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Adolescent Health

Early adolescence is one of the fastest and most dramatic periods of physical change that individuals go through. It is during these often difficult years that the child becomes an adult.

Certain hormones in a child’s body trigger physical growth. Both parents and children need to know and remember that these hormonal changes can also affect moods.

The sudden and extreme growth that the child goes through often causes problems with coordination. This is because the child must adjust to bodily changes. In addition, different parts of the body grow at different rates.

Teenagers are at greater risk for nutritional deficiencies and eating problems. Teens need a tremendous amount of body-building foods, especially proteins and calcium. Obesity and eating disorders may also become health problems for teens.

Besides physical changes, there are other changes teenagers go through. As children enter the teenage years, they begin to think in more complex and sophisticated ways.

They also become more aware of how other people think about the world, and that their own beliefs on a certain subject may differ from those of others.

To the young adolescent, the subject of greatest interest is often him or herself. Since young adolescents sometimes have trouble distinguishing between what others think and what they are thinking themselves, they sometimes think that other people are concerned with their behavior and appearance as much as they are themselves.

Parents may find the teen’s preoccupation with himself or herself rather annoying. At these times, it may be helpful for parents to remember, first that this preoccupation with self is the result of the young teen’s style of thinking and, second, that this style of thinking occurs in most young teens and is not deliberate. It’s also worth remembering that the teen’s concern with what others think is not entirely unjustified. Young teens are, in fact, very critical of one another and notice and pay attention to details.

One of the greatest difficulties in trying to become an adult is establishing independence while maintaining a loving parent-adult child relationship. The teen’s desire for independence becomes a real problem only when teens and/or parents view it as a struggle for control.

The teen years are among the most exciting and challenging periods of life. Your support and concern at this time can do a great deal to strengthen your relationship with your child and provide a foundation for the years of growth and change ahead.

To see the Martha's Vineyard Hospital Physician Directory, click here.

Depression & Suicide

Suicide Threats and Teens

The suicide rate among adolescents has tripled in the last twenty-five years. It has grown so rapidly that suicide now ranks as the third leading cause of death among adolescents. For every completed adolescent suicide, there are more than 60 unsuccessful adolescent attempts to end one's own life.

If any of the symptoms of depression are also accompanied by suicidal talk or behavior, you're going to want to intervene. Fascination with death, dying, or suicide is a common feature of depression in adolescence and should not be taken lightly.

Some of the warning signs of suicide include:

  • Seeming depressed; low energy level; loss of interest in things.

  • Talking about suicide or discussing suicidal fantasies. Your teen may not discuss these issues with you, but you may get reports from siblings or even friends who are worried.

  • Giving away treasured possessions.

  • Writing about death in journals. A teen who wants you to know what he is thinking may actually leave a journal out around the house open to significant pages. (If he does, assume that it's supposed to be read.

There's a saying: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” You want to be there with your teen while the problem is still “temporary.”

  • Commenting, “I wish I were dead.”

  • Discussing or gathering information on suicide methods.

  • Displaying a sudden mood lift following a period of depression without cause. (This may indicate that the teen feels elation and relief over finally deciding to take control of his problem—by committing suicide.)

  • If you suspect that your teen is contemplating suicide, contact someone about your suspicions right away. Call your teen's doctor, the school psychologist (or your child's counselor), a suicide prevention center, a community mental health center, an emergency room, or a family service agency. Any of these places are prepared to help you or can refer you to the best place to get the help you need.

Download The Parents’ How-to Guide to Children’s Mental Health Services in Massachusetts

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