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When your child needs psychiatric medication

This week is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and in addition to promoting awareness, there is a need to understand the medications given to young people.

Read on to learn more about the different meds and why they may be prescribed to your child.

The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has dedicated the first full week in May (this year it’s May 6 through 12) as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental health disorders strike children as well as adults, with names that may be familiar to you: ADHD, pervasive development disorders, eating disorders, learning and communication disorders, schizophrenia and affective mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

There are a dizzying number of medications prescribed for those who are suffering with mental health issues, such as stimulant drugs, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, sleep medications and anti-anxiety medications.

The need for meds

Often, when children are prescribed medication for a mental health issue, parents worry about the drugs and their side effects, and there can also be a social stigma attached when a child is on these sorts of meds. There is some good news, however. Dr. Henry A. Paul, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst for over 30 years in New York City, has a new resource for parents with these concerns.

When Kids Need Meds hit bookstores in April and can be a comfort when faced with a new diagnosis.

“There has been an explosion of prescribing psychiatric medication to children and teenagers over the last decade and an enormous amount of publicity,” said Paul. “Parents need a concise easy-to-use guide to consult when told that their child needs psychiatric medication. This book points out the essential details and discusses some of the controversies in the field.”

One mom’s story

We talked with Brigetta, mother of three, who shared her son’s journey with medication. “He was 5 when they put him on Klonopin when he was first diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and separation anxiety,” she explained. “I trusted the psychotherapist because he was highly recommended, but I regret ever putting him on that. It would knock him out within minutes.

“They eventually took him off at my request and put him on Adderall, Concerta, and eventually Strattera,” Brigetta continued. “I chose, with the help of his third grade teacher, to wean him off all medication and just try it with diet… it worked! We eliminated sugar, MSG and processed foods. He is 14 now and cool and collective. He still has a few quirks, but that is who he is and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

You’re not alone

If your child has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you are not alone. Your physician may be able to point you towards support groups in your community, or seek out one online. Grab a copy of Dr. Paul’s book for more guidance and support, and keep the lines of communication open between your child, his school and his team of doctors.

More on mental health

Mental health: 6 Symptoms you shouldn’t ignore
Walking to improve mental and physical health
How to choose the right mental health practitioner

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