Even in normal times, a teenager often feels emotional, vulnerable, insecure and confused.
But when a global pandemic turns their world upside down, many teens feel completely overwhelmed. They are challenged with social distancing, remote learning and the cancellation of important events and activities, like school sports, homecoming, prom and graduation. They also may be worried about the health of loved ones.
How to Tell if It's Anxiety or Depression
Aurif Abedi, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Henry Ford Allegiance Health, advises parents to look for changes in your teen’s behavior. Don't ignore signs of anxiety and depression, such as:
► Experiencing mood swings, agitation, frequent irritability or outbursts of intense anger.
► Being uninterested in connecting with friends or family – avoiding interactions and not texting, gaming or video chatting with friends.
► Losing interest in things they normally enjoy, like music, drawing or other hobbies.
► Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual.
► Losing their appetite or eating more frequently, often resulting in weight fluctuations.
► Not showering regularly, and not making an effort with how they look.
► Struggling with school: having attendance problems, not finishing assignments, or seeing a drop in grades.
► Engaging in risky behavior, including drug or alcohol use.
How to Help Your Anxious or Depressed Teen
Gently tell your child you’ve noticed a change in their behavior and give examples. Help them feel safe to tell you how they feel. Let them know you want to help and encourage them to ask questions.
Contact your teen’s doctor about your concerns. The doctor can complete an assessment and make recommendations, including letting you know if counseling seems appropriate.
If There is a Risk of Suicide
Thoughts of suicide, desperation or hopelessness should always be taken seriously. Make sure your home is safe for your child by locking up medications and weapons and getting help for your teen.
Contact your child’s doctor, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text TALK to the Crisis Line at 741741, or take your child to the nearest emergency department for an assessment. If your teen is in immediate danger of serious self-harm, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Learn about the wide range of behavioral health treatment options available at Henry Ford Health System.
Dr. Aurif Abedi, is a physician who is board-certified in psychiatry as well as child and adolescent psychiatry, and sees patients at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson.
Playing sports is a great way for children of all ages to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also builds confidence and teaches them valuable life lessons, like working as a team and the value of hard work. While it may be every sports fanatic’s dream to have their kid make it big time in the arena or on the diamond, sometimes pushing young athletes to be the best at a young age can lead to serious injuries that will take them out of the game altogether.
"Sports help with physical and psychological well-being," says Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. "However, year-round participation in a single sport at a young age can lead to overuse injuries and mental burnout."
Nowadays, many kids will start playing one sport at a young age and continue to play that same sport year-round for years. This can be harmful to your child because his or her soft tissue and bone structures aren't fully developed. Furthermore, the pressures of year-round participation and focus on excelling, rather than enjoyment, can negatively affect a young athlete's mental health.
Basketball causes the most injuries among high schoolers, causing many visits to the emergency room each year for stressed and torn ankle ligaments. In baseball, the Tommy John surgery, a procedure to reconstruct torn ligaments in the elbow after overuse, has also been increasingly used to treat young athletes still in high school.
How To Prevent Sports Injuries
Preparing your children appropriately before a sports season begins and supporting them during the season is important. Dr. Santa Barbara offers four key pieces of advice to help your youth athletes avoid injury.
1. Don’t limit your child to one sport. Playing a variety of sports in different seasons is a great way to work different parts of the body. When your child gets older, they can make the transition to playing a single sport they are good at and enjoy.
2. Warm up. Make sure your child is properly warming up before they play any sport. Dynamic warmups--incorporating exercises that involve moving the body such as lunges, high knees and arm circles – are preferable to stretching alone.
3. Strengthen core muscles. Building up core strength takes pressure off joints in the arms and legs. It gives young athletes more momentum and can help improve their performance.
4. Abide by rest rules. Many schools and sports leagues have rules in place to limit how many teams kids are on or how often they play. Follow these to ensure your child is allowing time for their joints and muscles to recover from physical activity.
Children participating in a sport should never push through pain, and injuries should be promptly evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Physical injuries are often more obvious, while mental health issues due to sports participation can be more subtle. Symptoms such as fatigue and declining performance can be signs of burnout. In these situations, rest is also important.
"Sports should be fun for kids," says Dr. Santa Barbara. "Avoiding single-sports specialization at a young age keeps the focus on enjoyment while reducing the physical and psychological risks of year-round participation."
To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/sportsmedicine or call 313-651-1969.
Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., is a non-operative sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus, Henry Ford Medical Center - Bloomfield Township and Henry Ford Medical Center - Fairlane.