A new study found that one in three children seek help from their primary-care doctors (paediatricians) when it comes to treating mental health conditions.
The data collected from a national survey showed that in the past year almost 35 percent of children who suffer from mental health issues received treatment form their primary-care doctors, about 26 percent received mental health care from psychiatrists, and approximately 15 percent of the children had appointments only with social workers or psychologists.
Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, a paediatrician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, said that the new study – published October 12 in the journal Paediatrics – shows that primary-care providers play an important role nationwide in helping children who suffer from mental health conditions.
In the United States an estimate of one in ten children who are of school-age, are diagnosed with a mental health condition, and there are not enough child psychiatrists to provide them treatment, Van Cleave said. As a consequence, more primary-care providers are now trying to care for these children.
In the study, the researchers looked at data – collected from 2008 to 2011 – on almost 43,000 children in the United States, ages two to twenty-one.
They found that in the past year, about 1,800 children had been diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most common conditions were anxiety/mood disorders and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The primary-care doctors prescribed medication for more than half of the children with mood and anxiety disorders. About 74 percent of those with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder were put on medication by the paediatricians.
If parents are reluctant to put their children on medication, they may seek help from a mental health specialist as well, according to Van Cleave.
“Primary-care physicians provide a good home for children’s mental health conditions,” Van Cleave stated.
After the American Academy of Paediatrics issued the guidelines for attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder treatment, primary-care providers are now more comfortable dealing with ADHD cases in children. They also feel more free to care for children who suffer from anxiety disorders.
For better results, the primary-care doctors should collaborate with child psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists.
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