KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — An influential panel of experts is out with a recommendation for millions of children in the U.S. That recommendation is to begin regular mental health screening for children as young as eight-years-old.
Mental health illness is on the rise, especially among children. The new recommendations are aimed at getting kids help and getting it to them early.
“I think the numbers are breathtaking,” said Doctor Alvaro Reymunde, a Pediatrician at PAK Pediatrics.
Dr. Reymunde knows all too well the growing crisis affecting kids and teens.
“The amount of children that we see that may not even be depressed or anxious yet but you can see that it’s starting,” Dr. Reymunde explained.
That sort of observation is why the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening children for anxiety from eight years old to 18 and screening for depression from 12 to 18.
“Mental health screening is so important because a lot of people may not even realize that what they’re feeling is signs of depression, is signs of anxiety,” Dr. Reymunde added.
Even trickier for children who cannot articulate everything they are feeling, and instead, often change their behaviors.
“They have other symptoms like acting out, they stop eating, they eat more. It’s very vague. It’s a constellation of symptoms that isn’t specific to one kid,” Dr. Reymunde continued.
Other signs could include your child sleeping too much or too little, disinterest in activities or social interaction they used to enjoy, and unexplained headaches and stomach aches.
PAK Pediatrics began screening kids for mental health issues well before the new recommended guidelines.
“Starting to discover early when there are signs or symptoms is the best time to start treating so that we can help our children overcome whatever their struggles are,” said Kaitlyn Davis, a licensed social worker at PAK Pediatrics.
Pediatricians are not tasked to diagnose a child with anxiety or depression, but instead, identify those who may need extra mental health care support.
“I think it’s great,” Linda Solano commented.
Solano of Wyoming has two teen-aged children.
“There’s not much help out there right now for kids with mental problems and it’s a really big serious problem. So, yeah, I definitely think they need to screen them early,” Solano added.
“If we’re able to start meeting with someone and help them resolve these issues sooner they are able to go on and live that happy life. They can apply all those skills that we talk about in therapy,” Davis explained.
One of the key goals of early screening is to help determine trigger points causing kids’ mental health issues.
By diagnosing and treating mental health issues sooner, it could prevent such problems as adult anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and even chronic physical illnesses like obesity and diabetes.