Children with mental health diagnoses may need special accommodations in order to succeed in school. Patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism come immediately to mind. However, children with depression and anxiety disorders may also struggle in the classroom.
Pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) and therapists can help families get the school accommodations their children need. Mark Wolraich, MD, REACH faculty member and retired professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, emphasizes that children are best served when professionals take a team approach to mental health care.
“In some ways the holidays this year will be harder than last year for many people,” said Deborah Buccino, MD, pediatrician and REACH board member. “Earlier, we had pretty clear-cut rules about what you could and could not do safely. This year, we have a lot more gray areas.”
“It’s not just that we’re more aware of adolescent suicide,” said Michael Scharf, MD, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a REACH faculty member. “The rate really is going up. Teen suicide is still rare, but it’s increasing.” Primary care providers (PCPs) can help teens at risk of suicide, first of all, by being willing to talk about it. “Some people think that asking about suicidal ideation makes the kid more likely to act,” said Dr. Scharf. “But evidence shows that asking either has no impact or has a relieving effect; it frees the patient to talk about the issue.” “You need to think ahead of time of what to ask and how, so you feel comfortable,” said Dr. Scharf. “You need a go-to way to assess risk and how likely the kid is to follow through.” (See Resources below.) The assessment results can range from “nothing to do here” to “send this kid to the emergency department.” “The tricky part,” Dr. Scharf said, “is what to do in between.”
The new edition of Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care (GLAD-PC) is now available on The REACH Institute website. This practical toolkit offers dozens of resources to help pediatric primary care providers diagnose and treat depression.
“The opportunity to learn information to help me manage psychiatric conditions in my patients in this time where demand clearly outweighs supply of services, is going to be excellent for me as a PCP in my community.”