Recognition and treatment of mental disorders in children: Considerations for pediatric health systems.
General healthcare systems currently play an active role in the identification and treatment of children with mental disorders. As many as one-third of children identified and treated for mental health problems receive outpatient mental healthcare from primary care providers. Although some children do receive treatment, over half of those who need mental health care do not receive this service. Fortunately, current levels of unmet need for adequate care coincide with mounting scientific evidence to support the efficacious use of psychosocial, community-based, and pharmacological interventions. Scientific evidence indicates that the appropriate identification and treatment of mental disorders in childhood can reduce symptoms of child psychopathology, improve adaptive functioning, and sometimes serve as a buffer to further long-term impairment. However, mental health treatment can only be beneficial if it reaches those families in need, is amenable to clinical practice implementation, and is administered with an adequate dose. Future challenges lie in creating practice-relevant efficacious interventions to improve the identification of child mental health needs and to improve access to high quality, appropriate mental healthcare. Primary care settings will play an important role in this activity. Although many barriers exist, pediatric health systems will continue to play an important role in the identification and treatment of mental disorders in children. The quality of current pediatric mental healthcare could be enhanced by increased opportunities for physician training, a restructuring of current training efforts, an increased focus on patient engagement strategies, equitable care incentives and reimbursement, as well as an integrated view of physical and mental health.