Primary care docs treating kids with mental health issues
A new study finds that primary care physicians typically are the main doctors treating children with mental health issues.
About 33 percent of the children who received outpatient treatment for mental health saw only their primary care doctors, according to a recent study. In addition, only 26 percent went to a psychologist or social worker.
Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, senior study author and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston, collected data from 2008 to 2011 from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. They looked at children 2 to 21 years old who received outpatient visits for mental issues. Researchers said the problem will continue to grow if mental health issues are cared for by only primary care doctors.
“There just aren’t enough child psychiatrists in the United States to treat every child with a mental health condition,” Dr. Van Cleave said in a news release. “Given that any efforts to improve the quality of mental health care for children would be wise or appropriate to focus on improvements in primary health care, since that is where a lot of that care is happening.”
Researchers also found that a number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder went only to a primary care doctor. More than 40 percent of children went that route compared to 17 percent who went to a primary care doctor if they had anxiety or mood disorders.
“Many people shy away from seeing a psychologist and that can be a mistake,” says Joseph Smith, psychiatric consultant for Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “There seems to be a stigma if you seek outside non-medical help, but in reality, it can provide you with the added support that you need if you have a mental health condition.”
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