Infectious Disease

Children should be monitored for mental health problems at each visit

August 03, 2021

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The AAP updated the guidelines on mental health screenings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to recommend that all children be monitored and interviewed for any concerns or changes in mental and behavioral health each time they visit the pediatrician.

According to the AAP, more than 40,000 children in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19, whose trauma is often exacerbated by loss of material stability and economic hardship, and has been linked to poor education and mental health.

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“We experienced a mental crisis in our children and adolescents even before the pandemic,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAPsaid in a statement. “Families have been much more stressed in the last year and a half, which has only made this crisis worse. The good news is that many children can get through these tough times if they have a close and supportive relationship with an adult, be it a parent, teacher, or coach. Children are resilient when they are given adequate support. “

Families living in poverty and in underserved communities may be at additional risk, the AAP found. Refugee and asylum-seeking children, children with special health needs as well as children of social welfare and juvenile justice are exposed to a higher risk.

According to a press release, the guide describes symptoms of emotional stress, such as insomnia, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, decreased engagement, isolation, dysregulation of mood and behavior, and signs of hopelessness.

“Monitoring can take the form of questions about the impact of the pandemic on the child’s well-being, including any behavioral disorders,” the guideline says. “Screening uses evidence-based social, emotional, and behavioral screening tools. Families may be reluctant to express behavior problems in their children and may consider them awkward and temporary without realizing the severity of the symptoms. The implementation of a universal monitoring and screening strategy helps to overcome these barriers. “

The AAP said parents may also have mental health problems. It was recommended that doctors ask parents and guardians about the impact of the pandemic on the child’s well-being every time they visit their office. Incorporating these questions into routine visits can help ensure that any concerns are addressed, the AAP said.

“The emotional well-being of children is closely related to the well-being of their parents,” said Beers. “That is why children are seen as the emotional barometer of the family. We encourage families to tell their pediatrician about anything that could be stressful in a child’s life. The pediatrician is a safe and supportive source for the whole family. “

References:

AAP. Preliminary Guide to Supporting the Emotional and Behavioral Health Needs of Children, Adolescents and Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Preliminary Guide to Supporting Emotional and Behavioral Health Needs of Children, Adolescents and Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic (aap.org). Accessed August 3, 2021.

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