s doctor diagnose depression?

The diagnosis of depression is usually based on the symptoms that your teen reports feeling such as depressed mood, loss of interest in doing things, low energy and difficulty concentrating. Some doctors make this diagnosis based on talking with your teen and you and some might use tools, like paper questionnaires, to help them make the diagnosis.

How common is depression in teens?

Depression is one of the most common health issues in teenagers. Estimates of how many teens have depression at any given time range from 5-8%. Over the course of adolescence (up to age 18), about one in five teens will experience an episode of major depression. Read full post »

My teen just came out, now what

young loveI have the privilege of working with teens around many aspects of their lives including sexuality and reproductive health. While my professional focus is on the health and well-being of teens, adolescents live with and are accompanied by parents. My day to day encounters often include a significant amount of conversation with parents. Now most parents are a bit uncomfortable discussing their teens reproductive health. Add in sexuality that differs from the majority, and the conversation becomes even more challenging. These terms may change, but all of them mean their teen is disclosing they are a sexual minority. Read full post »

Preventing Gun Violence: Don’t Ignore the Signs

teeninjailThis week marks the one year anniversary of the tragic Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting. As I reflect on the events of the previous year, gun violence comes up in multiple settings: The school shooting in my own state, the shooting of people gathering at a church in the South, and other incidents that occurred around the nation with less media coverage, but with equally devastating consequences for families and friends. As a provider in Snohomish County, I also think about many of my patients who were affected by this tragedy. My patients and their parents have described the feelings of helplessness, frustration, anger, and fear that something like this will happen again. This reflection leaves me with a sense of urgency that we as a community need to do more. We must answer questions to understand what brings a youth to the breaking point, how do we know if someone is having homicidal and/or suicidal thoughts and, most importantly, how can we prevent future tragedies? Read full post »

The Impact of Implicit Bias

Think about the encounters you have with strangers every day. When you stop by the grocery store and notice people in the check out line, what comes to mind? Does the young parent with multiple very small children bring up any emotions or thoughts? What do you think of the food items being purchased by the person who is underweight or overweight? How do you react when a group of teens with darkly dyed hair, piercings, and tattoos is standing in the doorway? Now consider a group of clean-cut teens? Everyone has biases: those subconscious perceptions of people around us. They shape our actions and judgements. But, biases are often incorrect. They are generalizations about a group based on our cultural norms or expectations, but may have no actual basis in reality. For example, the parent with multiple young children in the check out line may be a nanny not a single parent. The clean-cut teens in the doorway may be waiting for a peer who is stealing alcohol while the pierced and tattooed teens are trying to advocate for ending childhood hunger. Read full post »

Powdered Caffeine Dangers

Coffee cup illustrationIt’s the Fall. With this season comes the return of cable knit sweaters, closed toed shoes, pumpkin spice, and early mornings as school starts again. Oh those early mornings! Getting up for school is hard and teens may be tempted to use some outside help to not only wake up in the mornings, but to stay up late to finish homework projects. One substance that is making headlines (again) is caffeine. It’s in our coffee, tea, chocolate milk. Adults use this substance quite a lot (just look at all the coffee carts, cafes, & break rooms that are bustling by 8am!) and companies have found a new way to supply consumers with their daily fix of the substance. Unfortunately, the new product can be dangerous. Read full post »

Music and brain power

African American teen plays an acoustic guitar.

African American teen plays an acoustic guitar.

I was a musician from junior high through college. My athletic abilities left much to be desired, but as a 4th grader, an astute music teacher assigned me to the cello. This instrument became the fuel that drove me to push past my shyness, embrace being on stage, and forge friendships that I still have to this day.  Learning to read music was a similar experience to learning a second language: frustrating at times, challenging, but so rewarding when I was able to put it into practice and result in something that was easily understandable to another human being. Read full post »

Keeping up with Social Media

Thirteen year old boy text messaging to a friendI think it’s time to address social media again. The summer is in full swing, teens are out of school either working, volunteering, traveling, or just hanging out. Being away from school usually means there is less opportunity to see friends in person. This is the time when my teen patients teach me a variety of new applications for smartphones and social media outlets that they use to keep in touch with each other.

The tide of what is popular amongst teens is always changing. A few years ago Facebook was the popular way to connect; when I was in college, MySpace was the site everyone used. I can guarantee that next year, teens will be using a completely different list of sites to communicate with each other. Their quest: to speak to each other without adults snooping in. Read full post »

Girls on the Run – promoting self esteem

joggingOver the summer, we’re continuing to highlight positive opportunities available to teens. I had the privilege of interviewing a representative from Girls on the Run, an amazing program that promotes physical activity and so much more for teen girls. Though this interview is with a representative from outside of Washington State, she gives an excellent overview of the program. Information about the Puget Sound chapter can be found here and at the very end of the post.

  1. What is Girls on the Run? What is it’s mission?

Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development program (PA-PYD) designed to develop and enhance girls’ social, psychological and physical competencies to successfully navigate life experience. The mission of Girls on the Run St. Louis is to empower girls for a lifetime of healthy living. Our program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grades inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

The 20-lesson Girls on the Run curriculum combines training for a 5k (3.1 miles) running event with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, enhance their problem solving skills and make healthy decisions. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, schools, volunteers, staff, and the community. Read full post »