BY DR. DON MORDECAI
WITH VACATION days
gone and the academic
demands of homework
and classwork increasing, we often see a rise
in the number of children suffering from
depression, a common
and treatable mental health condition.
While every teen feels upset or irritable now and then, depression is a more
intense feeling of sadness, hopelessness or
anger that lasts for weeks or longer and
impairs the teen’s ability to function. Left
untreated, depression can lead to academic problems, alcohol and drug abuse,
and even suicide.
According to information from the
National Institute of Mental Health, ;;.;
percent of teenagers experienced at least
one major depressive episode in ;;;;.
Although mental health conditions are
treatable and, in many cases, preventable,
only half of kids between the ages of ; and
;; will seek care.
Depression can be triggered by stressful events such as changing schools, losing
someone close, going through a family
divorce or questioning sexual orientation
or gender identity. Adverse childhood
experiences such as abuse, neglect and
poverty are associated with an increased
risk for mental health conditions and self-harm attempts. A family history of depression may increase a teen’s risk for
Reading between the lines
While social media is leading more
people to express their thoughts, feelings
and experiences publicly, many teens
won’t tell anyone they are feeling bad.
Instead, their behavior might change
in the following ways:
• Restlessness and agitation.
• Acting out.
• Lack of enthusiasm or motivation.
• Forgetfulness/lack of concentration.
• Withdrawal from social activities.
• Dropping grades.
• Frequent school absences.
• Changes in eating patterns.
• Changes in sleeping patterns.
• Frequent headaches and body aches.
• Substance abuse.
How to help
Studies indicate that even one safe,
stable and nurturing relationship can be a
major protective factor in the face of traumatic events.
The first step is to start a conversation.
If you suspect that a young person you are
close to is depressed, share your concerns
and ask about his or her feelings and challenges at home, at school or with friends.
How you approach the topic is critical.
Here are a few tips:
• Listen without being judgmental or
• Avoid lecturing, diagnosing their
condition or making accusations.
• Empathize and show them you are
there to help. If they think that what they
say will anger or distress you, they may not
open up to you.
Before reaching out to a child’s parent,
consider whether the teen’s depression
may be related to a situation at home. If
you suspect abuse, share your concerns
with a school psychologist or counselor, or
contact the agency that investigates child
abuse cases in your area.
Treatment for depression can include
talk therapy (including individual, group
or family counseling), medication or a
combination of both.
With the right treatment, ;; percent
of people who suffer from depression can
feel better—sometimes within weeks. C
Dr. Don Mordecai is a child and adolescent
psychiatrist with The Permanente Medical
Group, and the Kaiser Permanente national
leader for mental health and wellness.
EVERY 4 MINU TES, someone in the
United States dies of a stroke. Atrial
fibrillation (AFib)—an irregular heartbeat
that can cause blood to collect in the
heart, possibly forming a clot that could
cause a stroke—increases the risk of
stroke by 500 percent.
Some 2. 7 million people are already
diagnosed with AFib in the U.S. and
about one-third of people who may
have AFib are still not diagnosed. As
many as 12 million people in the U.S. are
expected to have AFib by 2030.
AFib is most common in older people, but can occur at any age. Five percent of people over the age of 65 have
it; 10 percent of those over 80 have it.
AFib is also more common in people
with high blood pressure, heart disease
or lung disease.
A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times
per minute. Patients with AFib have
heart rates up to 450 beats per minute
and can experience episodes lasting
from minutes to hours with:
• Fluttering, racing or a pounding
feeling in the chest.
• Dizziness or lightheadedness.
Check your pulse monthly
The National Stroke Association recommends self-checking your pulse once
a month to determine if its rhythm is
regular or irregular.
• Position your left hand with the
palm facing up.
• Use the first two fingers of your
right hand to find the groove on the
wrist about an inch below the base of
• Pressing lightly, you should feel
your pulse; if you can’t feel it, adjust the
position slightly until you can.
• Monitor your pulse for a full 60
seconds to determine if the beat is
regular (steady rhythm) versus irregular
Immediately report an irregular pulse
to your health care provider.
• National Stroke Assoc.,
• American Heart Assoc.,
FOR YOUR HEALTH
© TOMMASO79 / SHUTTERSTOCK
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video about AFib
stroke.org. (See page 10 for