Anyone who is paying attention to the news knows that children are struggling with their mental health. The pandemic created a perfect storm. Kids lost their routines and opportunities to celebrate milestones and experienced isolation, along with a heightened use of social media. So many teens report feeling sad or hopeless.
At Children’s National Hospital, we aim to make all of our care locations welcoming and warm spaces where kids can get the help they need. As Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, this is very important to me personally. We want all of these kids to enjoy life and succeed.
I checked in recently with a patient. She came in with a big smile on her face and told me about her first year at college. She learned to study hard, got all A’s and B’s in her classes and found a wonderful group of friends. This was a very different young woman than we met in 2020.
She first came to see me at our Takoma Theatre location as a senior in high school. She cried and said how she didn’t care about anything anymore, even her beloved school sports, which the pandemic had made impossible anyway. She was so depressed and had given up on applying to college.
We had a long conversation about what to do. I prescribed an antidepressant and she had cognitive behavioral therapy. Things got better for her. She finished her college applications. She graduated from high school and went to college. These days, she’s working her way off medication and is enjoying her sophomore year.
I wondered how we helped her turn around her situation around and succeed. I believe it has a lot to do with how we support our patients and families to solve problems, get through challenges and develop resilience. The connections we make with our young patients give them opportunities to thrive, as they transition to adulthood. This is a key part of adolescent mental health care at Children’s National. We want all of these bright young people to go off and have a good life.
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