Several physicians and nurses from Children’s National have been presenting at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference over the last few days. It’s an annual conference where pediatricians from around the world come together to learn about new research, best practices, and other practical information for their patients.
One of the topics that particularly struck me was about mental health.
Adelaide Robb, MD, one of our psychiatrists, talked about mental health screening in pediatrics. According to the Surgeon General, one in five children will have a mental healthcare issue by the time he or she is 18. That’s 20 percent.
Yet, according to Dr. Robb, many pediatricians aren’t always comfortable asking about mental health. She thinks mental health screening should begin when children are school age, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve school performance, interaction with peers, and family relationships.
“The longer mental health issues are left untreated, the harder it is to make them go away,” explains Dr. Robb.
Dr. Robb says parents should be on the look out for changes in the following areas, which may signal a mental health concern:
- Energy level
- Interest in favorite activities
One other tip that Dr. Robb offers is some perspective on the turbulent adolescent years.
“Parents sometimes believe that adolescence is supposed to be turbulent and that children are supposed to be miserable. While adolescence is certainly a period of change, it shouldn’t be a consistently awful time,” said Dr. Robb. “Just like people refer to the ‘terrible twos’ of toddler years, by and large, it should be a happy time, with some challenges mixed in. If that’s not the case, mental health screenings should be considered.”
Talk to your child’s pediatrician, or find a mental health provider, if needed.