Millions of Teens Don't Get the Treatment They Need
If you’re one of the millions of adolescents who struggle with mental health, you are not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 10 and 20% of the world’s youth experience mental illness at any given time1.
Unfortunately, the world isn’t quite equipped to provide treatment to all struggling youth. In the United States alone, over 75% of our counties do not have enough mental health professionals needed to meet this demand for treatment2.
So, What is a Teenager to Do?
While it’s important to talk with a therapist, counselor, or psychologist about depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, they are not the only professionals you can (and should) talk to. Mental wellness is a major part of someone’s overall health. That’s why your pediatrician wants to know how you’re feeling, too.
Pediatricians are the frontline of your medical care. They screen for health problems but also ensure that your medical care is coordinated and completed.
Here are the specifics of what a pediatrician can do for your mental health and why it matters.
Pediatricians Can Arrange for Urgent or Temporary Help
We don’t have enough mental health professionals in the world. Period. Their services are so needed that there can be long waitlists to get in to see one. In fact, a study performed in three major US cities found an average wait time of 25 days for an individual to schedule their first appointment with a mental health provider, and it’s only expected to get worse3.
A Pediatrician Can Do a Few Things.
- First, if it seems you are in need of immediate assistance they can arrange for urgent help (whether it’s crisis counseling or other emergency services).
- Second, if it seems you have a long wait ahead, they may be able to direct you to other temporary resources.
- Lastly, if it seems that your mental health is interfering with daily life, they may want to discuss medication with you.
Pediatricians Can Offer Additional Treatment
While therapy is the gold standard for treatment of many mental health conditions, medications definitely have a purpose and a place in improving your quality of life. Medications are not for everyone but, when indicated, they can make a huge difference.
Changing cell signaling medications can increase or decrease a certain feeling or impulse you have. Each medication works a little differently than the rest, and everybody processes medications uniquely. You may have to spend some time adjusting medications with your doctor and it may take some time to find one that works well for you, but medications are worth considering for a variety of reasons and conditions.
Remember, you shouldn’t expect medications to provide all the relief you need. Therapy is a vital part of mental health care.
Remember, Mental Health Affects Your Physical Health
Aside from the typical cognitive disruptions that come with mental health conditions, your body can also suffer physically. Sleep disturbances (sleeping too much, too little or inefficiently), blood pressure elevation, lack of energy and weight fluctuations are just some of the effects of mental illness on your body. While treating the underlying condition is the ultimate goal, a pediatrician may be able to moderate and treat some of your physical symptoms.
So don’t count your pediatrician out. If you are in need of support or feel that relief isn’t coming soon enough, involve them in the conversation. They’re on your side!
Dr. Tessa Commers
Pediatrician at PTHA
Doctor T (Tessa) is a board-certified pediatrician in Seattle. She holds a BA from the University of Nebraska. Her pediatric residency training was completed in Kansas City. She has a special interest in adolescent health for which she created the project @askdoctorT