Worried About Your Child’s Mental Health? Why Your Pediatrician is a Great Place to Start
By Michelle Bailey, M.D.
COVID-19 has brought about many challenges over the past two years, one of which is worsening mental health crisis. Last school year, with many children and teens being taught virtually from home and socially isolated, depression and anxiety increased significantly. Your pediatrician could be the right person to help manage your child’s mental health needs, but if necessary, can refer to the proper mental health professional.
Evaluating and treating mental health conditions, such as ADHD, autism, depression and anxiety, is one of my soapboxes. Treating a patient for ADHD, for instance, is just as important as treating any medical health condition. Just like I believe it’s important to treat some ear infections with antibiotics, or some asthmatics with an inhaler, I think it’s equally important to address the need for medications for some kids with ADHD. Usually for a child with untreated ADHD, it is not just poor school performance that is the issue. Often, they lack social skills, have difficulty maintaining friendships due to immaturity, have poor self-confidence, and have strained relationships with parents and siblings. They DESERVE the right treatment, whether that is therapy, medication, or a combination of both. This is a group effort. As the parent and as the pediatrician, we have a common goal of supporting your child to be the best that they can be.
At every well child visit starting at age 11, we give the patient a depression questionnaire. This is a good starting place to bring up feelings of being down or having anxiety in a teen who doesn’t express his or her feelings openly at home. Additionally, if you or your pediatrician thinks the child may have ADHD, screening questionnaires called Vanderbilts are two page forms for both the parent and the teacher to fill out, and will help the pediatrician determine if your child has ADHD, oppositional behavior disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety or depression symptoms as well.
Medications to treat ADHD, depression and anxiety could come with side effects, so schedule an appointment to discuss with your pediatrician in detail. ADHD and depression medications work differently in each person, and can take more trial and error than an antibiotic for instance. Your pediatrician should know their limitations as well, and for me, after the patient has tried and failed my third prescribed ADHD medication, I will refer to a psychiatrist.
Regarding therapy, the best place to start is with the insurance holder’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a benefit often listed next to medical and dental information. The EAP often covers a limited number of insurance paid therapy visits for the teenager, usually six sessions.
So if you are concerned about any mental health condition in your child or teen, your first (and maybe last) stop should be your pediatrician’s office. Give them a call and schedule today, and see what improvements you can achieve together.
I’m a board-certified pediatrician, passionate about ensuring the well-being of patients ranging from newborn through late teens.
I attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!), and completed my pediatric residency in Houston.
Since the completion of residency, I’ve worked in outpatient clinics and enjoy not only caring for my young patients, but becoming a part of every family by building long-lasting, trusting relationships. While I treat common and not-so-common childhood infections and diseases, I especially have a passion for asthma and allergies, nutrition, and ADHD along with other learning disorders.
I’m married and we have a rescue dog named Jack. When not at work, I enjoy attending cultural events and traveling. To make an appointment with Dr. Bailey, click here or call 682-303-1000.