Many thanks to Dave Haas, Mary Ellen Arvold and Ron King for sharing their gut-wrenching experiences with teen suicide and to the Juneau Empire for running the story (March 31-April 2). Hopefully, this will make it easier for others to talk about this problem.
At the same time the articles were running, the Southeast Science Fair at Juneau-Douglas High School was completed. Two students, Emma Brown an Kelsey Castagnola, did a project that involved measuring the vitamin D levels of 12 JDHS students. Shockingly, 11 of 12 students had low vitamin D levels. These students were otherwise healthy, with good nutritional habits.
This is in line with new medical knowledge that people living in latitudes at the level of Boston or further north tend to be deficient in vitamin D. In our office, the vast majority of patients are likewise deficient.
There appears to be a connection between vitamin D and mental health. Although the studies are not as comprehensive as they need to be, studies show that people with seasonal affective disorder, depression and fibromyalgia are more likely to be vitamin D deficient than their matched counterparts.
Although vitamin D is not the only or even the major component to the suicide rate in teens, we think it behooves all of us to realize that living in Juneau leads many of us to an important nutritional deficiency. Levels of vitamin D can be obtained with a simple blood test in your doctor's office, and the supplements are available in stores without a prescription. We think it is wise for all teens and parents of teens to think of this.
Dr. Nate Haddock and the providers of Family Practice Physicians
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