Monday, January 21, 2019

Help with Behavioral and Emotional Problems

It is not uncommon for learning difficulties occur together with emotional or behavioral issues -- often described as co-morbid conditions. Anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and attention deficits can all have a negative impact on how a student learns and manages in the classroom. On the other hand, students who struggle in school because of a learning disability -- things like difficulty reading, understanding, writing, or math -- may also become anxious, depressed, or have difficulty paying attention in class.

Part of our evaluation process for every student is a review of their emotions and behavior. We assess these using a number of tools, which can include interviews with students and parents; questionnaires from the student, their parents, and their teachers; standardized measures, and projective testing.

Our commitment to students' mental health has grown steadily over the years. Several years ago, Dr. Yellin participated in a mini-fellowship delivered in collaboration with an organization now know as Project Teach (formerly Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for Primary Care), intended to equip pediatricians with the knowledge and skills needed to address more of their patient’s mental health needs, consistent with the best evidence-based therapies, to improve the mental health of children and adolescents. The goals of this mini-fellowship were:
  1. to train pediatricians and other primary care providers to correctly identify and differentiate among pediatric behavioral health problems such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, aggression, mood disorders, and psychosis; 
  2. To provide the fellowship participants with training in effectively managing psychopharmacology: selecting medications, initiating and tapering dosages, monitoring improvements, and identifying and minimizing medication side effects; and  
  3. To provide the participants with ongoing real-time consultation and mentorship by child psychiatrists at university-based Departments of Psychiatry.
This training had enabled us to expand our capacity here at The Yellin Center for meeting more of our patients' mental health needs, including psychopharmacology. This is an important aspect of the support we provide to families, especially in light of the continuing shortage of pediatric psychiatrists.

In addition to the work we do to support the emotional and behavioral needs of the students with whom we work, there are national organizations that provide important resources to individuals and families. 

We have written before about the resources and supports offered by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Active Minds for individuals struggling with mental illness. Both of these organizations have as their mission the support of the roughly 20 percent of individuals in this country who have a mental illness. Active Minds focuses its work on young people, especially those on college campuses, while the work of NAMI is more broadly based. But both do important work for this population and their families and friends.

One resource families may find helpful is the Basics Program from NAMI, a "first step" for families who are dealing with a child who may have mental illness -- or who may just be going through a "difficult phase". By learning from other parents about ways to deal with these issues as a family, things may improve for both parents and their child.  

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