Stories about: Mental health

Cerebral palsy and mental health: What parents should know

child with cerebral palsy trying to communicate mental health concerns
IMAGE: ADOBE STOCK

Amy’s* jaw was black and blue, but she hadn’t been in an accident. Instead, the 15-year-old, who has cerebral palsy (CP) and is nonverbal, had been punching her own chin — but why? Her family, along with Dr. Elizabeth Barkoudah, and her colleagues in the Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, searched for answers. “We thought we had considered everything,” says Barkoudah. Yet a slew of approaches — from a full-body workup to a special brace aimed at preventing the teen from hitting herself — proved fruitless.

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Talking with your child about suicide

Depressed teen sits against wall, covering her face with her arms, considering suicide
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

For three weeks in late spring of 2018, it seemed like suicide dominated the media. On May 18, the second season of the controversial series 13 Reasons Why began airing on Netflix. Eighteen days later, fashion designer Kate Spade died by suicide, followed three days later by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

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Is your teen depressed? Seven tips for parents

Your daughter comes home from school, slams down her books and retreats to her room with a scowl. Since starting high school, you’ve noticed she’s been moody and irritable and her grades are starting to suffer. Should you be worried about depression?

“Almost everyone goes through periods of feeling sad or irritable for usually brief periods of time,” says Dr. Oscar Bukstein, associate psychiatrist-in-chief and vice chairman of psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital. “What sets depression apart is the presence of distress or impairment that interferes with daily life.”

Bukstein says he’s seen a steady rise in depression in young people over the past 25 years, as the stress of daily life increases. “The good news is that treatment generally works and more kids are seeking treatment.”

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Millions of children have mental health disorders while treatment budgets shrink

When feeling stressed out by the hectic pace of modern life, it’s easy to get wistful for the carefree days of youth—when it seemed the only thing we had to worry about was getting along with the other kids in the neighborhood.

But according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on childhood mental health, those days are gone or may never even have existed for a huge portion of America’s children.

Analyzing data collected over the past six years, the report shows that millions of kids—as many as one in five—are currently living with some form of mental health disorder. Attention deficit disorder is the most prevalent condition reported, affecting more than 4 million kids nationwide, but other behavioral issues such as anxiety and depression also were heavily documented, affecting 2.2 and 1.8 million children respectively.

While it’s unclear whether or not the numbers in the report mean that these conditions are really more common in kids today, or if parents, clinicians and teachers are just getting better at identifying them, the bottom line is clear: the issue of mental health disorders in American children is too big to ignore.

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