We tend to think of childhood as a carefree time, but children are complex people, and can experience mental health issues just like adults do. Mental illnesses like eating disorders, substance abuse and addictions often develop during childhood, and they can interfere with a child’s ability to be themselves and function the way they want to socially, academically and behaviorally.
Because children go through “phases” as they grow and develop, it can often be difficult to determine the difference between what is and what is not normal.
“One way to start is to ask whether whatever is going on seems to be interfering with the ability of the child to function,” says Paul R. Crosby, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Lindner Center of HOPE. “If the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘I think so, maybe,’then it’s time to seek an evaluation.”
Early and accurate diagnosisis essential for effective treatment with mental health issues. But getting to that point can be a lengthy process.
“Unfortunately, the average length of time between the emergence of symptoms and engagement in treatment is about 10 years,” Crosby says. “Families go through a lot of pain and suffering in that time.”
Lindner Center of HOPE, a not-for-profit mental health center in Mason, has developed a comprehensive outpatient diagnostic assessment for children and adolescents ages 6 to 17. The assessment gives parents a clearer picture of the issues their children are facing, help coordinating next steps to take, and referrals for professional help.
“We can help the most people by not only treating patients,but also by being consultants to and sharing our expertise with providers in the community, such as pediatricians and family physicians,” says Crosby, who is involved with the program. “We have established a Network of HOPE consisting ofproviders around the country. We make every effort to complete referrals for families so that their recommended treatments can successfully be carried out.”
For more information on Lindner Center of HOPE and the outpatient comprehensive diagnostic assessment, visit lindnercenterofhope.org.