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Highway to Health

April 1999                                   

Charles E. runels Jr., MD                      

You may copy this page and distribute freely.                


Considering the recent events in Colorado, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some basic facts about teenagers and emotional problems. Much of this applies to adults as well.

Each year about 5,000 (that's FIVE THOUSAND!) teenagers in the USA commit suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. White children attempt suicide twice as often as blacks. Girls attempt suicide 10 times more often than boys, but boys are more likely to complete suicide. 60% of high school students have thought about suicide.

IS SOMEONE YOU KNOW CONSIDERING SUICIDE?: Here are the risk factors:  past attempt; family history of psychiatric disorder; history of depression; argument with friend of loved one; loss of self-esteem; death of loved one; parent's divorce (especially if parents divorced when child less than 12 years of age); child abuse; medical illness; substance abuse; ongoing stress (foster home, sexual abuse); significant problem (e.g., recent loss of loved one; arrest; caught cheating; preoccupation with death); high rate of suicide in community; access to guns or to medicines; thinking he or she is alone.

Everyone goes through normal seasons of highs and lows; but, if your low season lasts over 6 months you have a problem. Depression can be related to undiagnosed medical problems. Many of the prescription medicines can causes depression (beta blockers (a class of antihypertensive) and H2 blockers (used to treat ulcers) are 2 of the most notorious).

If you think you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, seek medical help fast.

WHAT IS YOUR REAL AGE?: The book Real Age gives a very useful and scientifically based method for calculating your biological age. Gives a good idea what you expected life span is if you keep doing what you're doing and offers excellent advice on ways to lengthen that expectancy. 

LIVE UP TO 25% LONGER! (AND SLEEP BETTER TOO): Reminder.. Melatonin has been shown to extend the life span of mice by up to 25%. It lowers LDL cholesterol levels and shows promise as a treatment of diabetes, cataracts and Alzheimer's disease. Start with 1mg per night for 3 or 4 nights per week. If this makes you drowsy, the next day, cut it back to 1/2 mg at night. If you don't notice your sleep improving, increase the dose to up to 3mg each night.

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