READY TO HELP ( From left ) Staff clinician Dana Williams , Dr . Shahan Sibtain , staff clinician Michael Avila , and program director Darian Eletto from the Hope & Resiliency Center for Youth at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus .
COURTESY OF HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM AND GETTING HELP
The first step in healing children with anxiety and depression is recognizing their symptoms . “ With younger kids , you might see more tantruming and irritability ,” says Dr . Stacey Doumas , achild psychiatrist with the Hackensack Meridian Health system . “ Older kids may be withdrawn , or have eating disorders or drug issues . Parents or teachers might see them acting out , and not realize what the kids are going through .”
Young people needing help will be assessed by health care professionals to determine the next steps , she says . These usually involve a combination of regular therapy sessions , medication , therapeutic day programs such as agroup for teenage girls with anxiety , or in some cases , hospitalization ( children and teens with suicidal thoughts should go immediately to ahospital emergency department , she says ).
Government funding has responded to the mental health crisis in the young in anumber of ways , says Doumas . “ It has provided more funding to increase awareness , and schools are on board with social and emotional learning that builds resiliency ,” she says . Grants from the state of New Jersey pay for psychiatric screening tools pediatricians can use ; they also underwrite the services of the Pediatric Psychiatry Collaborative , specialists who offer long and short-term care to the patients of subscribing pediatricians .
Before , during and after treatment , Doumas advises parents to stay connected with their kids , to listen to them and not judge what they ’ re hearing . As much as possible , they should also provide structure in their lives , including activities outside school . “ It ’ s not ok to stay inside and play video games ,” she says . “ They should encourage friendships , too .”
DR . DOUMAS
@ 201magazine ( 201 ) HEALTH 2022 EDITION 27