A medical appointment can be intimidating and scary for a child with a history of trauma. Still, this visit might be the first time a patient shares that they have been sexually or physically abused or that they are terrified to live with their fighting parents during COVID-19. Your role as a primary care provider (PCP) is critical. Your interactions with your patient need to feel safe. As constrained as your time is, you must make every minute count toward establishing a connection.
The new edition of Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care (GLAD-PC) is now available on The REACH Institute website. This practical toolkit offers dozens of resources to help pediatric primary care providers diagnose and treat depression.
Ryan, age 12, has missed almost three weeks of school so far. He complains of nausea and headache most school days and has to be cajoled into getting out of bed, but his mother says he is fine on weekends. The mother, who is eight months pregnant, is frantic; she can’t afford to take any more time off work before she delivers. School refusal can have serious consequences. On the short term, the child falls behind academically, both the child and the family experience disruption and distress, and there can be legal and financial ramifications. Long-term consequences for school refusers include violent behavior, school dropout, early marriage, and unemployment. “The main goal of treatment is to get the child back to school as soon as possible,” says Lisa Hunter Romanelli, PhD, REACH Institute CEO and clinical psychologist. “Being absent from school is highly reinforcing.” Like many school refusers, Ryan presents somatic complaints. After you rule out physiological causes– not only for these complaints but also for any underlying conditions that can produce depression or anxiety–what’s next?
As you’ve dealt with back-to-school (and back-to-sports) visits, you probably have been challenged by the gap between what’s needed and what’s practical. This visit may be the only time you see this child this year. You know that emotional and mental health is as important as physical health. But you have only so much time for each check-up. Screening tools are a big help…
“Every pediatric and family practice resident should be required to take this course! I will take away a renewed appreciation for assessment tools, a new comfort with treatment plans, and an excitement for future partnerships”