Behavioral Health

Ring in a Less Stressful Holiday

Holiday Decorations

The holidays are supposed to be filled with peace, joy and happiness. But they often blur into a whirlwind of competing demands – gift shopping, entertaining guests, attending parties and preparing special foods – and that’s only a few of the stressors.

“This time of year can be particularly challenging for anyone struggling with depression, addiction or chronic pain” says Travis Svensson, M.D., Ph.D., director of Chemical Dependency for Mills-Peninsula Health Services. “Planning ahead before the holiday season is in full swing can help minimize stress and depression, especially if you know that you have suffered from the holiday blues in the past.”

Use these four tips from Dr. Svensson to reduce holiday stress:

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Painkiller Addiction: What to Know


More than 12 million people in the United States regularly use painkillers. From a twisted ankle to a trip to the dentist, short-term pain medications are the most commonly prescribed cure. That cure, however, is too often becoming a disease: Addiction.

“Abuse of prescription painkillers is at epidemic levels,” says Travis Svensson, M.D., Ph.D., the new director of Chemical Dependency for Mills-Peninsula Health Services. In fact, after marijuana, prescription painkillers are now the most abused group of drugs in the nation, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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How to Spot Teen Depression

How do you know whether a teenager is experiencing the regular ups and downs of adolescence or something deeper?

In this Healthpoints video, Dan Becker, M.D., medical director of Behavioral Health at Mills-Peninsula, discusses the signs of teen depression and how to help a struggling teenager.

Tour Mills-Peninsula’s Behavioral Health Center

One of the most common misconceptions about mental illness is that it doesn’t happen to “us, says Dan Becker, M.D., psychiatrist and medical director of Mills-Peninsula’s Behavioral Health Department.

In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, about one in four adults in the United States has a mental Health condition in any given year.

“It can affect people of all ages,” Dr. Becker says, “Which is why we are so fortunate to have a comprehensive program right here on the Peninsula that serves our adolescents, adults and seniors.”

Mills-Peninsula’s Behavioral Health programs, which include mental health and chemical dependency treatment, recently moved into a new, spacious and light-filled space at the Mills Health Center in San Mateo. Tour the new center in this video segment from Healthpoint TV.

Teen Mental Health – Help Close to Home

Adolescence is a time of challenge and change. Teens are under a lot of pressure to grow up, says Dan Becker, M.D., psychiatrist and medical director of Mills-Peninsula Behavioral Health Department.

“They have many developing skills, but may lack the judgment, experience or impulse control to use them well,” he says. That’s why behavioral problems tend to surface during this time of life.

Find out more about how to recognize signs of distress in teens in this video segment from Healthpoint TV, filmed at Mills-Peninsula’s new Behavioral Health facility in San Mateo, which was built to provide a safe and comfortable place for families in our community to get help close to home.

Exercise for Better Mental Health

Exercise is great for your body, but studies show that it also boosts your mental and emotional well being, according to Brooke Benjamin, Mills-Peninsula exercise physiologist.

Moderate amounts of exercise release those feel-good endorphins and help to:

  • Improve your quality of life
  • Reduce stress
  • Relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Help you sleep better

In this video from Healthpoint TV, Benjamin demonstrates proper form for mood-altering pushups and bicycle crunches.