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Teenagers & Suicide: What To Do If You’re Worried About Your Child

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among young people (the first is automobile accidents). What’s the reason for this epidemic? In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen explain the factors involved in the rising suicide rate, as well as give you some practical tips for what to do if you’re concerned about a loved one.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit AmenClinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to BrainMD.com
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're talking about young people and mental health issues, and we're so glad you joined us, even if you don't have young people in your life. If you're listening to us, you may have struggled at some point.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Often these issues began in childhood or in adolescence. Did you know on average, it's 11 years between the time a child first has their symptom and their first appointment to get help.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That is so sad.
Tana Amen: And we've got a lot of kids in our life, right, that we sort of take care of and you know, that are in our family. I don't know one of them that hasn't had some issue at some point.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, it's more normal to have a problem than not to have a problem, at least if you're connected to us.
Tana Amen: Right. But we're very aware of it and we're very proactive. So, I want to start off with a testimonial. This is a new brain warrior by Sherry Luna. "This podcast has helped to instill an appreciation for brain-healthy living and has been a great daily reminder that health is wealth. I'm so glad that I can take this awesome advice with me everywhere I go. It's been such great listening while taking my daily walks around the neighborhood. I hope to become a devoted brain warrior and continue down this path of wholesome wellbeing. Thank you so much." That's awesome.
So, in the last episode we were talking about mental health days, which you called brain health days, which I love. Let's talk about why this is so important. I mean, suicide's going up like crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it's so concerning. It's an epidemic, you know? But since 1999, cancer has declined 27%, while suicide has gone up 33% and the answers why. I believe we're just working on the wrong paradigm. We see depression as an illness as opposed to a cluster of symptoms that have so many different causes. The final act of someone who's depressed is suicide. Now in adolescents, because you think you're going to live forever, they don't really see the behavior as the end.
Tana Amen: Final. Final.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The end.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Even though it is.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Often people who kill themselves do it when they're drunk. They do it when they're intoxicated. They've had thoughts, but they had some measure of impulse control. When you drink or do drugs, it often takes away your control, so you act out without forethought.
Tana Amen: So, these numbers are alarming. In 2017, 5,016 males and 1,225 females between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States killed themselves. That's very alarming. I mean, that's just crazy. But my question is why so many more males than females?
Dr. Daniel Amen: We've known that forever, that women make more attempts, about four times the number of attempts, because their ability to communicate is better generally. So they'll use the suicide gesture as a cry for help. When a male decides to do it, he's less likely to tell someone about it and he's more likely to use violent means.
Tana Amen: Oh. That makes sense.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, is more likely to shoot himself, hang himself as opposed to-
Tana Amen: And girls don't really like blood that much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, you're a surgical ICU nurse, so you sort of-
Tana Amen: Yeah, it doesn't bother me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It doesn't bother you. So, it's the method they choose and also underlying level of communication for pain. So males, especially teenage males, will often not say they're sad, but they will act mad, and there's a huge connection between irritability, aggression, and suicide. We think that's one of the major reasons for the gender difference.
Tana Amen: What's interesting is that according to the study in JAMA, the numbers, they're the highest they've ever been. It's not just because we're collecting data better. They're actually saying that the numbers are the highest they've ever been taking into consideration, you know, population, everything else. The numbers are going up, you know, as far as percentage. The female suicide has doubled from 2000 to 2017. What's going on?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I think, you know, as we alluded to in the last podcast, there are a lot of things going on. Our diets fad and that is changing.
Tana Amen: Does it change that much? From 20 to 2017 though, not that much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it's not getting better. It seems, to me at least, to be getting worse. Everything's processed, everything's packaged, everything's quick. Social media-
Tana Amen: That's worse.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Really wasn't much of a factor in 2000.
Tana Amen: No, no.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And now it's everywhere.
Tana Amen: Okay. So you just touched on something really important.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and we have a 15 year old, almost a 16 year old and she's actually pretty good with social media.
Tana Amen: Because she knows it makes her sad.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And why does it make her sad?
Tana Amen: For her, she actually notices two things. When she spends too much time looking at any screen, she starts to feel a little wonky, like physically wonky. She'll notice that she's like, "Why does everyone look like this? What is everybody ..." And she just starts to notice that she's comparing all the time and she doesn't like that, because when she doesn't look at it, she feels great about herself. But she notices.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it's so funny, you know, because I've been criticized a lot over the years for my work, I mean, because what we do is very different. I find if I hang out with critical people, I feel bad, and if I just don't allow them in my life, I just feel so much happier about myself.
Tana Amen: You know, I don't think Chloe's unique. I think this is a very common thing with teen ... Like I said, we have a lot of kids in our lives. Our niece is the same way. Other kids that we know are the same way. This is a common thing with kids. So much so that a lot of girls are doctoring their photos because they need to feel like they can compete with what's going on in social media, which is part of the problem.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Then they don't have a level of authenticity.
Tana Amen: No, and then they feel bad about that. That's something new to the scene for girls. Well for all kids, but girls I think are affected by it, you know, tremendously.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and when you think about it, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall, which is insane that in the top 10, people choosing to leave Earth early. It's the second leading cause of death among young people after motor vehicle accidents, and it may, if this trend continues become the first. [crosstalk 00:08:21].
Tana Amen: Especially because now there are less kids dying in motor vehicle accidents because of Uber, and there are more kids dying of suicide because that's going up.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I really thought about scanning all the Uber driver brains so that then-
Tana Amen: I know, that's a little scary. I'm like, we're just thinking that Uber is safer and I'm not sure it is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, if you have a teenager you're worried about, what can you do? One, you can take our free brain health assessment online and know well, which brain type do they have? And make sure you give them the nutrition and supplementation that can help them. That's one thing to do. We also have a course Brain Thrive by 25 that they can take.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative), it's really good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Independent research in 16 schools showed decreased drug, alcohol and tobacco use, decreased depression and improved self-esteem. So, teaching them to love their brains.
Tana Amen: What I like about that course is it really helps them to understand what ... Telling a kid, "Oh, eat healthy, eat healthy," they don't really understand why. They don't make the connection. It really helps them from a practical standpoint to understand why certain foods ... Food is medicine or it's poison, right? So, why certain foods do tend to lead to things like depression and anxiety, whereas other foods tend to settle those down. Supplements, we talked about that before. Vitamin D, fish oil, they can radically help for some people. Certain supplements just really help. So, it's really helpful. That course is really great for that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and so from a supplement standpoint, I think all kids should take a multiple vitamin.
Tana Amen: For sure.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because it just gets them the nutrients they need that may be lacking in their diet.
Tana Amen: Because they're not getting them, usually.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All kids should be taking omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, and many young teenagers are vegetarians for moral reasons, but it just plummets the omega-3 level in their body.
Tana Amen: And drives up omega-6.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It drives up omega-6 and it drives up inflammation, which is a major cause of both depression and dementia.
Tana Amen: Let me just touch on something, it doesn't have to do that. You can be conscious. If you do it right ... Sadly, kids tend to think that being a vegetarian means you can eat French fries and donuts and like they don't really get it. It's like, "Oh, I'm just not eating animal protein." It doesn't work like that. So, you can be a healthy vegetarian. You have to know what you're doing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, no, one of our doctors was a vegetarian. His family's from India and he's one of the most unhealthy people I've met.
Tana Amen: Because he thought he could eat French fries and donuts.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Pasta and chips.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, all the things that weren't good.
Tana Amen: But when he became clear-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, diet, supplementation, getting them more in the sun, actually measuring their vitamin D level ... And you know, another thing that's happened in the last 20 years that people don't talk about much is the dermatologists won. They made us afraid of the sun.
Tana Amen: Well, we have to be conscious.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But vitamin D levels have plummeted. It's like 80% of the population is now low in vitamin D, and when you're low in vitamin D, leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating, doesn't work, so you're more likely to gain weight.
Tana Amen: Eat bad food.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're worried on social media about a body image issue and now you're overweight-
Tana Amen: It just creates anxiety.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the fat on your body also increases inflammation in your body. You see how it could spiral into a negative. So, I just think everybody should measure their vitamin D. If you're in a place like Oregon or like Seattle or Michigan, then you may need to take a supplement and the recommended daily allowance, which is 400 international units a day and NeuroVite Plus, ours, it has 2,000 units. That's five times the RDA because that's the dose that I think can get people into a healthy range.
Tana Amen: And for some people it takes a lot more than that. I mean, it depends on how ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, I take 7,000.
Tana Amen: I take 7,000 and that keeps me in a normal range. It just depends on you, what you've got going on with your health and you need to have it measured. So, one thing I want to before we end, I want to make sure if you know someone who's struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please don't let it go and think it's just going to get better. Help this person reach out. You can go, you can call our clinics, you can talk to someone at our care center, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It's (800) 273-8255, that's (800) 273-8255. Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And there's a crisis text line that you can actually text. Text HOME to 741741 for immediate assistant, because you know, especially for young people, they often aren't used to calling.
Tana Amen: They don't like calling.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They're used to texting.
Tana Amen: Yeah. So, this is really important. We really appreciate you guys listening and taking this seriously. Pass this on to someone you know. If you know someone's struggling, our goal is to help decrease the stigma, and we want to help you get this message out. So, make sure you leave a comment.
Dr. Daniel Amen: One thing to tell your kids, if one of their friends tells them that they're suicidal and they say, "But please don't tell anyone," always tell them never to listen to that. You have to tell someone because that's the responsible thing to do.
Tana Amen: That's a really good point.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a very high percentage of people who later killed themselves that told someone they were going to do it. So, just tell your kids, "If somebody ever says that to you, say, 'I really care about you. I have to tell someone,'" and even if that person gets mad, it's better to be mad than dead.
Tana Amen: Right. I love that. That's so true. So, please leave a comment. Let us know if this has been helpful to you. Pass this on to someone that you know if they need it. You know you can go to BrainWarriorsWayPodcast.com, leave a comment. You can go to Tana Amen on Instagram or Daniel Amen and we want to hear from you. Let us know if this has been helpful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Thanks so much.
Tana Amen: If you are enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode, and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain-healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at AmenClinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at BrainMDHealth.com. For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.