What Parents Need to Know about Teenagers' Mental Health Issues

By Daly, Jill | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), December 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

What Parents Need to Know about Teenagers' Mental Health Issues


Daly, Jill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


People are often reluctant to seek help for mental health issues, for many reasons. But parents, who usually only want the best for their children, should know seeking help for teenagers is normal.

"All teens are going to benefit from getting support from mental health professionals," says Jonathan Pletcher, clinical director of the department of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Parents who are concerned about their teenagers' mental health will have a chance to ask questions and get answers from experts at a free panel discussion 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center, 1551 Mayview Road.

The human services nonprofit Familylinks and the Upper St. Clair Youth Steering Committee will hold "Teens, Hormones and Moods: What You Need to Know About Adolescent Mental Health" for the public, featuring Dr. Pletcher. Parents can learn how to recognize mental health issues in their children and find out what resources are available.

Paul Tedesco, director of behavioral health at Familylinks, will moderate the discussion, which also will include Theresa Zurku, program manager of Familylinks' intense-support programming known as STEP, and Sarah Ingram, clinical coordinator for Familylinks' behavioral health division.

"When people think about mental health [issues], they think violence, suicide, drug use, kids who are left out, isolated because of some kind of difference," Dr. Pletcher said. "We'll talk about that, but that's the tip of the iceberg. All teenagers suffer a rough patch when their mood gets in the way of their goals."

The experts have their own three goals, Dr. Pletcher said. The first is to have mental health services become a normal part of health care. The second is to integrate mental health as part of physical health care.

"We want an integrated health model," he said. "We anticipate everyone will benefit. At some point everyone needs a mental health professional. There would be no need for a referral." For example, if something urgent arises during a physical exam, a mental health professional could be brought into the exam room to talk to the patient, he explained.

"I think we really want to engage parents. We see this as a partnership," Dr. Pletcher said. The professionals want to see teens enter their 20s prepared to visit an adult health care provider on their own.

"Between the ages of 12 and 18, there's a safety net. If there's something serious, we can tell the parents when they're in the clinic." However, he said, parents accustomed to knowing all about their child's health care may find it hard when the doctor must abide by a code of confidentiality when the child becomes an adult.

"The model is to make the confidential interview part of this progression [into adulthood]," he said. …

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