Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s sharpens focus on teen health
A Q&A with adolescent health specialist Michelle Escovedo, MD
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
It has never been more challenging to be a teenager, says Michelle Escovedo, MD.
Escovedo, an adolescent health specialist with Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s, says many teens today are affected by social media-fueled peer pressure, depression and anxiety, and the effects of the pandemic lockdown. On top of those concerns, teens and their parents also face important decisions about physical health—everything from what to do about acne to when to get which vaccines.
Still, Escovedo believes there’s reason for optimism: Today’s teens have more options for support and treatment than ever before.
“The teenage years have always been difficult,” said Escovedo, who directs a new adolescent health clinic at Guerin Children’s. “But we have options to help teens thrive.”
The Cedars-Sinai Adolescent Health Clinic is focused on the health of preteens, teenagers and young adults. The Cedars-Sinai Newsroom talked with Escovedo about what supporting young people looks like and what adolescent medicine involves.
Newsroom: What is adolescent medicine and how does it differ from general pediatric care?
Escovedo: Many young people can continue to get their care from a pediatrician, but there are some things they might feel more comfortable speaking to an adolescent medicine specialist about. These include topics in which adolescent health specialists have counseling experience, such as sex, drugs, mental health and other sensitive issues. Adolescent health specialists also can provide reproductive health services and sexually transmitted infection care that not all pediatricians have training to handle.
Newsroom: How do you connect with young people?
Escovedo: I went into this field because I enjoy being able to talk with my patients. I try to be direct, really listen and believe what they say. Sometimes teenagers will say they feel like adults in their lives talk down to them or write them off as lazy or say they have nothing to be sad about. I try to listen with an open mind and help them understand how they can make healthy choices.
Newsroom: What ages does adolescent medicine cover?
Escovedo: It’s not specific but can range from ages 12 to 25.
Newsroom: What services does the Cedars-Sinai Adolescent Health Clinic provide?
Escovedo: We counsel about general health, but also specific issues like management of menstrual disorders, eating disorders, substance use concerns, mental health, contraception, when to get vaccines like the HPV vaccine or COVID vaccines.
Newsroom: What should parents do if they’re worried about their teen’s health?
Escovedo: Adolescence is a period of development when young people seek independence and are forging their own perspectives and identities separate from their parents. But they still crave care and support from trusted adults. Your teen will still look to you for support and advice if you keep open that line of communication. Do not be afraid to approach them directly with your concerns and truly ask them about how they are doing in an open and nonjudgmental way.
Teens are not always looking for advice or a solution. Listening to them, taking their concerns seriously and letting them know that you are in their corner will go a long way.
Newsroom: If a teen is feeling persistently sad or hopeless, what are easy and confidential ways for them to get help?
Escovedo: Parents can always reach out to school counselors, teachers, administrators to see what can be done to help teens at school since this is where they spend the majority of their time. Medical doctors are also great resources to either link families to mental health resources, prescribe medications if necessary, or assess whether an adolescent needs a higher level of care. Teens can always speak to their doctors confidentially about their mental health concerns.
If your teen is actively in a mental health crisis or is actively suicidal, call or text 988. This is the mental health analog to 911. The calls and messages are answered by crisis counselors.
Newsroom: Is there anything else young people and parents should think about?
Escovedo: There is likely a connection between mental health and social media use. Be sure to check in on your teen’s social circles in real life and on social media. Is there bullying occurring at school or online? Is your teen being influenced by misinformation or engaging with unhealthy accounts or groups? Is your teen spending too much time online at the expense of other interests and activities? It is important to be proactive about social media use and internet safety.
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