According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that roughly 35 percent of children receiving mental-health care in the past year had appointments only with their primary-care physicians (e.g. pediatricians) and no care from a specialized psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.
The researchers analyzed data of 43,000 children between ages 2- to 21-years-old and found attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety/mood disorders to be the most common conditions for which primary care physicians treated. The study revealed that about 74 percent of children with ADHD and 60 percent of kids with anxiety and mood disorders were given medications by their primary-care providers.
About one in 10 school-age children in the United States has a mental-health condition, and there are not enough child psychiatrists to care for them, Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, a pediatrician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston and lead author of the study, told Live Science. "[But] primary-care physicians provide a good home for children's mental health conditions," said Van Cleave.
The lead author added that recent treatment guidelines for ADHD and teen depression issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics has actually helped pediatricians feel more comfortable handling cases of ADHD and anxiety disorders in children. But the researchers say these primary-care physicians could improve their ability to treat their patients by working more with child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health specialists.
What care do you recommend if your child has a mental-health condition?