Children and Mood Disorders–Talking with Your Pediatrician

When a child appears to have a mood or behavioral problem, it’s a big concern for parents and family. Another big worry for parents is how to best help the child. Providing children with medication isn’t anything new. But a recent story in the New York Times put the spotlight on the practice of prescribing antipsychotics to very young children – a decision questioned by readers, parents and medical professionals alike.

A few startling numbers about children and medication:

  • 20 percent (one out of five!) of children in 2008 were prescribed medications to treat mood, thinking or behavioral disorders, with stimulant medications for adolescents being the most common.
  • The number of children on antidepressant medications almost doubled from 1996-2005.
  • More than 500,000 children were on antipsychotic medications in 2009, including several thousand preschoolers. Less than half of them had any kind of mental health assessment.
  • Psychological interventions have a low rate of use and that rate is getting lower as more medications are used. For example, in 2007 only 8.5 percent of children with a psychological disorder received psychological treatment while about 58 percent of children were given only medications and no other treatments. For those who do get psychological treatment, they are getting fewer visits.

Parents, it’s important to feel comfortable and confident asking questions about your child’s health—whether it is physical or emotional. In the video below, I share a few points that you should discuss with your child’s pediatrician. Medication for an emotional or behavioral problem is often helpful. But children benefit best and for the long-term when receiving the professional help of a trained, licensed mental health professional.

Photo by Carl_C (via flickr)

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