Mental Health Blog

Overcoming anxiety about the news

In the wake of the Texas school shooting tragedy, your young patients–and their families–may be experiencing anxiety that can affect normal functioning. That anxiety can manifest in many ways, from reluctance to go to school to increased aggressive tendencies. 

In fact, pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) have been observing the effects of news consumption on their young patients for years now. The spike in anxiety at the beginning of the Covid pandemic is another example. Families may be experiencing trauma as they watch scenes of devastation and displacement in Ukraine. Every act of terrorism or mass violence inspires more fear. The examples go on.

As your families’ trusted PCP, you can influence how patients and families deal with anxiety over recent events and the continuous barrage of bad news that characterizes today’s media culture.


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Treating pediatric trauma

“The biggest predictor of having something bad happen to you is having had something bad happen to you in the past,” said Brooks Keeshin, MD. Dr. Keeshin, a child abuse pediatrician and child psychiatrist at the University of Utah, co-developed the new REACH Institute course Addressing Trauma in Pediatric Primary Care.  In an earlier blog […]


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Screening for trauma in pediatric primary care

Asked the top three things a pediatric primary care provider (PCP) needs to know about child trauma, Brooks Keeshin, MD, said, “Trauma happens. That’s numbers 1, 2, and 3.”

In fact, up to 80% of children experience trauma by the time they are 18. A large body of evidence indicates that childhood trauma affects physical and mental health, both short term and long term.

Dr. Keeshin, a child abuse pediatrician and child psychiatrist, is developing a new REACH Institute course to teach PCPs to assess and treat child trauma.

“Trauma reactions can look like other mental health conditions,” said Dr. Keeshin. “Traumatic stress can present with symptoms of ADHD, depression, or anxiety. If the pediatrician knows a child has been exposed to trauma, that changes what they do. But first they need to know.”


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Child abuse and neglect

In a study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10.8% of adults reported having been physically abused as children, and 11.1% reported psychological abuse. Infants and young children are at greater risk than older children; neglect is more commonly reported than physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

As a pediatric primary care provider (PCP), you play a vital role in detecting and preventing child abuse and neglect.


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Promoting healthy grief

COVID-19 has changed the way children experience the death of a loved one. Although difficult under any circumstance, bereavement is even harder when mourners can’t gather. Barriers to comforting mourning rituals and supportive social communities can make it harder for children to grieve in healthy ways, while increasing the risk for maladaptive grief reactions.


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Building family resilience

“Families provide a kind of protective membrane for children when crazy things are happening around them,” said William Saltzman, PhD. Dr. Saltzman is a faculty member of the REACH program Child/Adolescent Training in Evidence-Based Psychotherapies. “Families really have been on the front line throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Saltzman said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride from the beginning, with abrupt school shutdowns; the exhaustion of becoming the 24/7 caregiver, teacher, playmate, and breadwinner; and now having to figure out largely on their own how to navigate the upcoming school year.”


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Helping patients deal with trauma

A medical appointment can be intimidating and scary for a child with a history of trauma. Still, this visit might be the first time a patient shares that they have been sexually or physically abused or that they are terrified to live with their fighting parents during COVID-19. Your role as a primary care provider (PCP) is critical. Your interactions with your patient need to feel safe. As constrained as your time is, you must make every minute count toward establishing a connection.


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““It is great to be a part of a continuing medical education course with others within the same department. Change is always hard, but easier with teamwork.”

Jennifer Mullally, MD
Fargo, ND

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