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. …
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.” …
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. …
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is May 6 though 12. In honor of the occasion David R. DeMaso, MD, psychiatrist-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, addresses the work of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign in Massachusetts.
What is the state of children’s mental health in the Commonwealth?
The good news is that we’ve come a long way. Massachusetts is a national leader in children’s mental health. Since 2006, when Boston Children’s and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) released a joint report on children’s mental health, children are now more likely to receive timely care, delivered in the right setting, than six years ago. However, the system continues to be fragmented, which creates barriers to care. We still need to take important steps to expand access to effective, high quality and well-coordinated care for all children with mental health needs.
What is the Children’s Mental Health Campaign? What have been the most significant achievements of the Campaign to date?
Launched by Boston Children’s and the MSPCC, the Campaign also includes the following founding partners –Health Care for All, Health Law Advocates and the Parent Advocacy League. Since 2006 it has grown into a diverse coalition of more than 140 organizations with expertise in mental health, healthcare, law, child welfare, family advocacy and policy—all working together to advocate for systemic change of the children’s health care system.
Through the Campaign’s efforts, the landscape for children’s mental health in the Commonwealth has changed significantly. Three landmark laws have been enacted: the Children’s Mental Health Omnibus law of 2008, the Mental Health Parity reform law of 2008 and the Autism law of 2010.
These laws have improved access to care, spurned early identification of children with mental health needs, highlighted the importance of increasing schools’ capacity to address the mental health needs of students, expanded insurance coverage for children in need of mental healthcare services and reduced by more than 60 percent the number of kids “stuck” in inappropriate care settings. …