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May 22,2021 / Jeff Long, Co-founder of Teens4Teens Help, author of "A Parent's Guide to Anorexia"

Teens, they’re great aren’t they?

Your beautiful child has a birthday and is suddenly a teen. Your compliant darling child is starting to change. They can be more emotional, sarcastic, hungry, horny, and well, just difficult invaders in our households, right? They’re bouncing off us and boundaries to find their identity, just like we did.

How many of us were teens? Oh, yeah, all of us.

Do you remember how stupid you thought your parents were and that only other teens really knew what was going on?

Teens are in a life stage of rejecting their parents and authority figures and discovering their own identity by testing it with their peers and the world.

All the while their brains are under construction, that’s right, from tween to 25 it's under construction, super powered with new hormones and uncontrolled by the lack of a fully developed frontal lobe - where impulse control resides.

Have you ever lived in a house where your kitchen was being remodeled? It’s like that, only it’s in your head, during the time you are having the most intense feelings you’ll experience in your life.

When we were teens we were told things like, “just suck it up,” “just tough it out,” “that’s how life is.” Can you think of another golden oldie you were told?

So why are teens experiencing mental health issues at rates never seen before in our country’s history? Well, our teens today are really growing up in a very different world than we did.

Why? It’s TMI, times 5!

It’s Too Much information, Too Much isolation, Too much internet, Too Much indoors, and Too Much intensity. Let’s break this down a little further.

TMI - Too Much information, the 24/7 news, too many channels, websites, games, FOMO, just too much for young developing brains. Do you remember hearing, “just go outside and play”?

TMI - Too Much isolation, lack of tribe & community, not just because of the pandemic, we humans are tribes people, you’ve heard - “it takes a village”, it does, but now families are transient for work and education and most often not with extended families and tight knit communities. All our screens further isolate us, teens interact less in person and more on screens which actually reduces learning social skills and recognizing facial and emotional cues and thus increases anxiety.

TMI - Too much internet, again with the too much screen time, news, information, the addiction of social media and its many negative outcomes, cyber bullying, too much sitting/lack of movement which can lead to depression, the blue screen light disrupts sleep, causing lack of sleep, and teens need 9-11 hours of sleep for their brains to refresh and develop.

TMI - Too Much indoors, lack of nature, connection to the natural world, sunshine, vitamin-d, literal grounding, get your feet in the sand and your eyes in the sky, exercise, outdoor activity helps you get better sleep. The lack of whole foods, too many processed foods (snacks foods) that have been established to have many negative physical and emotional effects. It has been shown that treatment with nutrition can be as effective as prescription meds for many mental health issues.

TMI - Too Much intensity, stress for college acceptance, job competition, the future, climate change and all the implications, the Texas size island of plastics floating in the pacific ocean, the political, racial, and economic divides. This generation was born after 911, with terrorist’s killing citizens on US soil, mass and school shootings, the greatest depression since the great depression – the economic mortgage meltdown, and now the pandemic! It's just too much.

So is it any wonder our teens are experiencing a mental health crisis, and that some of the most sensitive among them will end up being our creative innovators, our artists, our empathetic leaders, teachers, and healers.

They need your support, become a force of hope, help, inspiration, and recovery.


Jeff is a mental health advocate and founded with his wife and daughter. He co-authored, A Parent’s Guide to Anorexia. Jeff has a background in video and film production as a Director and Producer.

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February 22,2021 / Shweta Chooramani, MPH

Almost eleven months ago, Covid-19 entered our lives and made it upside down. A vast number of recent research studies have shown children and adolescents are more likely to experience depression and anxiety due to social isolation. A recent CDC study shows that a proportionately higher number of children and adolescents are seeking emergency care due to mental health problems.

Importance of Socialization during Teenage Years:

According to science, an adolescent brain is tuned to be independent, meet new people without adult supervision, find out who they really are, make social connections, fall in love, date, earn their own pocket money and do exciting things. The physical distancing enforced by the pandemic limits teenagers of all those adventurous things they should be doing in-person, as well as, their school routine. The socially isolating conditions can lead to loss of voice and the negative feelings associated with self-identify due to limited exposure to the outside world. Both of which are essential for the holistic development of an adolescent’s brain in normal conditions.

Effects of Social Isolation:

The survey conducted by America’s Promise Alliance to gauge the mental health well-being of 3,300 adolescents found that as many as 50 percent expressed more concern than usual due to the uncertainty about the future. Other top concerns were family’s health, family’s financial health, own physical health, own emotional health and school grades.

The psychological effects of social isolation has made us vulnerable with unattended frustration and anger stemming from limited mobility. Bouts of aggression due to lack of in-person communication with peer groups and consistent irritability due to lack of recreational options have become common symptoms. Social isolation compels teens to find solace in social media which in turn further aggravates symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Signs of Mental Stress due to Isolation

It is during these emotionally unnerving times, parents and caregivers of teenagers should watch out for signs of stress such as:

  • Irritability, confusion, poor concentration and lack of decision making.

  • Frequent emotional breakdowns due to feelings of uncertainty or fear.

  • Change in behavior with unexplained long episodes of silence or mood swings.

  • Change in eating habits, like compulsive snacking or skipping meals leading to weight loss or weight gain.

  • Change in sleeping habits like sleeping throughout the day, nightmares, or sleeping less than 8 hours a night.

  • Avoiding friends virtually or in-person.

  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other substances (vaping).

  • Change in interest level in activities that were once enjoyed.

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, body pains, stomach problem and skin rashes.

What Can Teens Do: Manage Stress in a Healthy Way

1. Digital Detox by Setting Boundaries: For a healthy mind, it’s important to have boundaries when it comes to being online 24-7. Researchers at UCLA found that, taking a break from stimulating news and videos help the brain to detoxify itself from the spiral of negative news. Especially with the recent political turmoil coupled with covid-19 news. Too much exposure to screens and clicking on notifications can make users captive to their mobile devices without realizing how its ill effects impacts the brain. It’s recommended to have a healthy relationship with tv, mobile or computer screens by having a fixed time to check up on messages and news. Not checking screens at least 2 hours before sleeping can help in getting a good night’s sleep.

2. Eat Well on Time and Exercise: Eating healthy food at routine times can help boost moods. An adequate supply of food, as brain fuel, is required for secretion of happy hormones. Several studies have linked depression with a diet high in refined sugar. Eating green leafy vegetables like spinach and fruits like bananas help increase the feel-good hormone called serotonin, as well as, foods like yogurt, beans, fish, beet-root, almonds, and seeds.

Go out, get some fresh air and move your body. Lancet research shows that teens who move 60 minutes each day at age 12 was linked to an average of 10% reduction in depression at age 18. Running, biking, dancing, and walking are all activities that can convert a sedentary lifestyle into outdoor time.

3. Engaging in Real Time Leisure Activities: Staying organized during social isolation can be tricky and the first step towards doing that is to follow a routine. A routine where dedicated ‘unwinding time’ is given to each activity every day. For instance,

  • Learning a new skill like drawing, crafts, playing an instrument, or cooking by online classes,

  • Playing board games with friends/family,

  • Virtually joint listening to podcasts and having discussions in groups,

  • Introducing self-care regime like keeping yourself hydrated, try yoga or practice mindfulness, listen to music,

  • Organizing virtual sing-along dates, movie nights or sleepovers with friends,

  • Having virtual or in-person meet-ups in the backyard,

  • Helping parents/siblings with household chores regularly,

  • Taking ownership of selected household errands daily,

  • Organizing and tidying up your room

4. Moving from Virtual to Real Communication over Phone: Talking to people about the feelings of frustration is often a first step towards resilience. To improve the emotional health and well-being of teenagers, it’s very important for them to have open communication channels with an adult who is not necessarily their parent or primary care giver. We often underestimate the importance of calling a friend or family member or trusted person as a safe place to discuss feelings. Transitioning from short Whatsapp messages, Facebook forwards and Instagram likes to real ‘how are you feeling right now’ conversation is vital for an uncluttered mind. It helps in improving the interpersonal connection between two individuals, improves understanding of non-verbal cues, without the expectation of being fake popular or liked by so many on social media.

5. Effective Listening for Resilience: As a parent or primary care giver the first step towards helping teenagers is listening to them without being judgmental. By listening to their concerns and by asking them how are they feeling without being preachy. Having nurturing talks with teens can help them get back on track through developing mental resilience. Dr. Damon Korb’s book called Raising An Organized Child – 5 Steps to Boost Independence, Ease Frustration and Promote Confidence is a great resource for parents and caregivers.


Shweta is a mental health advocate and has managed, consulted, and written on a variety of themes. She is an independent consultant who specializes in grant writing, monitoring, and project evaluation for non-profits. Shweta joined the Teens4Teens Help Professional Advisory Board in January, 2021.

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