29 April 2012

Behavioral Problems In Children May Be A Sign Of Mental Health Problems

Mental health problems are conditions that can disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood and ability to relate to others.

There are many factors that can affect a child's mental health. Identifying these disorders is complicated when it comes to a child since children naturally experience physical, mental, and emotional changes in their growth and development. And at this stage, they are also in the process of learning how to cope, adapt and relate to others and the world around them.

Diagnosing a mental disorder in a child depends on the age of the child, the symptoms shown and how the child acts at home, within the family, in school, and with other children.

Unruly kids may have a mental disorder

When children behave badly, it's easy to blame their parents. Sometimes, however, such behavior may be due to a mental disorder.

Mental 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.

"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, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the featured speaker at the American Academy of Pediatrics' Presidential Plenary during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Video: Seeking Help For Children With Mental Disorders

Dr. Insel will discuss signs of mental illnesses in young children and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention in his presentation, "What Every Pediatrician Needs to Know about Mental Disorders," from 1:35 to 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 29, in the Hynes Convention Center.

As the first line of defense, pediatricians can detect mental disorders early and ensure children get treatment as soon as possible, Dr. Insel said. While questionnaires currently are the best way for doctors to screen for mental illness, better tools are 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, Dr. Insel explained.

"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."

In addition to serving as director of the NIMH, Dr. Insel is acting director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, a new arm of the National Institutes of Health that aims to accelerate the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.

Autism also is an area of interest for Dr. Insel. He chairs the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to joining NIMH, he was director of the Center for Autism Research and professor of psychiatry at Emory University, where he was the founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.


American Academy of Pediatrics
World Health Organization
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
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