How many times a day do parents of teenagers find themselves asking the teen, “What on earth were you thinking?” The answer is, they were thinking, just with the wrong part of their brain.
Adolescence is the period of growth, development, and exploration. Teenagers are near the peak of physical health, strength, and mental capacity, and yet, for some, this can be a hazardous age. The top causes of death in teenagers are accidents, homicide, and suicide. Other causes of morbidity, including unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and substance use, are related to risk taking behaviors and are largely preventable.
Since the Parkland, FL high school shooting in February (which, at the time, was the eighteenth school shooting in 2018; there have been more since), gun violence has become a hot topic in the media and American society in general (see the recent blog about gun violence and the second season of the series 13 Reasons Why). The issue of gun violence is important for teens and their families not only as we think about how to keep kids safe but also as we consider what may be the underlying causes for such horrible acts. To put it in perspective, the perpetrators of four of the largest school shootings over the last decade were all between the ages of 17-23 years. One topic that has received growing attention is the role of violent video games in promoting youth aggression and violence.
The second season of the provocative 13 Reasons Why Netflix series was released last week, and although it’s not getting nearly as much attention as the first season, it is still filled with controversy, risk taking behaviors, and guns (lots of guns). After learning a lesson from last season, this season starts with a substantial trigger warning and ends with another gut-wrenching, hard-to-watch sexual assault scene (and another scene that hit a little too close to home, leaving Netflix to cancel the premiere event). Where suicide was the focus of the first season, this season focuses a little more on gun violence. So, in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 1st (#WearOrange) we’re going to talk a little about guns.
Marijuana is the most common illicit substance used by teens (and yes, even in states where use is legal, it is still illegal for minors). We spend a good chunk of my clinic counseling teens about marijuana use. Here are some direct quotes that patients bring up in clinic on a regular basis:
Kevin Love, a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team (yes, there are more players than just Lebron James, although some of these finals games may appear otherwise) reports following the symptoms in the middle of a basketball game: shortness of breath, heart racing, feeling like he was about to die. He abruptly left the game and was checked out at a hospital; all the tests came back normal. He had just experienced his first panic attack. He penned a wonderful piece for The Players Tribune going into detail about his panic attack, his misconceptions about mental health, and why it’s important to him to decrease the stigma of mental health. Bravo, Kevin! This fits right in with this year’s Mental Health Health theme – “#CureStigma.” One of the best ways to cure stigma is to educate –so here we go! Read more