Children’s mental health a growing concern

Children’s mental health is being called a crisis and a national emergency. Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is pushing to have all children aged 8 and older screened for anxiety.Dr. Pia Fenimore, with Lancaster Pediatrics, knows mental wellness is key to her patients’ health.According to Fenimore, 20% of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.”To say that this is our next pandemic sounds dramatic, but it really isn’t,” she said.She’s embracing the recommendation that all children 8 and older – whether they show symptoms or not – get screened.Fenimore said it’s as simple as asking questions.Doctors often use the Patient Health Questionnaire, or PHQ-9. It asks questions like, are you feeling down or depressed? Are you having trouble falling or staying asleep or have a poor appetite?The Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders, or SCARED, asks similar questions. “You can even just look the child and their parent in the eye and say, ‘So, how’s your mental health?’ and then get the conversation started,” Fenimore said.Younger patients often respond better to early intervention and little changes.”We know that family dinners and regular exercise and eating healthy have a huge effect on mental health,” Fenimore said.”The earlier that we can intervene, the more benefit that we can have over the lifespan,” said Dr. JP Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Health.He believes early screening is extremely valuable.”We know that anxiety disorders often start in childhood, and they are precursors to progressively worse anxiety disorders over time,” he said.If untreated, those feelings of anxiety could lead to depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.The early screening could be crucial.”We can make a difference and impact earlier in children’s lives and potentially change lives forever,” Shand said.”It’s time for us to talk about it because it’s not going to go away without talking about it,” Fenimore said.

Children’s mental health is being called a crisis and a national emergency.

Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is pushing to have all children aged 8 and older screened for anxiety.

Dr. Pia Fenimore, with Lancaster Pediatrics, knows mental wellness is key to her patients’ health.

According to Fenimore, 20% of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

“To say that this is our next pandemic sounds dramatic, but it really isn’t,” she said.

She’s embracing the recommendation that all children 8 and older – whether they show symptoms or not – get screened.

Fenimore said it’s as simple as asking questions.

Doctors often use the Patient Health Questionnaire, or PHQ-9. It asks questions like, are you feeling down or depressed? Are you having trouble falling or staying asleep or have a poor appetite?

The Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders, or SCARED, asks similar questions.

“You can even just look the child and their parent in the eye and say, ‘So, how’s your mental health?’ and then get the conversation started,” Fenimore said.

Younger patients often respond better to early intervention and little changes.

“We know that family dinners and regular exercise and eating healthy have a huge effect on mental health,” Fenimore said.

“The earlier that we can intervene, the more benefit that we can have over the lifespan,” said Dr. JP Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Health.

He believes early screening is extremely valuable.

“We know that anxiety disorders often start in childhood, and they are precursors to progressively worse anxiety disorders over time,” he said.

If untreated, those feelings of anxiety could lead to depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

The early screening could be crucial.

“We can make a difference and impact earlier in children’s lives and potentially change lives forever,” Shand said.

“It’s time for us to talk about it because it’s not going to go away without talking about it,” Fenimore said.

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