If you ask graduates of strong pediatric training programs what area of pediatrics they feel least comfortable with upon completion of their residency, behavioral and mental health diagnosis and treatment rises to the top of the list.
Yet one of the leading areas of childhood morbidity are the increasing prevalence of mental health disorders in pediatric and adolescent patients. While the solution might be making sure there are adequate non-pediatrician personnel offering mental health diagnostic, treatment, and support services for these patients, that is not realistic given the paucity of people entering mental health fields and the ever-increasing numbers of children needing mental health attention, especially in this era of increasing health care disparities and adverse childhood experiences. Thus it is important to make sure that future generations of pediatricians are much more facile with aspects of behavioral and mental health.
For that reason, former American Board of Pediatrics chairs Drs. Julia McMillan, Marshall (Buzz) Land, and ABP Vice President for Research (and a specialist in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics) Dr. Laurel Leslie have written a special article ( ref) challenging all of us to better our game when it comes to helping children with behavioral and mental health problems.
This requires a collaborative educational effort not just by the ABP but with other partnering organizations, and the authors do a nice job defining the problem and sharing with us possible solutions that will involve educational reform in pediatric training across the continuum. We would love to hear from you as to what steps you have or plan to take in your practice to be better equipped to provide care to these children who struggle to access services from overcapacity programs and services offered by non-pediatric professionals.
Share your thoughts on our role in dealing with the pediatric and adolescent mental health crisis by responding to this blog, commenting on our website or posting your ideas on Facebook or by Twitter.