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Your Child's Mental Health Matters


When to seek help

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you have thoughts of suicide, seek medical care immediately.

The American Psychological Association also advises that you get the help of a trained mental health provider if:

  • You constantly worry
  • You feel trapped.
  • You aren't getting any better with self-help
  • You feel as if you can't handle things alone.
  • Your feelings are affecting your job, relationships, or sleep or eating habits
  • If someone who knows you well suggests that you go to counseling

These are only some of the symptoms that call for getting help.

Who can help?

The first person to talk with may be your primary care provider. They will help you determine if your symptoms may be caused by health conditions. If a health condition is not the cause, your provider may be able to suggest a state-licensed mental health provider.

These are the types of professionals who provide mental health services:

  • Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a doctor and a medical healthcare provider with at least 4 years of specialized study and training in psychiatry after medical school. Psychiatrists can provide medical and psychiatric evaluations, treat disorders, provide psychotherapy, and prescribe and monitor medicines.
  • Psychologist: A psychologist has a master's degree in psychology or a doctoral degree in clinical, educational, counseling, or research psychology. Psychologists do psychological testing and evaluations. They are also trained to treat emotional and behavioral problems as well as mental disorders. They also provide psychotherapy and behavior modification. Psychologists can not prescribe or monitor medicines.
  • Social worker: A social worker has a bachelor’s, masters, or doctoral degree and is licensed to practice social work. A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can assess and treat psychiatric illnesses and do psychotherapy. They do not prescribe or monitor medicines.
  • Psychiatric or mental health nurse: This is a specially trained nurse with a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. Mental health nurses can assess and treat illnesses. They do case management and psychotherapy. In some states, some psychiatric nurses with advanced training can prescribe and monitor medicine. They are called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or APRNs.
  • Licensed professional counselor: A counselor has a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or a similar discipline and has postgraduate experience. Counselors may provide services that include diagnosis and counseling. They do not prescribe or monitor medicines. 

How are mental disorders diagnosed in young children?

A mental health provider will make the diagnosis in young children. They will take a detailed family history, write down your child's developmental history, and watch current symptoms. Standardized testing may also be done. The mental health provider will then analyze all of the information and if certain diagnostic criteria are met, they will make a diagnosis.

Which mental disorders are often seen in children and teens?

  • Anxiety disorders: These are the most common mental health disorders in children and teens. They include panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder): ADHD symptoms include poor attention and focus. Children with ADHD are easily distracted and act on impulse.
  • Depression: This affects mood, energy, interests, sleep, appetite, and overall functioning. Symptoms are extreme and are seen most days of the week. They can greatly interfere with the ability to function at home or at school.
  • Bipolar disorder: This illness causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. Times of disruption switch off with periods of withdrawal and other depressive symptoms.

Where should I go for help for my child?

First, have your child see his or her healthcare provider. Their provider will first rule out any health conditions that could be causing the symptoms. If no conditions are found, their provider may advise you to take your child to a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or behavioral therapist. If your child goes to school, the school's staff (counselors, school psychologists, and teachers) may become important members of your child's treatment team.

If your child is a COPC patient and you have questions or concerns about mental health, you and your child can get the assistance you need. Your child's COPC physician will give you compassionate care you can trust and connect you to the right resources. 

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