Last updated April 2021
Half of all mental disorders begin by age 14 and three quarters by age 24.1 In the United States, one in four students, kindergarten to grade 12, has a diagnosable mental health or substance use disorder.2 A school setting allows uniquely accessible behavioral mental health services that are trauma-informed, evidence-based and developmentally and culturally appropriate.3
Schools also provide an interdisciplinary approach to addressing students’ needs through a team of professionals that may include teachers, counselors, social workers, therapists (occupational, physical, speech and language), nurses, pediatricians, psychologists and child and adolescent psychiatrists. Access to additional behavioral supports generally begins with a meeting of the school staff and the student’s parent/legal guardian.4
Unidentified and untreated mental health conditions can negatively impact a student’s ability to participate in their own education. Behavioral health supports in the schools have been found to result in a 20 – 60 percent reduction in disciplinary incidents as well as improvements in student academic performance.5
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders that impact thinking, feeling and behavior of school students. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with youth and their families which allows them to contribute their expertise as part of the interdisciplinary team in the school setting.6
- Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health. CDC Website accessed on the internet on 7-6-2019
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005—2011. MMWR 2013;62(Suppl; May 16, 2013):1-35.
- Lai K, Guo S, Ijadi-Maghsoodi R, Puffer M, Kataoka SH. Bringing Wellness to Schools: Opportunities for and Challenges to Mental Health Integration in School-Based Health Centers. Psychiatr Serv. 2016 Dec 1;67(12):1328-1333.
- Basch CE. Healthier students are better learners: a missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. J Sch Health. 2011 Oct;81(10): 593-8.
- Scott-Croff C. The Barriers to Collaboration, Inclusion and Teamwork within the Special Education Community. JNASET. 2018. Aug.
- Fox, G. Why Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. AACAP. 2017 accessed on 7-6-2019 at https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Medical_Students_and_Residents/Medical_Students/Why_Child_and_Adolescent_Psychiatry.aspx
Not all children who have experienced a disaster will need treatment. However, treatment can help prevent or minimize trauma. To obtain help, parents should try to find a mental health professional who has advanced training and experience with evaluating and treating children, adolescents, and families. It is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and, treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and behavior that affect children, adolescents, and their families. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families.
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