Mental health checkups

A regular part of having a child is taking them to the pediatrician for yearly check-ups. But what about a regular check up with a mental health professional? It’s an idea that seems to be gaining more traction as the stigma around mental health drops. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that pediatricians should be screening for depression in preteens and teens in 2016 – but what else can be done to help screen for red flags?

Some Parents Won’t Go For It

It’s true, a lot of parents will reject the idea that their beloved teen has any mental issues—after all, they’re just kids. In some cases, a mental health checkup could cause more harm than good, false diagnoses, or increase stigma. The flip of the coin is that it could normalize psychological health for those who are youngest. Having a chat could make it seem reasonable when it’s merely a checkup.

In today’s day and age, being a preteen or teenager is rougher mentally than it has ever been, with the likes of being connected to social media and phones all the time. This is why parents should be on board with the idea that teens should at the very least be screened for depression or anxiety.

“The National Institute of Mental Health reports that almost 13 percent of adolescents 12 to 17 years of age meet criteria for depression,” Kristie V. Schultz, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist with the University of Louisville Physicians told the Richmond Register. “To ensure that teenagers are being monitored for symptoms of depression, screenings are imperative.”

Parents can also play a key role in noticing the flags of depression. If they notice that their child is withdrawing, sad, not enjoying things that they did before, or changes in appetite or sleep, it’s probably time to bring your child in for a checkup or a chat. These flags are often mixed up for moodiness.

“I think it is important for parents to know that depression and other mental health issues are quite common,” Dan Florell, an associate professor of psychology at Eastern Kentucky University told the Richmond Register. “The danger is not acknowledging the significant impact it may be having on their child and feeling that it will eventually get better on its own. Taking action in childhood or adolescence can prevent or diminish the odds of more severe mental illness in adulthood.”

It Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

When people think of a mental health checkup, their mind more than likely turns to something off a TV show – white coats and padded rooms. This is where the stigma needs to stop—in our mind. A checkup can be as simple as sitting down with someone to chat about life and your feelings; it can actually feel refreshing to get these feelings off your chest, and in some ways, therapeutic.

By checking up yourself mentally, you’ll be able to catch certain treatable mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety before they become more severe.

“Absolutely, people should have a mental health checkup,” Jeffrey Borenstein, editor in chief of Psychiatric News, published by the American Psychiatric Association told the NY Times. “It’s just as important as having a physical checkup.”

You Can Screen Yourself For Now

While unfortunately there is no plan in place to make mental health screening a normal part of today’s medical routine, you can look out for yourself. Just like any other illness, a mental illness will have symptoms. If you have asthma, some symptoms can include a shortness of breath, tightness or pain in the chest, wheezing, etc. Anxiety has its own symptoms – panic, sleep problems, not being able to calm down among others. Everyone will experience these symptoms differently – there isn’t a checklist.

Stay away from websites, don’t try to self-diagnose yourself. If you feel like you’re suffering from something, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to discuss the symptoms that you’re suffering from.

Getting The Help You Need

There’s a range of ways to treat anxiety and depression, as well as other mental illnesses. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a popular option for anxiety, it’s where your child will talk to someone. While doing this, the professional can help train them to manage their anxiety and deal with it.  There are other forms of therapy out there as well to help manage and deal with feelings. Another option is medications, they’re often used in conjunction with therapy—sometimes they’re used short-term and other times long term.

It’s important that children and teens seek out the treatment they need to help with their illness. If they don’t, it more than likely won’t get better with time.