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How to manage mental health as a pediatrician

In a recent interview, Thomas Young, MD, chief medical officer and founder for nView Health, outlined tools which pediatricians can use to provide their patients with proper care for mental health disorders.

Thomas Young, MD, chief medical officer and founder for nView Health, discussed how mental health disorders impact children, and how the mental health disorder epidemic can be managed.

Young stated that developmental age plays a part in how mental illness affects children. As children age, mental disorders tend to become more complex. Mental disorders early in life may have more organic combined clauses, such as autism spectrum disorder, while complex emotional disorders such as anxiety are more likely to manifest as children age.

To identify mental health disorders in youth, Young recommended early screening, looking for anxiety and depression in children from age 12 years and up, or even earlier depending on emotional development. As screening tools often screen only for anxiety or depression, Young also recommended expanding the variety of tools to screen for eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, and other disorders.

Young noted that the mental health epidemic is not recent, as children have been suffering from mental health disorders for a long time. Stigma toward mental health has kept disorders from being recognized sooner, but the pandemic has increased opportunity for discussion on mental health.

“We have always had an increasing problem,” Young said. “The epidemic is fueled by inappropriate opportunities for care, accessibility, and availability of mental health providers.”

Primary care providers are also often not equipped to manage mental health disorders, with too few available for the number of patients in need of help. To improve management, pediatricians need the right tools, and to know the right questions to ask.

Pediatricians also need adequate data gathering tools for diagnosis, according to Young. When making diagnosis, additional tools are needed to understand the treatment route. The lack of a process model makes treatment difficult for many pediatricians. These tools are vital as the burden of mental health increases.

Young described the current moment as a crisis point in health care, with mental health becoming the main driver in pediatrics and overwhelming providers. Young encouraged pediatricians to find the right tools to provide the best care for their patients.