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What Your Teen Wants to Know About Mental Health

Posted on Dec 07, 2017


Mental health is a growing concern for teens everywhere. Recently, experts from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital spent some time at Lakewood High School educating students on depression symptoms and treatment.

Jasmine M. Reese, M.D., adolescent medicine specialist and the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and second-year Johns Hopkins All Children’s residents Brittany Odom, M.D., and Zach Spoehr-Labutta, M.D., shared information and answered questions over a series of three student assemblies, reaching nearly 1,000 students.

Before the assemblies, students had the opportunity to write down questions that they wanted answered during the session. The most common questions are highlighted below with answers from the experts so you can be prepared for conversations with your child.

Q: What causes mental illness?

Dr. Reese: There are a lot of different answers. It’s not just one thing. Sometimes it’s the environment where we are growing up. It’s not perfect, and we might have problems at home or school. Those things can cause a lot of stress and stress can lead to depression. Also, you might hear people say it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. That can also happen and is when medicine would be helpful in treating it. Everybody’s story is going to be different. The main point is that your story is important and there is always someone who can help you get through it.

Q: When you prepare for tests, what do you do? Do you stress or do you stay calm?

Dr. Odom: A lot of times you can’t help it. Feeling some level of anxiety is completely normal, but it’s not normal to feel so overwhelmed that you can’t complete assignments or do your work. If you’re getting to a point where you can’t focus and physically cannot continue going, take a break. Some people like to go for hours, but taking a break while studying will help your brain refocus. If you’re still overwhelmed by stress and anxiety make sure you’re talking to someone such as a teacher or counselor.

Q: How is mental health important for an athlete?

Dr.  Spoehr-Labutta: Mental health affects everything you do, whether it’s being on the field or in the classroom. It’s important for everyone because you have to use your brain for whatever you do. If you’re worried that you are not where you want to be, not in the mental state you want to be, there are people around who you can talk to.

Q: How do you treat a panic attack?

Dr. Reese: Sometimes that might sound different from depression, and sometimes a panic attack can actually lead to depression. It’s important to talk to family, a teacher or a pediatrician, and describe what you’re feeling. If you can describe what a panic attack feels like to you, there may be different ways to treat that. Sometimes it’s finding a simple way that makes you feel calm, like journaling, writing, singing, or something you like to do that puts you in a calm place. Sometimes it’s talking it out with a medical professional experienced in treating and talking about panic attacks. Other times it means a medication to help get through it. It doesn’t mean you have to be on medicine forever, but it can help put you in a calm space so you can excel in school and everyday life.

For more information on the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic or to schedule an appointment, please call 727-767-TEEN (8336).

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