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Webinars to address depression, anxiety in children

Sep. 24, 2020, 8:58 AM


by Jill Clendening

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year as many as one out of every five children experience a mental disorder, and the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified stress and separated children from their friends and normal activities such as in-person classes and sports.

Since the pandemic began, behavioral health experts from the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (VHAN) have noticed a spike in behavioral health concerns and an increase in hospital admissions for related mental health emergencies among children. Because of this, the decision was made to expand the quarterly behavioral health webinars VHAN offers to network providers to provide a new webinar to connect directly with parents and other caregivers of children and teenagers.

Danielle McDonough, LMSW

“Once the pandemic hit, we really saw an increase in calls to our behavioral health consult line, and especially now as children are getting in to see their pediatricians for their annual wellness appointments,” said Danielle McDonough, LMSW. “Kids are scoring high on the screenings for anxiety and/or depression, and their parents might not have previous knowledge or experience with the symptoms of anxiety and depression or with behavioral health diagnoses. They might not know what to do or how to best navigate the health care system when it comes to their child’s behavioral health.

“We’ve been working with the pediatricians, who are on the frontline, of course, but the parents are on the frontline even more so. We want to make sure they’re educated about the signs of anxiety and depression, and we want them to know when they should reach out to a professional for support. We also want them to know how to implement a safety plan at home, and we will provide participants tools to help them feel more comfortable communicating with their child about mental health.”

Terri Brady, RN, MBA

The webinar will be moderated by VHAN Network Operations Director Terri Brady, RN, MBA, with the content provided by McDonough. There will be time for questions from participants. In order to be most convenient, especially as many parents and children are working and attending classes at home, the webinar is offered at three different time slots, including one weekend session. It is open to anyone, not just families served by a VHAN provider.

The webinar will cover:

  • How to identify warning signs of depression and anxiety disorders
  • When to seek help for your child
  • How to come up with a mental health safety plan
  • How to engage and validate your child’s feelings in a healthy way
  • What you can do to care for yourself while caring for your family

Register for one of the following webinar sessions:

  • Thursday, Oct. 1, noon – 1 p.m. CST
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, 10 -11 a.m. CST
  • Monday, Oct. 5, 7 – 8 p.m., CST

One goal of the webinar is to bring awareness to issues caregivers might not have considered, such as having a safety plan for the home, including securing even non-prescription medications and either removing firearms or locking them up so they’re inaccessible by children or teenagers, McDonough said. Another goal is to make conversations about behavioral health easier for families.

“If we can provide this information, and they then feel more comfortable having these conversations, we’re going to see those conversations lead to earlier intervention,” McDonough said. “In turn, we’re hoping that earlier intervention can decrease or eliminate behavioral health issues so those families avoid getting to the point of unsafe behaviors or hospital visits for emergency psychiatric care.”

With a shortage of behavioral health providers across Tennessee conflicting with an increasing need for behavioral health services, in 2018 the VHAN Behavioral Health Team began offering a consult line available to all VHAN primary care providers who see pediatric patients in their practice.

When providers call the Pediatric Behavioral Health Consult Line, behavioral health clinicians help assess the patient’s needs, assist with determining what level of care is best for the patient, and provide clinical care navigation services to patients and families in need. Psychiatrists are also available to speak with primary care providers about medication recommendations for their patients.

Since the consult line began in 2018, the team has fielded 812 consultation calls and has directly provided resource assistance to 643 families in Middle Tennessee. Thus far during the pandemic, from March to Sept. 15, the team has fielded 225 calls.

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