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Why kids and teens may face far more anxiety these days

When it comes to treating anxiety in children and teens, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are the bane of therapists’ work. “With (social media), it’s all about the self-image — who’s ‘liking’ them, who’s watching them, who clicked on their picture,” said Marco Grados, associate professor of psychiatry and clinical director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Everything can turn into something negative … [K]ids are exposed to that day after day, and it’s not good for them.” Anxiety, not depression, is the leading mental health issue among American youths, and clinicians and research both suggest it is rising.  READ MORE

Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Mental health is an important part of the overall health for children and adolescents as much as it is for adults. Learn how you can support your children, including how to spot warning signs for declining mental health and knowing when it is time to seek help from a health professional.

2 of 3 Parents Want Schools to Expand Health Education

From healthfinder.gov

Many parents want teachers to go beyond sex education and substance abuse issues in their health classes, a new poll finds.

Middle and high schools should teach kids how to cope with issues such as stress, depression, bullying and suicide, according to two out of three parents surveyed.

“These results suggest that the stigma of mental health issues may have relaxed among today’s parents, in favor of using a broad array of resources to help children and adolescents with these critical areas,” said Sarah Clark. She is co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

While two-thirds of those polled said health education programs should include topics such as stress and bullying, only one-third said their child’s school currently covers these topics.

Nearly seven out of 10 parents said basic first aid should also be taught, and 63 percent said their child should learn CPR, the survey results showed.

“Most parents today support traditional health education topics like pregnancy prevention, drug abuse and other risk behaviors that used to generate more debate in years past,” Clark said in a hospital news release.

“However, they clearly perceive a gap between what their children need and what they are receiving in the area of mental health education, as well as basic first aid and CPR,” she added.

Nearly 40 percent of parents said schools should teach children how to use the health care system. Only 10 percent said this topic is covered at their child’s school.

Pollsters cited several barriers to expanding health education. They include core academic requirements, student and parent choices for elective classes, and the cost of hiring more teachers. The researchers suggested schools recruit local health care professionals to provide CPR and first-aid training to students.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of parents polled said traditional health topics — such as sex education, pregnancy prevention, exercise, nutrition, and drug and alcohol abuse — were covered at their child’s school.

“Most parents believe schools are on the right track with what kids are learning in health education, but recognize that today’s youth face a growing set of issues impacting their health,” said Clark. “School leaders may consider ways to incorporate health topics in the classroom.”

Pollsters questioned a random sampling of parents with at least one child between 11 and 18 years of age. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points.

Kids’ Grades Can Suffer When Mom Or Dad Is Depressed

Adapted from NPR

When parents suffer depression, there can be a ripple effect on children. Kids may become anxious, even sad. There may be behavior problems. Health may suffer.

Recently, a large Swedish study showed that grades may decline, too, when a parent is depressed.

Using data from 1984 to 1994, researchers from Philadelphia’s Dornsife School of Public Health, at Drexel University, measured school grades for more than 1.1 million children in Sweden and compared them with their parents’ mental health status. The study was published in a February issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

At age 16, children of mothers who had experienced depression scored about 4.5 percentage points lower in their school grades than children of nondepressed mothers. Similarly, 16-year-olds with fathers who had experienced depression scored about 4 percentage points lower.

Click here to read more and to listen to the NPR broadcast

Teens With Upbeat Friends May Have Better Emotional Health

Group Of High School Students Giving Piggybacks In CorridorPediatricians and child behavior specialists who work with teens know that adolescence is an incredibly important time for social growth. Yet these years can be fraught with anxiety for the parents of teens. How will you know if your moody teen is hanging out with the right people? Which friends might be a bad influence? How can you help your son or daughter develop healthy relationships?

Recent research has addressed some aspects of these questions. One study entitled “Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks,” published this year in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, investigated whether a teen whose friends have a healthy mood is less likely to be depressed. It also looked at how emotionally healthy friends affected a teen’s recovery from depression. Basically, the researchers wanted to find out: is a good mood contagious?

The study involved roughly 3,000 teens. Each study volunteer completed two surveys, six months apart, in which he or she listed up to five male and five female friends. Each teen was then followed over time, to see how his or her mood changed.

One of the interesting things about this study is that these researchers defined depression as a behavior, not necessarily as a disease that someone could get. This allowed them to do their statistical analysis a little differently from previous studies looking at the same subject matter, and it uncovered the potential power of positively minded friends.

The investigators found that having a social network made up of friends with a healthy mood cut a teenager’s probability of developing depression in half over a 6- to 12-month period. It also significantly improved the chances of recovering from depression for teens who already suffered from it. While the data don’t show a direct cause and effect, this study does suggest that having friends with a healthy mood may reduce the risk of depression and make it a little easier to recover from depression should it occur.