Should I let my child watch 13 Reasons Why?

By Dr. Elena Mikalsen
Chief of Pediatric Psychology
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Mental health professionals have become increasingly concerned about the new hit Netflix show and its portrayal of the suicide of the main character, Hannah. While I am glad that the show can start conversations about bullying, sexual assaults in high schools, and teen suicides, I am also very concerned about how the show incorrectly portrays some facts about teen mental health and suicide in general.

Hannah’s suicide is portrayed as being caused by the actions of other people (bullies, friends, school counselor, etc.). In reality, decades of research on teen suicide have shown that 90 percent of teen suicides are the result of mental illness. Teens first develop mental illness, such as depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD and then slowly, over time (one to two years), become unable to cope with stressors in their lives. When a teen with mental illness encounters bullying, divorce, family violence, academic stressors, and other stresses present in teen lives, he or she develops thoughts of suicide and begins to contemplate ending their life. This means family, school counselors, pediatricians, mental health professionals are able to intervene and help the teen if symptoms of mental illness are caught early on.

Continue reading “Should I let my child watch 13 Reasons Why?”

What is the difference between a sports physical and a wellness checkup?

By Dr. Sky Izaddoost
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care
Alon Town Centre

Summer camp time. Sports physical time. Every year, parents flood medical offices for a last minute sports physical so their child can participate in team sports at school or go to summer camp. Most walk-in clinics charge about $50 for a sports physical.  Parents gladly pay the money, not realizing that their insurance covers an annual well-child checkup, which would include the sports physical– without a co-pay in most cases.

What is the difference between the two?  A sports physical is an abbreviated well-child checkup.  The physician or practitioner is only looking for reasons that your child would not be able to participate in sports or go away to summer camp. They check old injuries like previously broken bones to make sure they have healed, determine if chronic medical conditions like asthma should limit play, and screen for conditions that could potentially cause death with exercise like heart conditions.  There is no further management.  The physical exam is also shortened, looking only for conditions that would affect play.

Continue reading “What is the difference between a sports physical and a wellness checkup?”

Help your teen cope with stress

Elena Mikalsen, Ph.D.
Pediatric Psychologist
Section Chief of Psychology Department

Is your teen spending too much time on social media and not enough time sleeping? It’s one reason your teen may feel stressed and anxious. According to recent American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America Survey, our younger generation is increasingly more stressed. More than one in four teens and young adults say they do not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress, compared with about one in ten older adults.

The APA’s survey also indicated that teens are more likely to report using passive rather than active coping strategies, which are not always as helpful. Teens rely mainly on taking a nap, listening to music, going online, eating and playing video games to cope with stress and depression. Below are some more active ways of coping which parents can easily discuss and teach to their children.

Physical activity
One in five teens and young adults reports exercising less than once a week or not at all. Exercise is one of the most effective stress and anxiety relievers. Any of these activities are helpful: yoga, hiking, biking, walking, dancing, running, rock climbing, and skateboarding. The best activity is one which involves a social component. It doesn’t need to be a team sport.

Continue reading “Help your teen cope with stress”

My child is being bullied. What should I do?

By Elena Mikalsen, Ph.D.
Section Chief, Department of Psychology

There are more and more stories in the media about children being bullied at school. Finding out that your child is being bullied is frightening and you may wonder how much to worry and what to do to help your child. Here are some basic tips on what we know about bullying and ways to handle situations involving your child and bullying.

What is bullying?

  • Spreading rumors
  • Making threats
  • Physical/verbal attacks
  • Excluding someone from a group on purpose
  • Can happen on-line – cyberbullying

Continue reading “My child is being bullied. What should I do?”