With Disruptive Kids, MDs Should Assess for Early Mental IllnessMental illnesses are the No. 1 cause of medical disability in youths ages 15 and older in the United States and Canada, according to the World Health Organization. And mental health researchers are reaching out to pediatricians to improve early detection of mental disorders.

As a consequence, some researchers are asking that that when pediatricians are faced with behavior that is unruly, they should assess if the behavior may be due to a mental disorder rather than parenting or environmental factors.

“One reason we haven’t made greater progress helping people recover from mental disorders is that we get on the scene too late,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

As the first line of defense, pediatricians can detect mental disorders early and ensure children get treatment as soon as possible, Insel said.

Questionnaires are currently the best way for doctors to screen for mental illness, but better tools may be on the horizon such as cognitive and genetic tests. It’s also important to understand that mental illnesses are a developmental brain disorder even though they can look like behavior problems, Insel said.

“The future of mental illness has to be at the point where we aren’t treating behavior separately from the rest of the person,” he said. “There needs to be full integration of behavior and medical concerns to ensure that we are able to care for the whole person and not just one system.”

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Child yelling photo by shutterstock.