[This article was written with Dr. Jennifer Gentile and Dr. Zereana Jess - Huff of Amwell Therapy Associates]
Understanding a child’s behavior can sometimes be like trying to solve a puzzle. It may be challenging for parents to identify a serious mental illness as it often comes off as typical behavior problems or changes in their child’s pattern of behavior. For instance, it is not uncommon for a teenager to be irritable and want to sleep all the time, but if the teenager experiences sudden increased levels of anger or sadness, it may be worth investigating to see what is going on.
Worried about your child’s behavior? Talk with a therapist on Amwell today.
Childhood mental illness might be more common than you think. According to the National Alliance on mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 4 children have a diagnosable mental health condition every year. Only 50% of them receive treatment. Depending on a child’s condition, there are many reasons why a child is acting abnormally. The most common diagnoses made in children are anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and substance abuse.
So when do you know when to turn for help? While you can’t always change a child’s circumstance, you can give them the tools to cope and thrive. Early identification and treatment can help children reach their full potential. The following warnings might indicate the need for professional help:
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Mood changes, irritability, or lack of interest
- Repeated refusal to go to school or participate in social interaction
- Persistent talk of death or self-harm
- Decline in school performance
- Excessive and constant worry or anxiety
Traditionally in the United States, mental health care has been completely siloed from physical health care and it has been difficult for families, pediatricians, psychiatrists and therapists alike to link their systems together. Families of children with mental health, emotional and behavioral needs often navigate multiple systems to access necessary supports and services and they may also face additional challenges due to the stigma about mental health. But this is where telehealth – or the ability to see a healthcare provider instantly and virtually, on a smartphone or laptop – can make a huge difference.
Is your child acting differently? Therapists on Amwell are online now and ready to talk with you.
The first step of treatment will be an assessment by a mental health clinician. Therapists on Amwell are trained and experienced to work with children ranging from 10-17 years old and can deliver therapy from the location of your choosing. Once you log on, you are able to connect with a therapist of your choice. Once you select your therapist, he or she can assess your child through a clinical interview, a discussion with parents or, with the help of Amwell’s multiway video feature, through other collateral contact such as a discussion with a teacher or pediatrician. Be prepared to answer questions specifically about onset, duration, intensity, severity and how much distress the symptoms are causing.
If your child is diagnosed with a mental health problem, a comprehensive treatment plan should include Cognitive Behavior Therapy and, in some cases, may include medication. The plan should be developed with the family and whenever possible, the child should be involved in treatment decisions.
If you would like to talk more about your child's behavior, privately, with a therapist on Amwell, you can connect with one now, or schedule an appointment for another time. Therapy visits on Amwell are conducted in the privacy of whichever setting you choose and accessible via smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.
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