Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month
By Natalia Darling PA-C
“It is so common, it could be anyone.  The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse” Ruby Wax.
Since the mid 1900’s, the medical community via the American Mental Health organization has designated the month of May as mental health awareness month.  When we talk about the overall “health of a human being” there are many components that can be discussed- physical, emotional, social, spiritual etc.  One of the most taboo and therefore least talked about aspects of someone’s total picture of health is one’s mental health.  As anyone may be aware, the diagnosis of a condition such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder is one that often in the United States is kept under wraps or hush hush for one reason or another whether you are an adult or child with the diagnosis. While many have these diagnoses as adults, the first signs often begin to emerge in childhood, and they can be so subtle that they are missed by both pediatrician and parent alike.  Below we have listed some red flags and warning signs that would warrant a call to our office and further evaluation and could be a sign of a mental health condition or other problem (Please realize that the below list is not all inclusive, if you are worried for some reason at all about your child’s emotions or mood, please call our office at (301 279-6750).

  • Loss of self esteem
  • Loss of interest in favorite past times
  • Weight loss or complete loss of appetite, or overeating
  • Changes and shifts in your child’s personality or mood swings that are out of proportion to the situation
  • Abandoning  friends or social groups or isolating types of behavior
  • Excessive sleeping (more than a typical teenager sleeping in) or difficulty sleeping, not sleeping at all, or excessive fatigue.
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Mentions of the intention to hurt themselves or hurt other people
  • Obsessions over body image

While almost 1 in 5 children suffer from a diagnosable mental condition, only 20 percent of these children receive the treatment that they may need. Early recognition leads to us being able to address mental health symptoms earlier and to determine the steps that we need to take and the resources we need to make sure that things don’t get worse. We believe that mental health and stability is a very important aspect of the overall health picture of a child’s health; if your child is the picture of physical health, but they are so sad that they can’t spend time with their friends or so anxious that they can’t go to school or play on the soccer team, it is something that we have the tools to help both you and them with.  Please remember, that if you are worried about a mental health condition in you child or your child is diagnosed with one it does not mean that you are a failure as a parent, or that your child is damaged or broken and can’t be fixed.
At Potomac Pediatrics, one of our major initiatives over the past few years has been to better support our children with mental health needs and to offer more opportunities for them the receive care in whatever capacity they may need. We are trying very hard to forge connections with social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists in our community and create pathways to better avenues of care. We are very aware that there is much that we as a whole in the medical community can do to better support those with mental health needs.  I urge you to reach out to us if you see any of the above listed signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety in your child or adolescent, or if you have any concerns regarding their mood or affect at all. Of course, if your’e very worried that you or someone you love is in danger of hurting themselves or others, they should be evaluated promptly and emergently in the emergency department by calling 911. For all other concerns, please call our office at (301) 279-6750