- Signature Issues
- Mental Health
A Child's Health Issue
In May 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost 20 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 are diagnosed with a mental health condition. This is the first report ever to consider data from multiple federal surveys and formally acknowledge mental health among children as an important public health issue in the United States. As Children’s National leaders have pointed out, most mental health conditions start in childhood or adolescence, and most children or teens go for almost 8 years from the onset of symptoms until they receive any diagnosis or help.
In response to the December 2012 Newtown shootings of young school children and their teachers, Kurt Newman, MD, President and CEO of Children’s National, urged health and policy leaders to consider mental health as a children’s issue.
Our nation needs a powerful strategy for improving pediatric mental healthcare, one that includes identifying and treating the disease early… I urge our leaders in Washington to continue to work with mental health professionals, educators and parents to thoughtfully address how we as a country ensure the mental health and well-being of our children.Kurt Newman, MD
President and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center
Children’s National leaders have helped raise awareness about mental health conditions among children and teens, and have advocated for training community “first responders” – teachers and others in the lives of children and teens who are typically the first to notice warning signs of mental health issues.
Children’s National has several mental health programs and offers counseling for patients and families, from infancy through adolescence. Our behavioral health services are offered through the divisions of Psychiatry, Psychology, Neuropsychology, which are included in a larger Neurosciences and Behavioral Health center, one of the largest in the nation. As a comprehensive health system, Children’s National is committed to forging collaborations between our mental health specialists and primary care pediatricians in the community. Given the nationwide shortage of pediatric psychiatrists and psychologists, it is important that community-based primary care doctors, school-based clinical care providers, and others are equipped to recognize warning signs and know how and where to refer children and teens who need mental healthcare.
Our clinicians and researchers are actively studying effective treatments that improve health and quality of life for children and families with mental illness. Our ongoing clinical trials and research activities focus on identifying genetic risk factors to help us better understand specific pediatric psychiatric conditions and how personal, familial, environmental, and societal influences affect a child’s mental health.
Paramjit T. Joshi, MD, Chair of the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Director of the Psychiatry and Psychology, is also the President-elect President of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (ACCAP), the national voice of behavioral health physicians. As an internationally recognized leader in caring for children and teens with post-traumatic stress disorders, Dr. Joshi is often called upon to consult internationally in developing research and outreach programs to train and build capacity for mental health services in war torn countries such as Croatia, Boznia-Herzegovina, Iraq, and Eritrea. She is currently consulting the children’s hospital in Tokyo, to develop a response program for children affected by natural and manmade disasters.
Dr. Joshi was recently honored by the American Psychiatric Association with a Special Presidential Commendation for her long standing contribution and international leadership in reducing the toll of natural disasters on pediatric mental health.
She continues to advocate at the highest levels of government for resources to train the next generation of clinicians as well as resources to train primary care providers and school-based professionals, all to address expanded access to mental healthcare services for children and teens.
Dr. Joshi has contributed directly to the ongoing national dialogue around mental health, particularly as mental health conditions are linked to violent behavior. She continues to stress that children and teens with mental health conditions who are diagnosed and treated early, are no more likely to express violent or troubling behavior than anyone else.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, teens, and young adults. Nearly half of these suicides involve a firearm.
Stephen Teach, MD, MPH, FAAP, Associate Chief of Emergency Medicine at Children's National, and a team of physician-researchers validated a new suicide risk screening tool for hospital emergency departments (EDs), the initial entry point for more than 1.5 million teens into the healthcare system. Participants from 10-21 years old were involved in the study to develop the screening tool, and were seen for a range of complaints at pediatric EDs. Nearly 30 percent were found to be at risk for suicide.
Because many who attempt suicide are not previously diagnosed with a mental illness, this screening tool is an invaluable way to identify children and teens who need further support—one of the many ways Children’s National is making progress in improving mental healthcare for children and teens.