Sure, you’ve got a moody teenager. You might think it’s just typical adolescent behavior. But before you blow off your teen’s disinterest in social interaction or resistance to doing schoolwork, you might want to consider it as something more serious.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50 percent of mental illness cases begin by age 14. To help identify issues, Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, is implementing a program where every patient 12 years or older fills out an 11-question patient health questionnaire. After the teen fills it out in the exam room, the questionnaire helps Giuliano determine whether the patient is dealing with depression. She then works with the patient to develop individualized solutions.
“Having the extra education and awareness about it can help to identify the problems earlier in kids,” Giuliano says. “We can intervene at an earlier stage, before they get to a point of crisis.”
If Giuliano recognizes problems, she can recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, in which patients talk about thoughts and feelings with a counselor or psychologist, or if medications such as fluoxetine for depression, or sertraline for anxiety, should be prescribed.
Even for children without mental health problems, Giuliano emphasizes the importance of helping your teen to learn coping skills such as changing one’s mindset and thinking of situations in more positive ways. Overwhelming, sad, stressful and frustrating situations can occur for anyone, at any time and at any age.
Parents who are conscious of their children’s mental health can make a huge difference in the type of treatment they receive and how they feel in the long run.
“Historically mental health concerns were swept under the rug and people thought of them as something to be secretive about. Fortunately more people are recognizing that that’s not the case,” says Giuliano. “It’s the same as if you were dealing with a problem with the heart or with the lungs or your gastrointestinal system. Your brain is an organ too.”