CBS News reports that a many children mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and other mental health issues only see a pediatrician.
"We've been supporting and nurturing children with mental health problems for years," said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, executive director of Digital Health at Seattle Children's Hospital and a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic in Mill Creek, Washington. "We know with ADHD or anxiety that it's likely they'll be talking with their pediatrician, but I was surprised that half of kids aren't being seen for these diagnoses by their PCPs."
Swanson, who was not involved with the study, told CBS that for many families, a PCP is the first stop for mental health care and there may then be additional care recommended with a specialist.
As a pediatrician who sees children with mental health needs, she said she also relies on the expertise of other physicians, nurse practitioners, and specialists in her practice.
"I consult with my own network of specialists for support and that's not captured in this study. For many children, I manage their ADHD and anxiety with and without medicine and I may consult with a pediatric psychiatrist. I may pick up the phone and say, 'How can we help this child?'" said Swanson, but the child may not see the psychiatrist.
She said some general physicians and nurses also create a specialty niche in behavioral health. For example, a nurse practitioner in Swanson's practice at The Everett Clinic has seen a lot of children with ADHD and has a particular interest and expertise in this area, so she may consult with her on some cases.
"Further research regarding timeliness and family satisfaction with this care among various groups should be pursued," they concluded.
Swanson said strategies that put into place a multifaceted plan that includes support in the home, the school, and within the medical system provide a comfort zone for families. "It can get complicated with multiple providers. We need to empower families to partner with their pediatricians and encourage them to use other resources, such as suicide hotlines, telehealth services, and other online resources. And if a parent doesn't feel comfortable with the care, they need to communicate that," Swanson said.
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