Primary-care physicians play a pivotal role in detecting and treating mental illness in children and adolescents, in particular in rural and underserved communities. But according to new findings from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many physicians are unprepared to adequately perform those tasks.
Primary-care docs can do more to help kids with mental illness: NAMI
The NAMI conducted a survey of more than 500 parents and caregivers of children who have serious mental illness, with questions on issues such as availability of resources and how clinicians can make families more comfortable. According to the responses, most families rely on family physicians and pediatricians for their children's mental-health diagnoses and treatment.
"We also know that there is a critical shortage of more than 20,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide," said Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI's executive director, in an e-mailed news release about the survey.
More than half of survey respondents said their primary-care physicians were not knowledgeable about treatment options for mental illness. And 64% said their physicians did not know about resources and local sources of support.
The report provided guidance for primary-care physicians to help them meet pediatric patients' mental health needs. For instance, doctors should use positive, hopeful language and make sure families receive informative handouts, fact sheets and other resources, according to the report. NAMI also urged physicians to use a collaborative approach to care that involves enlisting help from other providers.
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