Does providing universal psychosocial care not seem that important, since most children and families are resilient and will cope effectively with their illness or injury? Or maybe there's not enough time when you're interacting with patients to screen for yet another issue. Especially mental health issues where you may not feel comfortable asking or know what to do with the answers.
The importance of universal psychosocial care lies in the ability to identify children and families who may slip between the cracks. Those experiencing traumatic stress reactions and/or other mental health issues, but may be afraid to bring them up or may not know help is available.
In fact, new research published in JAMA found that "31 percent of child and teen participants exhibited "subthreshold symptoms" of a mental illness, including aspects of anxiety, conduct or mood disorders, but did not qualify for a formal diagnosis". Another "26 percent of the children met the criteria for a formal diagnosis". According to the study's author, "Most young people struggling with their mental health, including nearly two thirds of the 26 percent of survey participants who met the criteria for a mental illness as well as all of the 31 percent who exhibited subthreshold symptoms, "aren't getting any help whatsoever". The longer these children and teens experience unaddressed mental health needs, the more likely they are to be affected as an adult.
What can you do as a healthcare provider to identify those who are experiencing mental health issues? Provide universal screening, using the DEF Procotol, the Psychosocial Assessment Tool, or another assessment tool, and provide the key elements of universal psychosocial care:
- Minimize potentially traumatic aspects of medical care and procedures
- Provide child and family with basic support and information
- Address distress (pain, fear, loss)
- Identify family strengths and resources (help parents and family help the child)
- Screen to determine which children and families might need more support, and make appropriate referrals
- Provide anticipatory guidance about adaptive ways of coping
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