Mental health experts give talk at library: Doctors discuss mental illness in modern teenagers and open the floor to questions

Maddie Lane and Ilana Grabiner

Mental health experts visited the Port Washington Public Library to address the issue of adolescent mental illness on Oct. 15.  The panel consisted of three specialists: Dr. Linda Carmine, Dr. James Snyder and Dr. Bradford Tepper.  Each professional focused on a specific aspect of treating mental illness in teenagers.
Dr. Carmine, the director of the School Health Program at North Shore-LIJ, is involved with treating adolescent HIV, eating disorders, and maintaining girls’ reproductive health. The expert discussed the process of recognizing mental health issues and struggles in teenagers.  She stressed that a teenager’s identity should not be based on his or her condition and provided parents and students with advice on how to create a supportive environment for these children.
“The biggest aspect, in terms of resilience, is family support,” said Dr. Carmine.
In addition to being a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Tepper serves Nassau County. As part of his presentation at the library, he focused on adolescent psychotherapy.  Dr. Tepper revealed a handful of strategies that he utilizes in order to comfort a patient and to create a safe environment.  Firstly, he refered to himself as the “doctor of feelings” rather than as a psychiatrist. To further establish a friendly and harmless environment, Dr. Tepper tells his young patients to “search [his] office for needles,” so that they do not fear him.  He noticed that both of these tactics make the patient feel at ease in his office.  
Dr. Tepper explained that in recent years academic pressures are at an all-time high due to the amount of AP and honors courses students take in order to meet many colleges’ high standards. Furthermore, social pressure has been on the rise over the past few years as a result of the increased presence of social media.  
To those looking for signs of a teenager with mental illness, Dr. Tepper presents a list of typical symptoms. He cites major social or academic changes, bullying, parental conflict, legal troubles, a traumatic experience, acting out, and self-harm as signs of teenage mental illness. Dr. Tepper explains that he treats these signs through psychoanalysis, and by involving the family in the teenager’s life. 
His ultimate goal is to help teenagers get back on track. Despite his intentions, Dr. Tepper notes that he experiences challenges in resolving these issues.  
“Therapy is not a simple fix,” said Dr. Tepper.  “It takes time and effort.”
The third speaker, Dr. Snyder, spoke about medicating patients suffering from mental illness.  Dr. Snyder is the president and founder of Long Island Psychiatric in Roslyn and the author of Jimmy Racecar, a book for children that features ADHD and self-esteem issues.  
The doctor began his presentation stating that doctors are often too quick to prescribe medicine for mental health conditions.  He explained that medicine should be viewed as a “last resort,” and suggests patients to try psychotherapy or other non-medicinal solutions first. 
Dr. Snyder continued on to dispel many myths, fears regarding mental illness medication as well as to shed light on the medications’ possible side effects. While people may believe that some medicines are more safe than others, he explained that no two cases are alike.  Thus, medicine has a different effect on each individual patient.
At the end of the presentations, the audience was able to ask the panelists questions regarding their respective fields, as well as providing them with with feedback. Issues regarding the financial struggles of parents with children suffering from mental illness arose multiple times. Each time, the doctors displayed their sympathy for these parents. Dr. Carmine, Dr. Tepper and Dr. Snyder, along with a multitude of doctors in the area, have all volunteered hours at nearby clinics to aid those who cannot afford treatment.  The panel suggested that the parents become involved in local groups, such as SEPTA.
Audience members thanked the doctors. 
“I thought the speakers were excellent,” said freshman Genia Peierls, “They each spoke very well about their expertise.”