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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

The Recent Frightening Teeange Suicide Statistics

A February 18, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Teens' Mental-Health Distress Could Be Worse Than CDC Data Suggest") describes an alleged crisis. I tend to be leery of alarming statistics and particularly about suicide. As a psychologist who has treated children and teenagers for decades, my experience is that true suicidal ideation, having all the required diagnostic symptoms of suicidal plan, intent, means, and inadequate self-control, is rare. Searching for such individuals is, as has long been stated, like searching for a needle in a haystack. I remember only two youth that I've referred for hospitalization. While all such instances should be professionally evaluated, many youth are inappropriately hospitalized causing harmful development consequences.

With regard to the effect of the COVID emergency on youth academics: some survived it without difficulty, doing as well as they usually did; others missed their friends but also did as usual except for math which seems of particular difficulty when taught online; and others did poorly, particularly those for whom sports are important. Certainly not an enviable situation but... The COVID situation seemed regarded by youth with equanimity, being typical of the adults' craziness they must endure and, when grown-up, will remedy.

The important of "good-enough" parenting, from infancy and toddlerhood onward but particularly then, is critical to healthy psychological development. Sophisticated knowledge of child psychological development is widely lacking among doctors, the public, and school systems resulting in student misery and inadequate academic achievement.

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An Unnerving Teenage Behavior

A behavior that parents find disheartening is their teenager's tendency to form rapid judgments about friends. Quickly deciding if a friend is "good" or "bad" and, if the latter, instantly removing them from their phone and online "friend" status.


Yet this behavior is analogous to that of infants who relate to their mother in black/white terms, whether or not she satisfies their momentary need. Only after maturing can a child relate to others in terms of shades of gray, understanding that one can possess both good and bad characteristics.


Similarly, the teenager whose personality is slowly developing into their fixed adult structure, requires maturing to accomplish this anew, and some with emotional difficulties never do.

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Things Aren't Always As They Seem

Near Huntington, Long Island's railroad station is a lovely, condo-like, low-income housing development. A young teacher, walking to the home of a student for a parent visit, saw three teenagers sitting on a stoop and became frightened (everyone knows how dangerous teenagers are!). As she nervously walked by, one teenager asked the others, "Do you think she sells vacuums?"

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Excessive Video Game Play By Teenagers

On a bulletin board on Amazon.com, a mother spoke of her distress at the excessive video game play by her teenager. This was his major interest and interfered with his school performance and family life. So intense was his involvement with these games that he would become enraged when his parents attempted  Read More 
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