Magazines / 1919689


icon 2 Photos

For teenagers of a different generation, life-altering worries often included wearing the perfect outfit, acing a test, impressing the cutest kid in school, winning the football game, annihilating a mathematics competition, or coping with family drama at home.

While these are all still legitimate concerns, teens have taken on even more — so much so that, for the last six years, they have consistently reported higher stress levels than adults, according to surveys conducted by the American Psychological Association since 2013.

Today, their higher levels of anxiety and depression can’t be reduced to “teen problems.” For some, they’re worrying about the future of the planet, or the possibility of a school shooting. For others, they’re facing off against a cyber bully, or trying to measure up to unhealthy standards set by social media.

And across the nation, but on the East End specifically, young adults have grappled with the opioid crisis, watching as some of their friends — or even themselves — spiraled into addiction.

Five years ago, Kevin Menard decided he’d had enough — and that he was equipped with the needles to help.

One day a week, for two hours, the acupuncturist set up his Sag Harbor office community style, inviting teenagers age 12 to 19 to take a seat in one of three lounge chairs for a free acupuncture clinic, which included the traditional Chinese medicine, as well as listening to binaural beats — technology-driven music that forces a meditation state.

To date, he has treated nearly 500 teens, he reported — a staggering number he never anticipated.

“Word spread pretty quickly that we were doing this, and we had a lot of students come in,” Menard said during a recent telephone interview. “And the beauty of it was kids were coming from the whole spectrum. You had your kid with purple hair right next to the jock — the top-scorer basketball player — next to a kid from the robotics club. They were all coming in, and they were super into it.”

In the United States, more than 3 million people use acupuncture, and the number among children and teens is only rising, as they mostly seek help with anxiety and sports-related injuries, such as concussions.

“I had a young lady who came in who had six concussions,” recalled Michelle Iona, owner and founder of Healing Points Acupuncture & Wellness Center in Riverhead. “She had been to every top doctor, neurologist, you name it, and she came to acupuncture as a last resort. Long story short, she got her life back. She was not in school, she was falling asleep in the middle of the day — really, really affected — and she did the work and it was miraculous to see. Her doctors were blown away by it.”

The age-old healing practice of traditional Chinese medicine — in which extremely thin needles are placed at specific points in the body to release the flow of the body’s vital energy, or qi — has been used for centuries to relieve pain and treat conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and even side effects from cancer.

“It’s just as beneficial for children and teenagers as it is for adults. With acupuncture, we can treat pretty much everything,” said Kathleen Yoneyama, owner of Eastern Sun Holistic Health in Southold, who said about 5% of her practice is children and teenagers. “It’s a much safer avenue to try before you start medication. Once you put medication in, you’re altering your body chemistry and there’s always long-term side effects of things, so I think people are starting to realize they should try something else first.”

For the average adult, a typical treatment could include 20 needles for a 15- to 20-minute session, Menard said, while a teenager might only need five to eight needles for 10 minutes in the chair.

Following in the vein of “less is more,” Iona might not even use needles at all on her youngest patients — instead turning to acupressure.

“We have pediatric tools we can use before we graduate to needles,” she said. “And even those needles are a different gauge, and they’re finer and they’re thinner, and you don’t use many on a child because you want to do the introduction and treat them, but without scaring them.”

Iona has seen patients as young as 6, generally raised by “holistic and proactive” parents who want to expose their kids to alternative forms of medicine at an early age, she said.

“The very young ones are far and few between. It’s not a big market — at least not for my practice, anyway — but the trend is up,” she said. “I think as more people start to realize it worked for them, especially with the opioid epidemic, parents are really starting to think twice about giving them an Advil, or the pain pill. They’re looking for alternatives, and acupuncture naturally comes up.”

Part of her treatment process includes a full workup, Iona said, including a medical history, evaluation of eating and sleep habits, analyzing stressors, and exploring whether her patients are finding the time to actually be teenagers and have fun.

“The kids are overwhelmed,” Iona said. “We live in a different society. When I went to school, we didn’t have to worry about, ‘Is there someone in our building who could potentially harm us?’ That was not a thought. There’s a lot of pressure on these teens. That’s what I see most. And acupuncture works incredibly well for them. When you add the lifestyle approach to it, it’s amazing to watch them flourish.”

Teaching teenagers coping mechanisms, such as meditation and breathing exercises, is key, Menard said.

“When they’re hit with things, I won’t always be around, but meditation and diet and getting acupuncture somewhere else, there are things you can do to take care of yourself,” he said. “You don’t need to turn to drugs and alcohol to feel better, or go in a deep social media rabbit hole and feel crummy about yourself. This was a way to show there are other things to escape whatever you’re feeling in your head: the anxiousness, the darkness.”

Over the past five years, Menard said he has seen the community rally around its teen population and help them find the care they need. “I was happy to be one small part of that,” he said. “These kids are our most precious resource, and we all really came together to work on saving our kids.”

“For me, it’s been a truly rewarding experience,” he added. “When the kids come in, a lot of them are shut down, really not that talkative; they don’t want to open up too much. You can see they’re wracked with pain almost. It’s really heavy. To see them slowly open up and start feeling better and happy, for me, that was so meaningful. That’s what it was all for.”

Kevin Menard inserts an acupuncture needle into a patient in his Sag Harbor office on Saturday, 7/6/19

Kevin Menard inserts an acupuncture needle into a patient in his Sag Harbor office on Saturday, 7/6/19

authorMichelle Trauring on Apr 6, 2022
For teenagers of a different generation, life-altering worries often included wearing the perfect outfit, acing a test, impressing the cutest kid in school, winning the football game, annihilating a mathematics... more

You May Also Like:

The Lore and History Surrounding ‘Steinbeck’s Cannon,’ a Staple of Harborfest

The sights of HarborFest, one of the highlights of the fall festival season, are familiar ... 18 Sep 2023 by Cailin Riley

Amythyst Kiah Encapsulates American Music

Amythyst Kiah doesn’t fit in a box, and neither does American music. In fact, this ... 14 Sep 2023 by ​Emily Weitz

Greenport Maritime Festival

A century and one year ago, a young North Forker named Alvah Goldsmith, the son ... by Michael Wright

Eating Contests Are Big Draw at San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons

The San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons has been one of the most highly anticipated ... by Cailin Riley

Land & Sea Gala Offers North Fork Locals a Moment to Embrace the Seasons

For more than three decades, a grand party — and fundraiser for the East End ... by Gianna Volpe

Fall Arts & Crafts Fair Features Local Vendors During HarborFest Weekend in Sag Harbor

No matter your price point or desire, there is a unique treasure waiting for guests ... by Gianna Volpe

It’s Pumpkin Season!

At the two pumpkin patches, the seven-acre “U-Pick” Barnyard Pumpkin Patch and the eight acres at the South U-Pick, you can stop in for fall fun any time after they open for the season, but September 23 and 24 are on the calendar as the Pumpkin Festival. “Our produce festivals are a nice way for us to let the community know that a certain crop is in, and celebrate it,” said Edward Harbes IV, the latest generation of the farm to lead operations. The Pumpkin Festival is the longest-running festival at Harbes and a tradition for families to attend across ... by Staff Writer

Brad Penuel Goes Back to His Roots With Friday Night Traditional

Picture a kitchen table, jammed with musicians playing together over beers on a Friday night. ... by Emily Weitz

Boxxcraft Provides a Way To ‘Build Before You Build’

“It’s like having a crystal ball on a jobsite.” That’s how Michael Cunningham and James ... 17 Aug 2023 by Cailin Riley

Dimon Estate Offers Dinner With a Side of History

Dinner with a side of history. The history of the property on Manor Lane in ... by Jennifer L. Henn