Loneliness. Is this the future of a generation?
In the past 5 years, I’ve noticed a trend in my conversations with teens and amongst friends, family, and acquaintances. As I raise my children and they ask for more time on the tablet or request to send texts to family, I worry about the trend taking hold of my kids. The trend is feeling alone.
I attended a speaking event by researcher Dr. Niobe Way a few years ago and left with tears in my eyes. She described the transition of boys from connecting, emotion expressing, playful little beings to young men who have ‘buddies’ but no confidants; are comfortable showing anger or pride, but not fear or sadness. Our culture may have shifted the definition of ‘masculine’ to be one that encompasses independence at the cost of connection. An article I read recently described this shift. In it, the author describes higher rates of unemployment, divorce, suicide, and violence among adult males. The key points in the article lead me to consider the increased number of mass shootings in the US. Men have carried all these out. I cannot assume that loneliness, shifts in cultural norms, or changes in how emotions are expressed cause people to kill. I do not know the motivations of the murderers and in no way am I excusing the horrific atrocities they carried out; but I have to hope that we can prevent a massacre from happening again. While many factors need to be considered and intervened upon, changing how we treat each other is a step in tackling the loneliness and despair a person may feel if they are so desperate they want to kill.
Loneliness and social isolation are also becoming routine in my conversations with patients (regardless of gender). We are more “connected” than ever before; nearly every US household has access to the internet or owns a smartphone. Teens spend hours on social media and text hundreds of times per day with friends. Social media brings many benefits: access to online education, remaining in touch with friends and family who are not local, and allowing an outlet to express emotion in an anonymous way. Yet, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among teens (second to motor vehicles). Is there a correlation between depression and online use? Read full post »
Summer is in full swing, but Fall is just around the corner. As children and teens wrap up summer events and get ready for the start of school, anxiety might come up. For parents, it can be challenging to know how to support a teen who is feeling anxious about going back to school. Perhaps your teen struggled last year with missed days due to anxiety, or your teen is going to start high school and is feeling anxious because their friends are all going to different schools. No matter what the reason for feeling anxious, there are some things parents can do to help kids get ready for the return to school. Read full post »
The Netflix show, ’13 Reasons Why’ has sparked national discussion about teen suicide. In this post from the Seattle Children’s Hospital On the Pulse blog, I provide tips to parents and teens on warning signs of suicidal intent and how to talk this with loved ones.
What You Should Know About Teen Suicide
Consider this scenario: you walk by your teen’s bedroom and over ear them having a deep conversation with a friend. While you don’t want to eaves drop, you realize their friend is disclosing thoughts of suicide. Your heart starts pounding… your teen is attempting to give advice to a friend who is considering ending their own life. You are worried about the friend, but you are also concerned that this could lead to anxiety and sadness in your teen. What do you do?
I’ve been asked for advice in this situation over and over again. Sometimes it’s my patients who ask me for advice on what they should say to their friends, but often it is parents who want to know if it’s ok for their child to be someone’s confidant? They are worried that their teen isn’t equipped to handle the situation (neither emotionally or with reliable crisis information to give to the friend). Read full post »
Depression is a topic that can be hard to tackle. If you’re a teen who is depressed, you may feel shame, guilt, or like no one will hear you if you try to reach out for help. If you’re a parent of a depressed teen, you may feel helpless or frustrated; you may even be unaware. An interview of a teen who struggled with depression caught my attention this week. She provided some insight on how she had symptoms during 7th grade, she didn’t feel like she could talk to any adults in her life. As she searched for ways to manage her mood, she ultimately found a path towards improved communication with a parent and a voice to speak up about a topic often swept under the rug.
To read the interview click here.
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Guest post by: Kaity Skelley, UW School of Nursing
We all have memories of our childhood, some good some bad, some for better others for worse. Whether you were a victim, bully, or bystander, bullying has impacted us all. For me, I was in elementary school and there was a girl I distinctly remember people picking on. Kids would call her names, make fun of her hair, or shoes, or whatever irrelevant detail it was for that particular day. I don’t remember ever personally picking on her, but I know for a fact I never said or did anything to defend her. I was a silent bystander. When I was in 7th grade I learned she had taken her own life. I have always wondered if someone had stood up and not been the silent bystander if it would have changed her path.
According to research about 22% of high school students (one out of every four students) report being bullied during the school year. Bullying is a multifaceted problem with three main players: 1) the bully, 2) the victim, and 3) the bystander. The bystander is the person who sees the situation unfold and makes a choice to either contribute to the bullying behavior, quietly watch, or actively step in and stand up for the victim. Research has shown that about 57% of bullying incidents stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied and has a stronger impact compared to adult/educator intervention. Read full post »
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 »
This 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 »
Sleep. Such an elusive thing to have enough of! As parents, we’re juggling work, family, and personal obligations. Sleep often comes second to the other tasks that need to be accomplished during the day. Teens in our country are also struggling to be productive and find the balance between sleep and obligations. Unfortunately, US teens are not getting enough sleep and this can have consequences.
There are many reasons why sleep may be elusive for adolescents. They may have extracurricular committments such as work, homework, sports, clubs, youth groups or all of the above. Or they may have poor sleep hygiene and spend their time on social networking sites, texting with friends, watching movies, or listening to music. If they aren’t sleeping enough at night, they may feel so exhausted during the day that they take long naps, which further disrupts sleep patterns. Middle and high school start times are quite early, so it’s not out of the norm to hear my patients describe waking up at 5am to get ready to catch a bus or ride to school. Nor is it abnormal to hear them going to bed after midnight on school days. Read full post »
It’s the Fall and families are starting to get back into the routine of balancing school, work, extracurricular activities, and family time. When I think back to my own high school years, I’m amazed at the amount of tasks I had to juggle! Everything from household chores, to homework; I was a musician so had practices and performances in addition to a part time job. While most teens are not under the stress of supporting a household, their daily agendas can be just as jam packed as an adult’s. The difference is that teens are still developing their coping strategies for how to manage stress. Read full post »