Importance of Mental Health Screening for Kids and Teens
Dr. Bryan Pearlman
July 7, 2016
Many of us have memories of growing up in a time that was more simple. A time when things moved along at a slower pace. These memories include playing outside with friends until the sun went down. The images were of a family sitting down to a homemade dinner together while having conversations about the day’s activities. In this scene, a smart phone was one with push buttons instead of a rotary dial, and eventually one that had a cassette answering machine. Nobody knew about the internet, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. In fact, a tablet was a mini-chalkboard with chalk, and a computer was the size of an office. Family vacations were eight people in a two-ton station wagon adorned with simulation wood paneling and a peace sign bumper sticker. Entertainment on this road trip included jamming out to Billy Joel, Elton John and the Bee Gees 8-tracks and being the first person to spot a VW bug (to avoid getting punched by a sibling). For many of us, this was a better time and one that we wish we could experience again.
Today, the world definitely seems to move along faster. The pressure for kids and teens is at an all-time high. This is driven by competition to succeed at sports/activities, high stakes tests in school, rigorous standards to get into the right college, and peer pressure fueled by images of perfect bodies on social media and reality TV.
A recent report stated that an average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as an average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s (Psychology Today). With the increase in stress and anxiety, there is also an increase in depression, drug/alcohol use, and other risky behaviors.
Some alarming statistics that have been published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
-80% of mental illness goes untreated
-Suicide is the 3rd largest cause of death for people age 10-24
-75% of mental health disorders begin before the age of 24
-20% of all people have a mental illness
-2 million people use opiates each year for non-medical reasons
In light of the above information, and today’s current realities, it is absolutely critical that mental health receive the attention that is needed. Every child and teen should receive an annual mental health screening and/or checkup. Like many medical conditions, the key is early detection and treatment. Nobody can argue the benefit of detecting a tumor at an early stage or how much better a person’s life outlook is if plaque build-up in an artery is treated prior to a blockage.
A great first step is to find a licensed therapist in your area. A good resource for finding therapists in your neighborhood is www.LocateATherapist.com. The therapist can work with your child or teen on coping skills, relaxation strategies, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, and goal setting. These have all been shown to be effective methods for reducing stress and anxiety.
We may not be able to go back in time for a less stressful life for our kids, but we do have ways in the present and future to help them to be less stressed and more happy. This starts with an annual visit to a licensed therapist.
Dr. Bryan Pearlman is the practice manager of Dr. Lena Pearlman and Associates (www.STLmentalhealth.com). He has spent the past 25 years as a leaders and educator in academia, non-profit organizations, and business.
Dr. Lena Pearlman & Associates is a mental health practice in St. Louis with seven licensed therapists on staff. The practice specializes in counseling and therapy for stress, anxiety, depression, and relationships. The licensed therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. Dr. Lena Pearlman & Associates is located in St. Louis at: 655 Craig Road, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63141. The practice can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 314-942-1147.