31 Aug Pediatric Mental Health: Seeing the Whole Child
It should come as no surprise that the youth in our care have reached a breaking point. Healthcare organizations across the United States and the world have signaled their concern about the ongoing pediatric mental health crisis and have called on psychologists, pediatricians, and parents to do all they can to help stem the rising tide of poor behavioral health outcomes.
OP Clinical Analyst, Rich Szabo, MD, joined the PediaTricks Podcast episode to talk about “Pediatric Mental Health – Seeing the Whole Child”. He discussed the ongoing mental health crisis, what may be exacerbating these issues for our kids, and how OP’s tools can help. Here’s a brief synopsis of his talk.
What Has Caused the Ongoing Pediatric Mental Health Crisis?
There are a variety of factors that have impacted the ongoing pediatric mental health crisis.
- Social media. Kids are continually exposed to social media in multiple forms, which puts pressure on them to engage in this sometimes destructive environment. Being constantly engaged in social media can spark a fear of missing out, or make children feel inadequate compared to the other people they see online, who oftentimes present a glorified view of their life.
- Family pressure. There’s a lot of pressure on our kids to succeed in school, sports, or other pursuits. Unfortunately, a lot of these expectations come from their families.
- Access to drugs and alcohol. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol from a young age is common, but many teenagers aren’t informed enough to understand the negative consequences, including accidental injury, violence, mood changes, and depression.
- Ongoing stigma about mental health. As a result of family or societal stigmas, many young people do not have the vocabulary to discuss their feelings and emotions. This can lead to them suppressing symptoms and avoiding help when it is offered.
- Lack of access to care. Even if their parents have the means, there are often long wait times for mental health professionals able and willing to treat children and adolescents. As many as 60% of youth with conditions like major depressive disorder do not receive any mental health treatment.
- The COVID-19 pandemic. While all of the above factors were in place before COVID-19, the pandemic’s lack of socialization and regular routines, and compounding grief and stress has exacerbated the situation.
How We Can Help Kids Through This Mental Health Crisis
While the causes of this mental health crisis are varied and interrelated, the scope of this public health emergency cannot be ignored. One study from JAMA Pediatrics found that between 2016 and 2020, there was a 29% increase in anxiety diagnoses and a 27% increase in diagnoses of depression among children aged 3 to 17.
Helping children through this crisis requires parents, providers, and all other healthcare workers to be continually on the lookout for common behavioral health symptoms. Noticing kids who are experiencing social withdrawal, mood swings, anxious thoughts, or other common symptoms should be a top priority.
From there, we should all be working hard to incorporate conversations about mental health into our daily lives. From parents discussing these topics regularly with their kids to pediatricians who add questions about mental health to their annual well visits, we can all help bring this topic more into the mainstream.
Tools Within Office Practicum That Can Help
Providers and pediatric clinics can leverage many tools within Office Practicum to help make behavioral healthcare easier and simpler for practices and their patients. For example, new templates specific to behavioral health are now available for download. These contain customizable, clinically focused templates for conditions like OCD, gender dysphoria, and prolonged grief dysphoria that can be used to help young patients.
Additionally, OP’s behavioral health caseload tracker dashboard simplifies a clinic’s behavioral health caseload, making it easier to identify and follow up with concerns so issues don’t fall through the cracks.
Office Practicum also contains a robust referral system, making it easier for providers to find care for patients with behavioral health challenges.
This crisis is not going away. To help our children, we need to leverage these tools, and most importantly, learn to listen without judgment. Only then can we hope to have an impact on this growing crisis.
To learn more about the pediatric mental health crisis and things you can do to make a difference, check out the full “Pediatric Mental Health – Seeing the Whole Child” podcast. To learn more about OP’s pediatric-specific EHR, visit our website.