Why Parents Hesitate Before Seeking Mental-Health Expertise

April 24, 2018
Updated 5mo ago

Parents who have no problem making a doctor's appointment when their children have a cough, sneeze, or sniffle appear to be resistant when it comes to mental health.

Parents Magazine and the Child Mind Institute conducted a new survey to find out why parents hesitate before getting mental-health expertise for their children.

"If your child has a fever you take them to the doctor, if your child has an emotional pain, it should be the same thing," said Liz Vaccariello, the editor-in-chief of Parents Magazine, in an interview with Cheddar on Tuesday.

A new survey of about 400 parents in the United States found 62% would wait more than five weeks to get their children help with a mood or behavior disorder.

Of the families that said they would think twice before pursuing treatment options, most (83%) said they try to avoid an overreaction and would rather wait to see if symptoms resolve on their own. Other reasons include the perceived cost of mental-health care and the fear that their children would be labelled mentally ill.

"All of these are myths and we're trying to overcome that," said Vaccariello.

She said parents should be vigilant about monitoring their children's behavior for potential warning signs. Doctors describe these potential symptoms as "pink flags" instead of "red flags" because they're often subtle indicators of mental illness.

Vaccariello said symptoms include sleep disturbances, obsessive thoughts, and debilitating fears.

"It's one thing to be scared of a bee, it's another thing to be terrified to go outside because you don't want to be stung by a bee," she said.

There are fewer than 9,000 clinical child psychiatrists in the United States, but Vaccariello said parents can also reach out to child psychologists, therapists, and school counselors.

"Even something like that can be helpful and healing for the whole family," she said.

For full interview, click here.