Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION: My 16-year old niece seems withdrawn lately and may be depressed. She’s always been pretty outgoing, but I wonder if she’s under too much pressure at school.
She and I get along well, so it’s something I can talk to her about. Should I? — Janine W., Plant City, Fla.
ANSWER: Definitely YES, by all means, but tread carefully. Don’t tell her how to feel or act, just listen to what she has to say and ask questions — about how much she uses social (antisocial) media and if she’s worried about terror attacks and school shootings, for example. Let her know she’s not “abnormal.” Teen depression and anxiety are a growing problem these days.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 70% of teenagers saw mental health as a major issue. Bullying, drugs and alcohol came in as distant second, third and fourth, and they often are related. Factors fueling depression and other mental health issues: Pressure on kids to get good grades and to look a certain way (girls especially feel this).
Sixteen-year-old kids have a lot to deal with these days: 24/7 information overload, not to mention the peaks and valleys of hormonal changes. The good news is that there’s less of a stigma than there used to be about going to a counselor or psychologist for advice. You could ask her if she’s aware of the counseling services at school and if she ever considered asking or ever has asked a counselor for advice. Let her know that you’re able to help her find a professional to talk to.
If you think you would like more advice on how to talk with her, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK). A 2017 study that looked at the data from 32 children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015 found that the number of children admitted for thoughts of suicide and self-harm had doubled. You want to help her stay healthy and happy.