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February 2023 – Vol. #20, No. 11

Teen mental health – sadness, suicide and social media; An Uncle’s Wisdom on Love, Work and Play; Some Reflections Four years after I lost my wife.

Welcome to the February edition of Tips and Topics.

In SAVVY, I share some recent news items on teen mental health, especially with teen girls versus boys. Statistics on sadness, suicidal feelings, thoughts and attempts and social media use.

In SKILLS, I reflect on “wisdoms” I shared with my 21 year old niece…wisdoms that I wished I had known at 21 about Work, Love and Play.

In SOUL, my ever evolving grief process and that of my children has been reflections on our past family relationships. They provide an opportunity to remember how life was when Marcia was alive with us. They also allow for healing old wounds that haven’t served us well.


In the health news feeds I get, I have noticed more and more on teen mental health. Here are some concerning statistics and some items about social media that many suppose may be significant contributors to teen mental health concerns, especially in teenage girls.

Tip 1

Nearly Three In Five Teenage Girls Felt Persistent Sadness In 2021, Double The Rate Of Boys.

…”one in three girls seriously considered attempting suicide, according to data” (PDF) released February 13, 2023 by the CDC.

These “findings, based on surveys given to teenagers across the country, also showed high levels of violence, depression and suicidal thoughts among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.” The CDC report found that “more than one in five of these students reported attempting suicide in the year before the survey.”

Tip 2

Habitual social media use may be associated with heightened sensitivity to social rewards, scan study suggests.

According to the New York Times  “children who habitually checked their social media feeds at around age 12 showed a distinct trajectory, with their sensitivity to social rewards from peers heightening over time,” while “teenagers with less engagement in social media followed the opposite path, with a declining interest in social rewards.”

Researchers arrived at these conclusions after conducting “successive” functional magnetic resonance imaging “brain scans of middle schoolers between the ages of 12 and 15, a period of especially rapid brain development.” The findings were published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

 Tip 3

US Officials Raise Concern Over Impact Of TikTok On Teens’ Mental Health.”

 “In recent months, TikTok has faced growing pressure from state and federal lawmakers over concerns about its ties to China through its parent company, ByteDance.” However, “some lawmakers and researchers have also been scrutinizing the impact that the short-form video app may have on its youngest users.” Still, the app “is far from the only social platform to be scrutinized by lawmakers and mental health experts for its impact on teens.” CNN


I don’t know the cause, effects and solutions to the role of social media like TikTok and Instagram on teen mental health. I have seen the heart-breaking stories of young girls’ eating disorders obsessed with sculpting the “perfect” body to garner more and more “likes” rewards. There is a lot of smoke around social media’s role in the teen mental health fire.

Last year, my niece turned 21. In addition to the material gift, this 73 year old psychiatrist uncle shared “wisdoms” that he wished he had known at 21. Life could have been much sweeter. It will be up to a better informed younger generation of mental health professionals to steer children and teens on the healthy use of social media. My “scope of practice” lies outside of the urgent need to get a handle on social media.

Here’s what I shared in her birthday card on Love, Work and Play with some added reflections:

Tip 1 

In WORK, may you not just have a JOB (making money Just Over Budget).

May you find jobs that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life; and you will work like you don’t need money.

For me, I was fortunate to indeed find a mission-filled rewarding career, from which I am in the process of moving away. I am satisfied that I have done a nice piece of work, ready to shift attention to new horizons.

Tip 2

In LOVE, may you love unconditionally.

That doesn’t mean loving someone regardless of what they do to you or how they are being with you. What it means is to remain in a state of love regardless of the conditions around you – where you don’t need people to BE a certain way for you to remain in a state of love. It is easy to be in love with NRE (New Relationship Energy); or when everything is going smoothly. That is conditional love. May you be in a state of love even when “conditions” are not so easy.

It is amazing to me that I have always thought of “unconditional love” as having to do with how you accept the other person when they are being ‘them’ and acting a certain way. I now have a broader understanding where “unconditional love” has more to do with you, yourself. You are responsible for and empowered to attend to your own happiness and serenity (loving yourself) regardless of the conditions around you. No-one else is to blame or responsible for your happiness.

Tip 3

In PLAY, play continuously.

That means in WORK, LOVE and PLAY, do only what brings you joy. Don’t be with anyone or do anything that does not bring you joy. Joy doesn’t mean you have to be laughing all the time. If a hard workout is tough and hard, but brings you joy, you are in joy.

If you are not living with joy, how can you bring joy and positivity to others? How can you attract people to a better way of being and living if you come to them broken and depleted?


February 23 is the fourth year anniversary of my wife’s passing. If you wish to track my grief process from the initial announcement in February 2019 through the SOUL section each February to last year’s February 2022 edition, here are some linksor you can look at the Archives on the right hand side of the Tips and Topics website.

I am fortunate to have a close relationship with my three children. We are used to sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas. From time to time, we have reflected on what life was like when their mother and my wife was still with us in the “physical”.

There is no value in looking back only to judge and berate oneself for shortcomings that are clear now in hindsight. But I have discovered that there is value in looking back and reflecting on our marital relationship and our parental styles in a way that would not be as possible were she still here in the thick of daily living.

To give an example, my son was sharing how his relationship to money and career was impacted differently by his relationship with his mother versus his father (me). “I always knew mum loved me unconditionally” he said. “While I knew you loved me, I also experienced expectations that affected how I saw myself in light of your career, attitudes about money and what success looks like”.

Taylor went on to explain further:

  • Making money meant working long hours at a career that took his father away from him ‘on the road’.
  • Stay-at-home mum was there for him.
  • If making money means not having my dad around as much as I wanted, then making money feels negative, not the message that money can bring freedom from having to worry about money.
  • These negative associations about money interacted with a contemplative personality to conclude that I am better suited for a career of preserving the environment or working for causes not rewarded by money. I won’t be wealthy and anyway I don’t want to be.
  • That self image is dissolving as making money gets disentangled from its negative associations.

It is true that making money and having money doesn’t assure happiness and joy.  But as Taylor has worked through his negative associations to money he has tasted and enjoyed the freedoms that having adequate resources bring.

So why have I shared this father-son conversation?

Part of the ever evolving grief process for me and my children has been these reflections on our past family relationships. They provide an opportunity to remember how life was when Marcia was alive with us. They also allow for healing old wounds that haven’t served us well. Part of that healing with my son included the following:

  • Acknowledgement, regret and awareness of the dark side of my career choice that took me on the road. Like anything there is a light side that will also serve his career choices and potential as a leader in personal development, inspiring others to grow and thrive.
  • Accepting responsibility for father-son interactions of yesteryear that were definitely judgmental laced with expectations and concerned questioning from a parent about his motivation to get into college to develop a “successful” career.
  • But today, an opportunity for healing to make it clear that I have no concern for his choices and future. I am certain that he will succeed at whatever he puts his mind and energy into.
  • Today, questions and father-son interactions are all about brainstorming and excited co-creating, not skeptical concern and doubt about his choices on money and career.

While we all miss Marcia still, one of the gifts that she left us was the opportunity to transform her loss into new insights and healing in our already strong family ties.

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