Wanted: Child Psychiatrists. (Guest Editorial)

By Benoit, Marilyn B. | Clinical Psychiatry News, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Wanted: Child Psychiatrists. (Guest Editorial)


Benoit, Marilyn B., Clinical Psychiatry News


My father, once a foster child, was able to thrive and succeed in life largely because of an accidental encounter with a nurse who provided a "secondary relationship" that gave him hope, skills, and happiness. Unfortunately, for the more than 500,000-700,000 foster children in the United States, their "secondary relationship" is still an accidental encounter. Our nation can do better.

In 1990, the Institute of Medicine estimated a need for more than 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists--at least three times more than are currently practicing.

We need to ensure that the best medical students share in our career choice, and in our commitment to the mental health and development of our nation's children.

Imagine what a powerful experience it might be for medical students to mentor foster children in the community, and for child psychiatrists from the academy's local councils to mentor the medical students in kind. It's the type of experience that truly inspires, stimulates, and captivates their attention.

Working with my first child and adolescent psychiatry mentor was a "wow" experience. It was so exciting intellectually that I wanted more and more.

Child and adolescent psychiatry is on the verge of a renaissance that started in the early 1990s when the federal government boosted neuroscience research and declared the 1990s the "decade of the brain." It continued to build during the Clinton administration as Tipper Gore raised awareness about mental health needs, and has continued through the efforts of Surgeon General David Satcher, who has done much to inform the nation of the abysmal state of all mental health care--especially where services for children and minorities are concerned.

In the U.S. Congress, we have friends weighing and crafting legislation for more comprehensive mental health services. A recent national conference organized by the Office of Juvenile Justice in Washington drafted a blueprint to decrease the incarceration of children. …

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