House Calls

FAL 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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The recent Netflix series 13 Reasons Why put a controversial spotlight on teen suicide, and whether or not parents and teens are fans of the show, its subject reflects a troubling reality. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and one in five children aged 13 to 18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness. Given these sobering statistics, and during a year when public figures like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives, the stakes feel higher than ever. Here, we gain insight from Roper St. Francis Healthcare-affiliated family therapist David Bethany about the state of teen mental health, what parents and other adults should watch for, and what they can do to help. While the AAP study found no single, clear reason for the increase in reported suicidal thoughts and attempts, it is clear that teens today face a different world than in decades past. Although having some stress is a normal part of life, "the pressure cooker is more intense than it was 40 or so years ago when I was a teenager," says Bethany. "I've talked to kids who feel like getting into college is the biggest challenge of their life, and if they don't get into a particular school, they're sunk. Some teens are concerned about the amount of debt college can involve, and that's a big factor in how daunting all of this is." But perhaps most striking is a pervasive factor that didn't even exist decades ago: the use of smartphones and social media. Ninety- five percent of teens have a smartphone or access to one, and 45 percent say they are online almost constantly, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Clinical Psychological Science reports that increases in teen smartphone use and time spent online dovetails with increases in teen depression, suicide attempts, and suicide. Other studies following people over time found that more time spent on social media led to unhappiness (though unhappiness did not lead to more social media use). "Those platforms offer a very curated version of existence," says Bethany. "It can seem like everybody else is having a great time, when in reality, most everyone is going through something." Though the majority of teens surveyed in the Pew report cited social media as having a mostly positive, or neither positive nor negative effect, 24 percent reported its effect as mostly negative, citing bullying, rumor spreading, an unrealistic views of others' lives, and lack of in-person contact. "When you have the illusion of being connected with all of your friends, you may feel less of a need to meet up, but social media is just not the same as flesh-and-blood experiences," says Bethany. "A lot of face-to-face interaction seems to have been replaced by cyber contact, not just social media but also gaming. I have clients whose main social existence is online, where there's less risk; you're not actually being observed by someone, so you can sit back and people don't know who you are." That kind of illusion and isolation may in turn impact loneliness rates. A recent Brigham Young University study found that the prevalence of loneliness peaks in adolescents and young adults (and again in older adults). Another published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that young adults who are online most frequently (defined as 50 or more log-ins a week) have three times the odds of feeling social isolation as those who go online less than nine times a week. To bring that full circle, social isolation has been identified as one of the major risk factors for depression and suicide. While all these elements can contribute to teen mental health issues, yet another factor has had a disconcerting effect on teen anxiety: Fifty-seven percent of teens say they're worried about a shooting taking place at their school, with one in four saying 24 { fall 2018 } h o u s e c a l l s P H O T O G R A P H ( D A V I D B E T H A N Y ) B Y A M Y S U L L I V A N David Bethany A utumn marks a peak in reports of suicidal thoughts and attempts across the country, notes an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study. And alarmingly, the overall numbers have been rising after a decline in the 1990s: the annual percentage of hospital visits for suicide ideation and attempts doubled from 2008 to 2015. Likewise, the prevalence of depression rose sharply from 2005 to 2015 among people aged 12 and older, with rates increasing significantly more rapidly among youth, according to a study published in Psychological Medicine. When compared with those who spend just one hour a day online, teens who spend five or more hours daily in the CYBER WORLD are 71 PERCENT more likely to exhibit at least one SUICIDE RISK FACTOR (depression, suicidal thoughts/planning, or attempting suicide).

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