Pediatricians Encouraged To Screen For Mental Illness
April 30, 2012

Pediatricians Encouraged To Screen For Mental Illness

Speaking at a pediatric medicine conference on Sunday, a mental health expert encouraged doctors to explore possible links between bad behavior and mental disorders, while emphasizing the importance of early detection.

During his presentation at the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Presidential Plenary during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, featured speaker Dr. Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), discussed the signs of mental illness in young children and how critical it is for them to diagnose and begin treating these conditions, the AAP said in a press release.

"As the first line of defense, pediatricians can detect mental disorders early and ensure children get treatment as soon as possible," the doctor said, according to the AAP. Those illnesses, the organization noted that, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, mental illnesses are the top cause of medical disability in teenagers over the age of 15.

"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," the AAP's media statement also said, adding that Dr. Insel emphasized that it is important for pediatricians "to understand that mental illnesses are a developmental brain disorder even though they can look like behavior problems."

"One reason we haven't made greater progress helping people recover from mental disorders is that we get on the scene too late," Dr. Insel said in a statement. "The future of mental illness has to be at the point where we aren't treating behavior separately from the rest of the person“¦ 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."

Dr. Insel's presentation, "What Every Pediatrician Needs to Know about Mental Disorders," was held Sunday from 1:35 to 2:10 p.m. ET at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. He is currently the chairman of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and previously served as the director of the Center for Autism Research (CAR). Dr. Insel was also the founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN).