Monday, August 21, 2017
A Doctor Writes – advice on mental health with Dr Shamender Talwar

A Doctor Writes – advice on mental health with Dr Shamender Talwar


Dear Dr Talwar

I AM at my wits’ end and frankly these days I am frequently considering ending it all. I suffered from depression some years ago but managed to come through it.

Now the old feelings are coming back; uselessness, what’s the point and despair at no longer fitting in with this modern world. I don’t understand so much of it. I don’t understand computer technology, I don’t understand the worship of it and I feel that I am being left behind by life.

I’m in my 60s, I’ve worked hard all my life but I have nothing at all to show for it ­– nothing. I just about manage to get by. Everybody seems to pretty much ignore me because I’m not part of the “in gang” and I very much feel that it would be better for everyone if I just didn’t exist anymore. What do you suggest?

Brian B, Maida Vale

Dear Brian

DON’T let life get the better of you, you get the better of LIFE! You may feel this way because of the way you have been treated in the past, a pattern has been set in your mind which you now have to break.

Do things to help yourself. Practise talking positively about yourself – out aloud so you plant the seed of positivity. Now you can work on watering and nurturing that seed to grow into a seedling.

Do things to help yourself, acknowledge your accomplishments – no matter how small – remember those things you were passionate about doing. Write down 10 things in your life you are grateful for. Say them every day.

Do something for others less able than yourself; a family member, a friend, a neighbour. You will feel good about it. Try to include a kind act every day, even if it is only giving a smile to someone when you are feeling good again. It will make you feel better, especially if they smile in return. If they don’t smile they might next time.

It is the little things in life that are so worthwhile, so valuable.

Give back to your community in some way and by that I don’t mean the “in gang” for they haven’t got it right either, so start in some other area of the community.

There are always old people’s homes where you can volunteer to help with games or outings or walks within their grounds. This is a fast way to wake up to all we can be grateful for, and you’ll feel good about it. Then write down things you’re grateful for – try to do that every day to remind you of the positive parts in your life.

Try to recondition yourself. You can break this cycle. Stop measuring your value on someone else’s inability or ability to understand technology. Why be someone else when you can be you? You’re one of a kind, irreplaceable, and impossible to replicate. Do you know what that means? You’re priceless!

No amount of gold or money can ever match you because no-one in the planet’s history or future will be just like you. So stop hating your beautiful, amazing perfections and imperfections because without those quirks you wouldn’t be you.

Be confident and love who you are. Smile. It will draw people in.

Try going to a hospice of sick children and see what the children are going through. Some of them won’t see double figures.

However, you have gone beyond your half-century and you must have seen some happiness in your years. Cherish those moments, Brian, and remember there many out there with bigger issues and bigger situations and heavier problems.

Let’s start to value what we have and build on it. Repeat aloud: Life will not get the better of me, I will get the better of LIFE!

Dr Talwar

Dear Dr Talwar

I WAS passed over a copy of the Westminster & City News by a friend of mine a week back. What a relief to hear somebody human and approachable like your good self.

We have a problem with our teenage son who is 15. It is difficult to communicate with him. He thinks we are his enemy, does not want to engage with us at all, and is always in his room when at home. I don’t think he is in the right company of friends too.

We believe he will be making too many wrong decisions. We love him very much, he has always been our pride and joy. What can we do ? How can you advise us? Do you do home visits?

Nicolas and Sarah, Marylebone

Dear Nicolas and Sarah

A LARGE part of living a healthy and fulfilling life is learning how to make good decisions.

Teens are at the brink of that time in their life when they should be learning how to make right decisions for themselves. Parents made decisions for their children when they were young – from the friends that they hang out with to the way that they dress.

Teens don’t magically acquire the ability to make sound decisions; they learn it. Much like learning how to walk for the first time, mistakes are part of the process. There will be mis-steps, bumps, and falls but the challenge for parents is to decide which issues they can get involved in and which ones they’ll let their teens handle.

Well-meaning parents often overstep their boundaries and try to make the decisions for their teens. When parents are worried that their teens are on the wrong path, they must ask themselves whether their teens are in immediate harm or not. Do their choices put them ­­– and other people – in harm’s way? Is intervention needed for their own safety?

When parents do not agree with their teen’s choices, they cannot just step in and tell them to change their choices. The only way for teens to sincerely make a change in their life is when they are convinced that it’s what they should do.

How then can parents help their teens make better decisions? Here are some practical tips:

Always talk to your teen. Have frequent conversations with your teen – not to lecture them but to just talk to them, know what’s going on with their life, let them know what’s going on with yours. Teens can learn a lot by the implicit lessons you can impart in casual conversations.

Be a good example. Despite what you may feel, you still exert a lot of influence on your teen’s life. They may not say much but they drink in everything that they see and take most of it to heart. The first lessons that teens learn about decision-making come from the most influential adults in their life – their parents.

Provide your teen with other options. Teens may sometimes have trouble seeing the big picture. There’s nothing wrong with widening their options and explaining to them that there are other ways to go about things. It’s even better if you help them arrive at other options by asking them questions and giving examples.

Pick your battles. Teens are individuals. They will express themselves differently from their parents, they will make different choices in life. There are things that parents may not like about their teens but are not really important, in the grand scheme of things. For example, the clothes that they pick, the music they listen to, or the colour of their hair. There are things that parents shouldn’t make a big deal about and let their teens just work through. Teens are just trying to discover what they like and don’t like. Parents should learn to pick their battles so that they don’t end up arguing with their teens over every little thing.

Let them make decisions. As long as teens know their limits, they can work within these limits and have some leeway to explore their freedom. Let your teen make a decision and see for themselves if this works for them or not. If your teen makes a bad decision, allow them to experience the consequences too.

Evaluate the decision with your teen. When teens make a decision that didn’t work out too well, it’s better if parents try to talk to them and help them work through the issue. For example, if your teen gets an F in a subject because he/she decided to go to a party over the weekend instead of study for an exam, help your teen understand how he/she could have handled the situation better. He/she could have just skipped the party, or he/she could have chosen to come home earlier, or he/she could have prepared sufficiently for the exam before the weekend.

Don’t add insult to injury. When teens make bad choices, don’t add insult to injury by saying “I told you so”. Instead of judging your teen, offer support and sympathy.

Praise good decisions. On the other hand, if your teen made a good decision, praise him/her for it. Tell your teen what made that decision a good one so that he/she will learn lessons from a positive experience as well as the negative ones.

We are living in the Google world. Twenty years ago, if my parents told me anything it was gospel. However, now the world has evolved and whenever I tell my children anything they will say “Hold on Dad, let me Google it”.

Remember that you won’t always be there to make decisions for your teen. He/she must be able to make sound decisions, and the only way that your teen could do that is if they learn decision-making and problem-solving skills early in their life.

I hope that helps you both to support your pride a

Dr Talwar

nd joy and not to forget to become psychologists to your son.

Dr Talwar

Week by week, Dr Talwar is addressing common mental-health problems and ways to overcome them. If you or someone you care for has mental-health issues, send your questions to drtalwar@


A Doctor Writes – advice on mental health with Dr Shamender Talwar