You’ve updated their school wardrobe, their new backpacks are filled with the right school supplies – but are your teens emotionally ready to start a new school year?
Dr. Melissa Deuter, a board-certified psychiatrist based in San Antonio, is an expert and trendsetter in the world of mental health care. Her new book, Stuck in the Sick Role: How Illness Becomes An Identity, was born of her special interest in the care of teens, young adults, and their families, with a special interest in the unique mental health needs of emerging adults. Deuter is the founder of Sigma Mental Health Urgent Care, which provides immediate psychiatric and therapeutic services during moments of crisis, as well as providing brief psychiatric and counseling services to individuals who are currently without a mental health provider while they find a long-term practitioner who will meet their needs.
Are you originally from Texas?
My hometown is Eastland, Texas, in Eastland County. But when I was 12, we moved to Clarksville, TN right outside the Army base at Ft. Campbell, KY. My stepfather was in the 101st Airborne. I spent my teen years surrounded by a very rich and diverse military culture. Many of my friends had been all over the world with their military parents. I had only lived in Texas and Tennessee, but for me, that was like taking an adventure to the other side of the earth!
“There’s a ton of parenting advice out there, but in the end, you know your kid better than any expert…trust your experience and intuition as a parent.” ~ Dr. Melissa Deuter
What was it about San Antonio that made you make it your home?
It was the residency match that brought me and my husband, Brian, to the San Antonio area. He matched into pediatrics and I into psychiatry. The UT Health Science Center San Antonio was our choice because of the diverse training programs in psychiatry (military, veterans, community health) and access to a dedicated children’s hospital in pediatrics. We stayed because San Antonio is a wonderful place to raise kids. By the time I finished four years or psychiatry residency, we had a 2-year-old and a newborn. People in San Antonio love babies, and nurture young families. We couldn’t imagine taking our kids anywhere else. We put the family ahead of any other career considerations.
You do a lot of work with emerging adults – what are their unique mental health needs?
Emerging adults, the stage that comprises late teens and young adults, are a unique group. During the emerging adult stage, most mental health crises blossom. But it’s also a stage where life gets complicated. Taking on the task of becoming a responsible, contributing adult is daunting. Treating young adults really brings together my interests in prevention and awareness of the psychosocial environment for treating mental illness.
If parents are looking to engage with their teens, what activities do you suggest?
I think parents and there teens can connect in so many ways. Really, the important thing is just to connect. Put down your cell phone, turn off the TV, and just interact with each other.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your family?
I love a good road trip. At least twice a year, my husband Brian and I load up the three kids (now lanky teenagers) in my Mini Cooper and take off down the road with only a loose plan of what we’re doing. I love being in close proximity to my kids and going on an adventure together. We all love it!
What one piece of advice do you wish you could give to any parent?
Trust your gut. There’s a ton of parenting advice out there, but in the end, you know your kid better than any expert. If your gut tells you not to follow my advice, trust your experience and intuition as a parent. You’ll be right more often than not.
Cover: Courtesy photo of Melissa Deuter