Slowly Silenced:  How Alzheimer’s Quiets Beautiful Minds

Most have been touched by the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. We have lost family and friends to the disease that snuffs the light in bright minds.  For us, the first to lose their fight was a friend’s mom, way too young with a rapid onset.  Most recently, it was my wife’s dad, who went from being a Gifted and passionate performer to a man locked in motionless silence for years.  When he missed calling on her birthday, my wife knew his humorous attempts at covering his forgetfulness hid something deeper.  I knew when he no longer remembered the words to his own gold Records as he played at our daughter’s graduation party.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.  More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and over 15 million Americans are providing unpaid care and support.  Worldwide, 50 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

These numbers are expected to triple by 2050 without significant breakthroughs.  And, while death from heart disease has decreased in the last few years, death from Alzheimer’s has increased by 123%.  It is the only Top 10 leading cause of death in the United States without a cure, prevention or even a truly promising way to slow progress.

ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA BASICS

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia – a general term for memory loss and other decline in intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.  It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.

Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its initial stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.

Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.

SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER’S

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.

Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

10 WARNING SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Below are 10 warning signs and symptoms. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over, increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g. reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.

 CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS AT HOME, AT WORK OR AT LEISURE

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Vision changes related to cataracts.

NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

 MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Making an unwise decision once in a while.

WITHDRAWAL FROM WORK OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

A Typical Age-Related Change

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.


RESEARCH AND PROGRESS

Today, Alzheimer’s is at the forefront of biomedical research.  Researchers are working to uncover as many aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias as possible. Ninety percent of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the last 15 years. Some of the most remarkable progress has shed light on how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. The hope is this better understanding will lead to new treatments.

A worldwide quest is under way to find new treatments to stop, slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s. Because new drugs take years to produce from concept to market—and because drugs that seem promising in early-stage studies may not work as hoped in large-scale trials—it is critical that Alzheimer’s and related dementias research continue to accelerate. To ensure that the effort to find better treatments receives the focus it deserves, the Alzheimer’s Association funds researchers looking at new treatment strategies and advocates for more federal funding of Alzheimer’s research.

Currently, there are five FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but these medications do not treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s. In contrast, many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself, by impacting one or more of the many wide-ranging brain changes that Alzheimer’s causes. These changes offer potential “targets” for new drugs to stop or slow the progress of the disease.

Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a “cocktail” of medications aimed at several targets, similar to current state-of-the-art treatments for many cancers and AIDS.

WITH EARLY DETECTION, YOU CAN:

  • Get the maximum benefit from available treatments
  • Have more time to plan for the future
  • Participate in building the right care team and social support network
  • Locate care and support services for you and your loved ones

People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and intervention methods are improving dramatically, and treatment options and sources of support can improve quality of life.

WHEN YOU SEE YOUR DOCTOR

If you need assistance finding a doctor with experience evaluating memory problems, your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter can help. Your doctor will evaluate your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect how well your mind is working. They may refer you to a specialist such as a:

  • Neurologist – specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system
  • Psychiatrist – specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works
  • Psychologist – has special training in testing memory and other mental functions
  • Geriatrician – specializes in the care of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease

Everyday, there are physicians in the HealthLynked system ready to care for Alzheimer patients and support the caregivers who offer so much to help them live the best lives possible.  If someone you love is showing signs of memory loss beyond what might be considered normal for their age, go to HealthLynked.com to connect and collaborate with any number of specialists at the ready.

 

Ready to get Lynked and get help?  Go to HealthLynked.com today to register for free!

Sources:

ALZ.org

NYTimes.com

 

Hashtags

#endalz

#alzheimersawarenessmonth

#gopurple

#patientcare

#dementia

#research

#HealthCare

#HealthLynked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Leading Cause of Blindness Impacts 24 Million Americans

A family member hit a pole in a parking deck at full Speed a few years back.  While that is just around 15 miles an hour in a garage, you can still total a car at those speeds when dueling concrete.  She did.  More shocking to hear was that She just didn’t see it.  We all learned cataracts were making her nearly blind.  As they worsened over the years, and she compensated, she had no idea how bad they had gotten.

I was sitting with my Dad one morning early this weekend, and it dawned on me he wasn’t wearing his bifocals.  We live far apart and hadn’t seen each other in almost a year.  I’d never known him not to have them on….or the New graduated lenses he moved to a few years back.  When I joined him, he was watching TV, so I asked him if he was just listening.  He shared with me his cataract surgery had restored his vision to 20/20, and even reading the paper was easy.  At almost 80y/o, that was awesome news!

More than half of Americans either have a cataract or have had surgery for them by his age. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment in the US and the number one cause of blindness around the world.  This month, designated Cataract Awareness Month, “shines a light on the prevalent problem of cataracts”.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision and is especially common in older adults. In the US, a full 17% of Americans age 40 and over have cataracts in one or both eyes.

In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina (tissue filled with light sensitive cells at the back of the eye). There, light is converted by those special cells into signals transmitted by nerves to create images in the brain. For the retina to receive a sharp image, the lens must be clear. When it is not, as with a cataract, what one sees will be blurry.

Make time to schedule an appointment with an eyecare professional when you experience any of the following 7 signs you may have cataracts:

Cloudy days

Cataracts start small and initially may have negligible effect on your vision. Things might seem a little blurry — like looking at an impressionist painting. This effect usually increases over time. The world will seem increasingly cloudy, blurry, or dim.

No more wild nights

As cataracts become more advanced, they begin to darken with a yellow or brown tinge.  This begins to affect night vision and makes certain nighttime activities, such as driving, more difficult.  A study from Curtin University in Australia found that treating cataracts reduced the risk of car accidents by 13 percent.

If you suspect you have cataracts, be very careful at night and don’t drive when your vision is compromised.  Would have been great advice for our family member.

The glare of bright lights

Light sensitivity is a common symptom of cataracts. The glare of bright lights can be painful, especially to those with posterior subcapsular cataracts, according to the Mayo Clinic. These types of cataracts start at the back of the lens, blocking the path of light and often interfere with your reading vision.

Halos everywhere?

The clouding of the lens can result in diffraction of light entering your eye. This can cause a halo to appear around light sources. Rings around every light, sometimes in a variety of colors, can make driving very difficult. This is another reason why driving at night, especially when there are streetlights and headlights, can be dangerous if you have a cataract.

Your Glass is Half Full

If you find yourself frequently needing stronger glasses or contacts, you may have cataracts. Simply buying a strong pair of reading glasses from the drugstore isn’t going to fix the problem. See an eye doctor if your eyesight is changing rapidly. You may have cataracts or another eye condition that will benefit with prompt treatment.

Living in a yellow submarine

As cataracts progress, the clumps of protein clouding your lens may turn yellow or brownish. This results in all the light coming into your eye having a yellow tint. It’s almost as though you are wearing “blue-blocker” sunglasses, as advertised on TV, which block blue and violet light. This changes how you see color and reduces your ability to tell the difference between colors.

Double trouble

Diffraction from the lens clouding in a cataract can actually lead you to see two or more images of a single object. Many things can cause double vision, also called diplopia, including:

  • brain tumor
  • corneal swelling
  • multiple sclerosis
  • stroke
  • cataracts

Binocular double vision, which causes two images to be visible only if both eyes are open, can be a sign of serious health concerns, including:

Monocular double vision, which causes multiple images to appear in one eye but not the other, is more likely to be an issue with your eye’s cornea or lens. Cataracts is a common cause of diplopia. As the cataract grows larger, this effect may go away.

More Insights into Cataracts

What is the treatment for cataracts?

While so very prevalent, they are also very simple to treat. The solution for the clouding of the eye with cataracts is often surgery requiring the removal of the deteriorated lens.  The unhealthy lens is replaced with an artificial, intraocular lens, or IOL. Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In fact, the entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.

Is cataract removal safe?

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries, enjoying a success rate of 95 percent. Your surgeon will remove your clouded lens and replace it with an intraocular lens through a minuscule incision in the cornea – the highly organized tissue covering the eye.  Only 15 minutes are required to complete the procedure in an outpatient surgery center.

Do cataracts only affect seniors?

Cataracts can affect anyone! Although most people do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, cataracts can also affect young adults and even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking are causes for cataracts to develop at an earlier age.

Can I prevent cataracts?

There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow their progression. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include smoking abstinence, minimizing exposure to UV rays and radiation, eating healthy foods, maintaining healthy blood sugars and blood pressures, and wearing proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.

A patient and their optometrist should discuss any of these symptoms and options for care.  While some of these might suggest a variety of vision problems, an eyecare practitioner will be able to determine whether the patient may have cataracts through a comprehensive eye exam.  They will then collaborate with the individual on the best course of action.

THE GOOD NEWS:  While cataracts are — in most cases — a natural part of aging, removal typically results in vastly improved vision!!  Looking to get connected to a great eyecare professional near you?  Go to HealthLynked.com to find a practitioner who will help you sharpen your focus and get you seeing more clearly in no time.

With HealthLynked, you can find physicians and practitioners who want to collaborate closely with you to help you live in the very best possible state of wellness and avoid immobile concrete pillars.

Sources:

YourSightMatters.com

HealthLine.com

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

 

Hashtags

#eyespy2018 #healthyvisionmonth #ophthalmology #optometry #eyecare #cataracts #nationaleyewearday

 

Ground Breaking App is the Future of HealthCare – Meet HealthLynked!

People who saw the Demo in December of 1976 might have guessed they were witnessing the birth of something big.  However, it was not at all clear then the little machine and the team showing it off were more significant than any number of other exhibitors at the West Coast Computer Faire –  a smaller tech conference akin to the Worldwide Developer Conference going on today through Friday in San Jose.

Soon thereafter, it became increasingly evident the new gadget was really going to matter. The first of its kind product started selling on this day, May 5th,  in 1977.  By the end of the year, it was gaining fame as one of the best among a new tech genre – microcomputers.  Before this unique platform came to market, predecessors were aimed at techno-nerd gearheads who knew how to sling solder, build their own and at least had Basic code in their repertoire.  This new one was practically plug-and-play.

The Apple ][ has sometimes been named the first personal computer.  It certainly was one of the best selling and had the longest run of home computers, built well into the 1990s.  What really made it stand out was its visionary design.  It was created as the clearest idea of what a PC should be and where it could really take us.  Eventually, it even returned us to space as the computers used to monitor the clean rooms around our shuttle builds.

The vision it embodied married the widely different yet wildly complementary gifts of two Steves – Jobs and Wozniak. To help it break out of the Homebrew Computer world, the Apple II, like future Apple products, had the right features and best vision in place. While it didn’t have what would later be known as a graphical user interface, it did have a richer, more interactive feel than other PCs.  It was one of the first models to host color graphics and sound right out of the box, and even came with two paddles as standard equipment. Such features made it a natural for games and educational software; they also made it a uniquely inviting device.

The platform Woz built and Jobs shaped and marketed was, indeed, a platform — the best and most successful container of its generation for interesting and useful hardware and software add-ons, much like the iPhone and iPad today. “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication”, read the headline on the first Apple II brochure. A nod to the wisdom of Leonardo Da Vinci often quoted by Einstein, it captured Apple’s philosophy, then as now.

The Apple II readied the world for the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and, likely, every other major technology gadget or platform of the past 41 years. Countless others have followed its lead.

On this day, the 41st anniversary of this amazing platform, we at HealthLynked are launching our own.  We believe it will be the kind of breakthrough in its own genre the ][ was.  That’s a lofty ideal and bold belief, yet we want the whole world to have access to their own medical information in the ways Woz and Jobs wanted the whole world to compute.

And we built the HealthLynked platform to make that possible.  It has all the right stuff to let patient members really take control of their healthcare,… and the right vision for providers to really have access to all the real-time health information that makes the best possible care a reality.

We are Improving HealthCare!  Go to the Apple store or HealthLynked.com today to download the first of its kind, universal, portable health record and connection and collaboration tool that is clearly paving the way to a much better medical future.

Sources:

TIME.com

Computerhistory.org

 

#apple #iPhone #iPad #iOS12 #WWDC18 #PatientCare

#HealthCare #HealthLynked

7 Red Flags of Teen Depression to Look for Today

Adolescence is not an easy time for most. My wife – the bright, outgoing cheerleader daughter of a 60’s rock legend – often says she breezed through it. Me – the geeky, gangly marching band punk son of a minister – not so much!

No matter who you are, the journey into adulthood from dependence is a moral, physical and mental juggernaut. As children advance through the various tumultuous transitions that accompany adolescence — body changes, emotional upheaval, hormonal overdrive, sexual awareness, social norms, intellectual development, increased access to just about anything, and the complex ways these all intertwine — the pressures and problems encountered can all too often seem overwhelming. For many, these and other challenges lead to one or more of a variety of mental health disorders; all matters of concern, and some truly life-threatening.

Adolescence is tough on parents, as well. Any who have braved the task (and blessing) of nurturing a young life and directing another human into independence know Well the bouts of grumpiness, solemness and silent brooding interlaced with joy and downright giddiness. Some of the darker, “I’m going to withdraw inside my headphone silenced digital world and be a sad rock” sulking is normal, yet how do you know?

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and today is Childhood Depression Awareness Day, it is important to take note of this shocking statistic: as of this writing, teen suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States and the leading cause of death among young women worldwide, surpassing accidental injury. Thankfully, in our home, as the threat of self harm became all too real, we already had a sense the normal teenage angst of our youngest had gone way too deep and was consuming her. We are among the lucky ones who still had a chance to intervene and surround her with a team of professionals and a lot of focused attention that helped restore healthy thinking. I mourn for and with those who were not.

There are a multitude of signs we can all be looking for, whether it is as parents, medical professionals, teachers or friends. And, there are a multitude of resources for finding help. Here are just a few of the ways you might get engaged, understand what warnings to watch for and find the places you can go when you know you need a hand.

If you read no further, at least checkout these Top Tips for Parents:

  • Keep communication constant, open, and honest: Your children should not only know they can talk to you about anything, you must be committed to broaching topics of concern with great transparency. Talk about your own experiences and fears when you were an adolescent. Be prepared to push through certain push-back and denial. Even today, my mostly happy recovering teen reminds of the time I first asked if she was depressed but failed to go deeper when she silenced me with supreme “stink-eye”. Let them know that they are not alone; nor are their anxieties unique.
  • Understand mental health disorders are treatable: Arm yourself with information about the most common mental health disorders among adolescents; speak with your child’s physician, your local health department, religious leaders, and your child’s school representatives about what sorts of information are available from them.
  • Be attentive to your teen’s behavior: Adolescence is, indeed, a time of transition and change. Still, some severe, dramatic, or abrupt changes in behavior might be strong indicators of serious mental health issues and not just pure rebellion.

Going Deeper, Watch for these Mental Health “Red Flags”:

  • Excessive sleeping, beyond usual teenage fatigue, which could indicate depression or substance abuse
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, and other sleep disorders
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes
  • Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite, which could indicate an eating disorder
  • Personality shifts and changes – such as aggressiveness and excess anger sharply out of character – could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems

Possible Mental Health Issues (Just a few)

Depression – While most of us are subject to an occasional bout of “the blues,” clinical depression is a serious medical condition requiring immediate treatment. Watch for:

  • Unexpected weeping or excessive moodiness. A sad or irritable temperament for most of the day. Your teen may say they feel sad or angry or may appear more tearful or cranky.
  • Eating habits that result in noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Self-mutilation, or mention of self harm
  • Obsessive body-image concerns
  • Paranoia or excessive secrecy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Excessive isolation
  • No longer wanting to be with family.
  • Abandonment of friends and social groups.
  • Not caring about what happens in the future.
  • Aches and pains when nothing is really wrong.
  • A lack of energy or feeling unable to do simple tasks.

Note: Any of these signs can occur in children who are not depressed, but when seen together, nearly every day, they are definite red flags for depression.

Eating disorders – Body image concerns can become obsessions, resulting in startling weight loss, severely affecting the adolescent’s health:

  •  Anorexia: Avoidance of food and noticeable restrictions in eating habits should trigger concern. NOTE: This is the deadliest of all mental disorders.
  • Bulimia: Purging (forced vomiting) after eating. Be alert for both dramatic weight loss without changes in eating habits (which could, of course, indicate other health issues that require a doctor’s attention). Also, be alert for immediate trips to the bathroom or other private spot after a meal.

Drug abuse – In addition to peer pressure, mental health issues can lead adolescents beyond experimentation with alcohol and drugs to use of substances for “self-medication.” In addition to being alert to the behavioral and physical signs of alcohol and drug abuse — drug and alcohol paraphernalia or evidence, hangovers, slurred speech, etc. — parents should also:

  •  Watch for prescription drug misuse and abuse: According to the AAP, prescription drug misuse by adolescents is second only to marijuana and alcohol misuse. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include Vicodin and Xanax, with a sharp rise in opioids.
  • Know that over-the-counter-medications can be abused as well: Teenagers also frequently abuse OTC cough and cold medications. Heck, there are popular songs about it.

Up from Adolescent Depression: What Parents Can Do to Help

No matter what is going on, concern about your adolescent’s mental health should first be addressed directly with your child. This fosters open dialogue and goes a long way toward building sound adolescent mental health habits. Talk to your child about his/her feelings and the things happening at home and at school that may be bothering them. For us, these talks quickly escalated from denial to cries for help. We had to move to professional intervention, FAST!

If your concerns are serious, discuss them with your physician. Because so many mental health issues display physical manifestations — weight loss being the most dramatic, but not the only one — your pediatrician can offer both initial medical assessment and also refer you to appropriate mental health organizations and professionals for counseling and treatment when called for.

Promote health

  • The basics for good mental health include a healthy diet, enough sleepexercise, and positive connections with other people at home and at school.
  • Limit screen time and encourage physical activity (depending on the disorder) and fun activities with friends or family to help develop positive connections with others.
  • One-on-one time with you, catching them doing great things, encouragement for seeking care and pointing out strengths build the parent-child bond.

Provide safety and security

  • Talk with your child about bullying. Being the victim of bullying is a major cause of mental health problems.
  • Look for grief or loss issues. Seek help if problems with grief do not get better. If you as a parent are grieving a loss, get help and find additional support for your teen.
  • Reduce stress, as most teens have low stress tolerance. Accommodations in schoolwork are critical as well as lowered expectations at home regarding chores and school achievements.
  • Guns, knives, long ropes/cables and medicines (including those you buy without a prescription), and alcohol should be locked away.

Educate others

  • Your teen is not making the symptoms up….
  • What looks like laziness or crankiness can be symptoms of depression.
  • Talk about any family history of depression to increase understanding.
  • Get the school involved. I have to say, while I expected the medical and mental health professionals to respond the way they did – after all, that’s their job – I was most impressed with how the School staff rallied around us. They surrounded her with supportive teachers and counselors and covered her with intense levels of understanding while making allowances for exceptions to work under a 504 plan. Get one!

Help your teen learn thinking and coping skills

  • Help your teen relax with physical and creative activities. Focus on the his/her strengths.
  • Talk to and listen to your child with love and support. Encourage teens to share their feelings, including thoughts of death or suicide. Reassure them this is very common with depression.
  • Help your teen look at problems in a different, more positive way.
  • Break down problems or tasks into smaller steps so your teen can be successful.

Make a safety plan

  • It is critical to remember you are a key element in your child’s recovery and an essential part, if not the real leader, of their care team. Stay deeply involved in every portion of their recovery.
  • Follow the treatment plan. Make sure your teen attends therapy and takes any medicine as directed.
  • Treatment works, but it may take a few weeks, months or even years. The depressed teen may not recognize changes in mood right away and may become discouraged with initial side effects of treatments (such as antidepressants).
  • Develop a list of people to call when feelings get worse.
  • Watch for risk factors of suicide. These include talking about suicide in person or on the internet, giving away belongings, increased thoughts about death, and substance abuse.
  • Locate telephone numbers for your teen’s doctor and therapist, and the local mental health crisis response team.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1 800-273-8255 or online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

DISCLAIMER: Look, I am just a half-a-brain helicopter pilot and mechanical engineer turned accidental sales person who became an occasionally adept commercial leader. I am not a medical professional, so what I am sharing here should be in no way misconstrued as health advice. This list is not exhaustive. It is only some of what we learned in facing the fearsome specter of mental health gone askew in our own home.

There are plenty of great people and resources, beyond those cited as sources, ready to give you any assistance you need, especially when it comes to the real potential for self harm. Below are just a few:

If you or someone you know needs help, go to The Mighty’s suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Finally, if you are looking for a health professional, you might find them using HealthLynked. It is the first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a Higher Purpose – Improving HealthCare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more and find our additional resources on mental health information.

Sources I borrowed liberally from:

Posner, Kelly. “Preventing suicide: Teen deaths are on the rise, but we know how to fight back,” Published 1:08 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2018.  https://philanthropynewyork.org/news/preventing-suicide-teen-deaths-are-rise-we-know-how-fight-back

“Mental Health and Teens: Watch for Danger Signs”, Adapted from Healthy Children Magazine, Winter 2007

“Adolescent Depression: What Parents Can Do To Help”, Adapted from Addressing Mental Health Concerns in Primary Care: A Clinician’s Toolkit (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)

Schuster, Sarah. ” Here’s What We Should Be Sharing Instead of the Latest Details About Avicii’s Suicide”, The Mighty, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/apos-sharing-instead-latest-details-185503533