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How parents can play a key role in the prevention and treatment of teen mental health problems

Nearly 1 in 5 US teenagers battle depression. But parents can help by communicating openly, creating a behavior contract and finding low-pressure opportunities…

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Early detection is key to treating depression in teenagers. dragana991/iStock via Getty Images Plus

More than 44% of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in the first half of 2021, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The early 2022 report, which was based on an online survey, also found that nearly 20% had seriously considered suicide, and 9% attempted suicide.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a likely contributor to these startling figures, but rates of teen mental illness have been rising over the past decade.

One crucial factor that has received little attention in supporting teen mental health is the role that parents can play.

This is surprising, since research has clearly established that participation by a caregiver in their child’s mental health treatment is directly related to a successful outcome. A key reason for this is that parents generally interact with their teen on a daily basis and can model and cultivate coping skills.

Yet, for mental health professionals, it can be challenging to integrate parents into teens’ treatment when there are discrepancies between the perspectives, goals and expectations of teens and parents. In addition, consent and privacy laws sometimes limit providers’ abilities to disclose key details about a teen’s mental health to parents.

As researchers studying childhood trauma and adolescent development, we see parents and caregivers as a critical link in addressing the urgent mental health crisis among teens.

The teenage years can be brutal

Parents often dread the teenage years, anticipating mood swings, risk-taking behaviors and endless arguments. Some of this is developmentally normal: Teens are developing their identities, testing limits and asserting their autonomy. These combined factors can lead to hostility and a lower-quality parent-teen relationship.

Physically, teens are sleep-deprived, in part due to overly early school start times and hormonal changes associated with puberty. As a result, teens can be irritable and sensitive to stressors. They also haven’t developed the self-control to manage their reactions.

And it’s important to note that half of all mental illness emerges by age 14 and 75% by age 24, making adolescence a highly sensitive period for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems.

Signs and symptoms of a mental health concern

Mental health problems in teens can sometimes take unexpected forms. Depression and anxiety can manifest as irritability and noncompliance, which parents may reasonably view as disrespect and laziness. Understanding what is beneath those behaviors is challenging. Teens are quite secretive, so they may not disclose the extent of their struggles.

Traumatic experiences like bullying, dating violence and sexual harassment and assault are unfortunately too common in adolescence and can cause drastic changes in behavior and affect.

Although anxiety is a normal emotional response at any age, about a third of adolescents have some type of anxiety disorder, and about 10% experience severe impairment as a result. Teens struggling with chronic anxiety may experience agitation or irritability, issues with sleep, perfectionist tendencies, or may try to avoid stressful things altogether.

Keeping a journal, exercising regularly and maintaining a sleep routine are three ways for teens to cope with stress.

Among teens, 17% struggle with depression. Depression generally involves a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, but it is more than feeling blue. For teens, symptoms of depression may look like withdrawing from family or social activities, shutting down during conversations or conflict, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness about the future or negative feelings of self-worth.

Depression can also be associated with self-harm and suicide.

In determining whether a teen is experiencing a mental illness, parents should consider how behaviors are affecting their teens’ everyday lives and plans for the future. Those who are falling behind in school, damaging important relationships or engaging in high-risk behaviors may be most likely to be experiencing a mental health issue – as opposed to typical teenage challenges.

A shortage of mental health care

Despite the growing need for mental health care, the U.S. has a dire shortage of professionals to meet the demand. Insurance companies create barriers to accessing mental health care by restricting the numbers of in-network providers and approved sessions. As a result, many providers prioritize patients who will pay out of pocket.

Parents and teens may wait months for an appointment, and the quality and effectiveness of the services they receive are highly variable. All the while, symptoms may worsen, straining the family and compromising teens’ social and academic opportunities.

The powerful role parents can play

This is where parents come in, since they can serve as role models for teens’ coping and emotional development.

While good sleep, consistent exercise and quality meals can often be the first line of defense in preventing and managing symptoms of mental health problems, there are several behavioral strategies for parenting struggling teens. Indeed, foster parents care for children with complex histories of trauma, and many of the behavior management strategies taught to foster parents may be useful for traditional family settings as well.

When teens are unkind or disrespectful, parents may take it personally. But parents who are aware of and able to manage their own triggers can react calmly to challenging behavior, creating opportunities for effective communication with their teen.

Building and maintaining the parent-teen connection, such as by watching a TV show together or other low-pressure opportunities to be together, is key. These experiences create safe spaces and opportunities for teens to communicate about difficult emotions or situations. Parents who assist teens in recognizing, talking about and dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings help them to understand how their thoughts and feelings can affect their behavior.

Set up a behavior contract with your teen.

Parents can also help their teens manage negative emotions by reinforcing their self-esteem and strengths and encouraging self-efficacy. Parents who offer praise to their teens who are working hard to overcome challenges – as opposed to focusing solely on the outcome – can help teens see their worth beyond their accomplishments.

At the same time, teens require boundaries that allow them to build self-reliance, exercise independence and practice compromise in certain situations. Behavior contracts – in which teens and their parents agree to certain conditions in writing – can provide a structured way to establish shared expectations.

When consequences are necessary, natural consequences allow teens to learn without parental intervention. For example, if a teen stays up late the night before a big softball game, their coach may bench them for playing poorly. Parents can help teens to connect the frustration and disappointment they experience to their choices regarding sleep, which can be more helpful for their future decision-making than getting into an argument with a parent about their decision or receiving a parent-imposed consequence, such as removing phone privileges.

When natural consequences are not an option, discipline should be specific, time-limited and focused on a specific outcome, such as not allowing preferred activities until homework and chores are complete.

It is also important that parents avoid power struggles with their teens by modeling respectful communication without trying to manage the teen’s reaction or perspective. Teens are unlikely to admit to being wrong – particularly in a heated moment – and if the point is made, there is rarely a benefit to insisting upon a particular reaction such as a forced apology.

Parents can best support their teens by maintaining connection alongside enforcing structure and discipline. While challenging behaviors can be the status quo of adolescence, parents should be on the lookout for signs that might reflect a pervasive mental health issue, since early detection and treatment is crucial.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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