Children’s mental health is a growing concern

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

Children’s mental health has been called a crisis and a national emergency.

Now the US Preventive Services Task Force is urging all children ages 8 and older to be screened for anxiety.

dr. Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatrics, knows that mental wellbeing is key to the health of her patients.

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

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

She embraces the recommendation that all children ages 8 and older — whether they show symptoms or not — be 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? Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or do you have a poor appetite?

The Childhood Anxiety Disorders screen, or BANG, 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 start the conversation,” Fenimore said.

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

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

“The sooner we can intervene, the more benefit we can have throughout the lifespan,” says Dr. JP Shand, a psychiatrist at WellSpan Health.

Early screening is extremely valuable, he says.

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

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

Early screening can be crucial.

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

“It’s time we talk about it because it won’t go away without talking about it,” Fenimore said.

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