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It Takes a Village: Mental Health Screening of Adolescents in Today's Digital Age Can Lead to Healthier and Happier Teens

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The old African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," seems to ring just as true today as ever before in an era of constant media exposure and hurried schedules. Sexting, cyberbullying, and even Internet gaming on top of crammed schedules and dwindling time for family togetherness is a recipe for high-anxiety that if left unchecked, can lead to depression in adolescents, warns Ronald Marino, DO, an AOA board-certified pediatrician.

Dr. Marino, who is the associate chairman of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., urged parents to seek out pediatricians who continually screen adolescents' mental health during his discussion on depression in adolescents during the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) OMED 2013, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

"Finding a physician who understands the social, emotional, and educational problems in the context of a child's development and environment is important to both the child's physical and mental well-being," explains Dr. Marino, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury as well as the State University of New York Medical School in Stony Brook. "Regular mental health screening helps to identify mental and social anxiety disorders and ensure those issues are addressed with appropriate treatment so they don't develop into more-severe mental and emotional health problems."

Dr. Marino believes that pediatricians should be regularly exploring the following questions with their adolescent patients:

  • Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy?
  • Have you had any change in your sleep patterns?
  • Have you had any thoughts about hurting yourself?
  • Have you been feeling sad, down, or depressed much of the time?

While pediatricians and other primary care physicians are well-positioned to screen for anxiety and mental health problems in the exam room, identifying problems early, Dr. Marino stresses, begins at home.

"Parents can play an active role in assessing their adolescents' stress levels and mental well-being by understanding the warning signs that might indicate additional help is needed," notes Dr. Marino.

He recommends parents watch for the following behaviors that could signal high-levels of anxiety, depression or other emotional or mental health problem:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Signs of low self-esteem
  • Lack of appetite
  • Talk or inflicting pain to self or wanting to commit suicide

Overall, Dr. Marino stresses that families and physicians working together helps to ensure adolescents are able to grow in a positive way both physically and mentally, and live their lives as the healthy teenagers they are meant to be.

About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

SOURCE American Osteopathic Association

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