This Issue

Adolescent Health

Marching toward a healthier beat

Teen depression: More than just a bleak mood

Start young to defuse stress

Q & A

Think immunizations are just for kids? Think again.

Signs and symptoms

Some children have no symptoms of type 2 diabetes, while others may experience:

• Increased thirst

• Frequent urination

• Increased hunger but loss of weight

• Blurred vision

• Fatigue

• Frequent infections or slow-healing sores

• Tingling in hands and feet

• High blood pressure or high cholesterol

• Areas of darkened skin


Long-term planning … Stock up on healthy bone now



Need more information?

• Take Charge of Your Health!
A Teenager’s Guide to Better Health
877-946-4627

• National Diabetes Education Program
888-693-NDEP

MyPyramid.gov

• American Diabetes Association Planet D
800-342-2383
www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/parents-and-kids/planet-d/


So what’s to eat? You choose

So what’s to eat? You choose


There is no one eating plan that all adolescents should follow. The amount of food to meet a teen’s daily nutritional needs depends on height, weight, gender, physical activity and health status. The following estimate, based on 2,200 calories, is designed for a 16-year-old female of average height and weight who exercises 30 to 60 minutes a day. Each person should develop his or her own eating plan. Visit www.mypyramid.gov to get ideas and get started.


View the full issue

Quick Links
[x close]

[ Printable View ]



Start young to defuse stress

 

“Parents can help children develop resilience by learning ways to cope with stress early on,” says Dr. M. Elyce Kearns, child psychiatrist. Try to model healthy stress-easing tactics when life runs you ragged. Encourage children to find a mix of calming choices that work for them (see bullets). Stick to sleep and mealtime routines, and keep communicating. Checking in daily about homework, plans and activities, and what happened during the day helps keep communication lines open for more difficult times.

Time out: Take a break to do anything you enjoy.

Deep breathing: Try this in a quiet spot or while walking. For five minutes, breathe in through the nose while silently counting 1-2-3-4. Breathe out through the mouth while silently counting 4-3-2-1.

Activity: Go for a run or walk, bounce around, skip rope, do jumping jacks or push-ups, shoot hoops, practice yoga or get moving any way you like.

Creative outlets: Scribble, draw, paint or try journal writing.

Teen depression: More than just a bleak mood

Teen years can be tumultuous, full of mood shifts and eye-popping drama. If bleak moods or other troubling signs stretch on for weeks, however, it’s wise to take a closer look. One national survey of 13 to 17 year olds found 8 percent of participants had experienced depression. Girls were almost three times as likely to do so as boys. A separate national survey of African Americans and blacks of Caribbean descent estimated 7 percent of black teenage girls — and 4 percent of all black teens — will attempt suicide by age 17, a tragic act often tied to depression.

In this issue of Be Healthy, Dr. M. Elyce Kearns, M.P.H., child psychiatrist and physician reviewer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, offers important tips to help parents recognize signs of depression and act on their concerns.

What are the signs of depression in teens?

While sad moods affect everyone at times, a true depression clings for weeks or months on end, derailing daily activities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these signs of depression may occur in people at any age:

• Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” moods;

• Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism;

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness;

• Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyed activities.

Signals of depression can differ in teens, says Kearns, and vary from one teenager to another. Often, early signs of distress are physiological changes, such as marked shifts in appetite, sleeping habits, energy and hygiene.

Moods are also likely to change, with bleaker emotions taking hold. A teen may appear depressed, sullen, disinterested and withdrawn, or irritable and short-fused, possibly even aggressive. Difficulty making decisions, restlessness and hyperactivity may also be part of the mix.

Given the wired world teens inhabit, other clues are changes in time spent on texting, social networking sites like Facebook, surfing the net, playing computer games, and even “old-school” phone calls or time spent with friends. A big upswing — texting or gaming late into the night, let’s say — or downswing — pulling back from deep friendships, perhaps, or fights with friends — is cause for concern.

Start young to
defuse stress

“Parents can help children develop resilience by learning ways to cope with stress early on,” says Dr. M. Elyce Kearns, child psychiatrist. Try to model healthy stress-easing tactics when life runs you ragged. Encourage children to find a mix of calming choices that work for them (see bullets). Stick to sleep and mealtime routines, and keep communicating. Checking in daily about homework, plans and activities, and what happened during the day helps keep communication lines open for more difficult times.

Time out: Take a break to do anything you enjoy.

Deep breathing: Try this in a quiet spot or while walking. For five minutes, breathe in through the nose while silently counting 1-2-3-4. Breathe out through the mouth while silently counting 4-3-2-1.

Activity: Go for a run or walk, bounce around, skip rope, do jumping jacks or push-ups, shoot hoops, practice yoga or get moving any way you like.

Creative outlets: Scribble, draw, paint or try journal writing.

“The key here is change,” Kearns emphasizes. “You know your child best. This is not to say your son or daughter won’t have a good day here and there. But overall, look for persistent changes in mood, activities and physiology.”

What triggers depression?

Underlying reasons for depression vary. Often, several issues are entwined.

One possibility is genetic vulnerability. If parents or other family members have suffered depression, a teen is more likely to experience it, too. Genes aren’t destiny, however, and not all people who have these genes wrestle with depression.

Stressful situations or traumas may also spark depression. Big problems like financial hardships or having a parent overseas can take a stressful toll on a teen. Worries about violence and personal safety, bullying, competing pulls of school work and social lives, and pressure to own costly clothes and electronics, or engage in dangerous activities can be overwhelming. During the holiday season, glittering wish lists and happy family stories can highlight sorrows and painful differences in family circumstances.

How is depression treated in teens?

Therapy, exercise and perhaps medicine can do a great deal to relieve depression. Especially successful in teenagers is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which explores connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and encourages teens to practice coping skills in real-life situations.

When a prescribed treatment isn’t sufficient, switching medicines or combining medicine with CBT often helps, according to a study of resistant depression in teenagers recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Be sure to check with your child’s doctor for advice on an appropriate course of treatment.

What can parents do?

• If you suspect depression: Call your child’s doctor, who can refer you to a therapist or counselor who specializes in teen depression for evaluation and treatment, if necessary. A school guidance counselor or local crisis centermay also be helpful.

• If a teen talks about suicide — take it seriously. Call your child’s doctor right away, or engage emergency services through 911, the closest crisis evaluation service or emergency room for evaluation.

Where else can parents turn?

Check online for additional information on depression or suicide prevention:

• The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts website www.AHealthyMe.com.

• The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov) reports on research and has many helpful free publications.

• National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) offers information directed at teens and families.

• The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has an extensive website (www.aacap.org) with resources for families including Facts for Families.

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org) and Samaritans (www.samaritansofboston.org) have quizzes, suicide-prevention tips and help lines. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) and Samariteens (800-252-8336) also operate help lines 24/7.

Staying in tune with your teen’s moods, habits and physiological changes, such as shifts in appetite or sleeping habits, can help you recognize changes early on that may be caused by stress or depression so you can work together with your teen (and a professional — if needed) toward an effective solution.
.