Experts discuss teens, anxiety and depression

John Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Philhaven in Lancaster, and Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatric Associates, speak with LNP + LancasterOnline during a live chat about teen anxiety and depression on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. 

Teens face pressure to excel in school, choose a career path in a fast-paced and changing job market and keep up with extracurriculars, homework and testing while under the ever-present lens of social media.

Mental health remains a big concern for parents, local experts say. They offered some guidance Wednesday in a live-streamed discussion with LNP + LancasterOnline.

On Sunday, LNP + LancasterOnline published two op-eds from local experts on teen anxiety and depression: John Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Philhaven in Lancaster, and Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatric Associates.

"In order to navigate the situations and challenges necessary for success in today’s world, young people need emotional resilience and it’s up to parents, educators, health care providers and friends to make sure they develop this skill before sending them off on their own," Shand wrote.

Teens must be allowed to fail, face adversity [op-ed]
Children need time, most of all, to build resilience [op-ed]

Shand and Fenimore met with Opinion Editor Suzanne Cassidy, diving deeper into the issues of mental health in teens and answering reader questions. 

The conversation touched on many facets of mental health, from addressing concerns to seeing early symptoms. To see the full video, visit out Facebook page, at LNP + LancasterOnline, or click on the link below. 

Here are five takeaways from the conversation:

1. Remember that it's a different world for today's teenagers

Teens today are dealing with different problems from the ones the last few generations may have faced, both Shand and Fenimore said.

There's more emphasis on specialty sports and choosing a career path, while the economy is changing in such a way that kids may be unaware of what jobs are available to them.

Students also are growing up in a world where the frequency of school shootings means active shooter drills are the norm.

Social media is pervasive.

Those variables, which may seem minor, can have a major impact on a teen's life. 

"The world is a different now for our kids," Dr. Fenimore said. 

She added that it's important to check on teens, especially if they show early signs of depression or anxiety. Making opportunities for your teen to speak to you about important issues, worries and woes. 

2. Watch for the early signs

Every teen experiences being tired, being sad, wanting to sleep the day away, Shand and Fenimore said. It's important to see how those behaviors affect the teen's life. 

"How much is it interfering?" Dr. Fenimore said. She continued to say that the more it interferes, the more parents should be concerned. If a teenager doesn't want to interact with family or stops being interested in their usual activities, for example, it might be time to open up a dialogue. 

Experts discuss teens, anxiety and depression

John Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Philhaven in Lancaster, and Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatric Associates, speak with LNP + LancasterOnline during a live chat about teen anxiety and depression on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. 

3. Open a conversation 

"Feelings are real," Dr. Shand said. If parents act like they aren't, brushing off sadness or bitterness as "teenage angst," for example, the teen may suffer. 

What can a parent do? Shand and Fenimore said parents should make an effort to open up a dialogue about how their child feels. Talk about how certain things make them feel and what they're thinking. 

Doing the opposite can push your child away from conversation. 

4. Get sleep; take care of your body; be social (in real life)

Both Dr. Shand and Dr. Fenimore agree that a healthy night's sleep and eating better can help with mental health. 

It's also important to be social (in real life), too. 

Social media can be great for connecting with friends and sharing fun photos, but too much of it can lead to depression and anxiety. 

Fenimore said that, in this day and age, parents can't get your child completely away from social media. But it is better to help moderate it. Parents should remember that they are, in fact, the parents -- and that they have the power to monitor their children's screen time and social media use. Fenimore also advises parents follow their children's accounts but not be omnipresent -- don't constantly like and comment on posts. 

5. Make sure to ask questions if there are warning signs

For a parent, a child is showing heightened signs of depression or anxiety, it can be alarming. But letting it play out can be dangerous. 

Make sure to ask questions, even if they're hard, Dr. Shand said. 

Asking questions like, "Have you thought about suicide?" And if so, follow up with "How often?" 

He addressed that it's not good try to just talk it out, and the best thing to do is to take action as soon as possible. 

For more from the discussion: 

The two experts also discussed CBD oil, medication, anxiety versus ADHD and more. You can watch the full video here: