Finding the right care for your child

Mental health conditions in children is a source of concern for any parent. Unfortunately, these conditions are fairly common and diverse. The good news is that early diagnosis and access to varied treatment facilities can improve the child’s overall outcome. There are many types of treatment facilities across the country. Finding the right facility that will best serve your child is an important consideration in making a decision. As a parent it is is important to report any unusual behavior in your child that may be suggestive of an underlying mental health disorder. Your pediatrician or general practitioner can provide an assessment and refer to a mental health specialist if necessary.

The first thing you should know as a parent is that there is absolutely no need to panic. Mental health disorders are manageable as long as there is access to quality care. One of the first things you’ll need to determine is the type of care your child needs. Your doctor would be in the best position to offer professional advice, but you should know the available options, so you can make informed decisions. Below are the types of mental health treatment settings available and the level of care you can expect from them.

  • Acute or emergency services: These services are designed to cater to your child during mental health emergencies. Emergency services are available round the clock, every day of the week. Emergency services may come in the form of...
  • Mobile crisis teams: located in your community so they can assist you in emergencies  
  • Telephone lines: a common example of this is the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or other telephone crisis hotlines.

These services are needed when you observe that you’re finding it difficult to calm your child or when your child may pose an immediate danger to themselves or others around them. While these situations are almost always unforeseen, it is important to make adequate preparation if you feel your child is at risk of developing an acute mental health crisis. You can develop a comprehensive crisis plan alongside your child’s mental healthcare provider. The plan would tell you what to do or who to call in the event of such emergencies.

Hospital inpatient facilities

Such facilities offer inpatient care to your child. Inpatients are those that stay overnight or longer in a healthcare facility. Children admitted into such facilities are usually in the acute phase where they require close monitoring 24 hours a day. The facility may exist as a part of general hospitals or is a specialty psychiatric hospital. Therapy and medication treatments are provided in such facilities. Specialist psychiatric hospitals usually have different units for children. Units that specialize in specific types of disorders such as anxiety disorders or eating disorders may also be available.  

Outpatient Facilities

Outpatient mental healthcare facilities are quite diverse but a common feature among such settings is that they are not designed to accommodate patients overnight. Patients may visit for appointments and then leave after. Some of these facilities are community-based while some may be a part of general hospitals. Private practice clinics also fall under this category. The healthcare providers here counsel and prescribe medications for the child but monitoring is less strict.

Residential Treatment Facilities (RTF)

These are designed to provide medical care but in a home or residential type environment. Residential treatment facilities provide long-term treatments in a structured and closely monitored environment. They are usually reserved for children and youths with significant psychological, psychiatric or behavioral problems. Such children would have been treated unsuccessfully at home or other outpatient treatment facilities. RTF’s provide a steady course of treatment through therapy allowing the child the time to adjust. A comprehensive approach to management that combines therapy and medications is employed in such facilities. The child is given the freedom to bond with others as the environment is less restrictive than what you’ll find in a hospital.

There are a lot of different types of facilities available for children and adults who need assistance with mental health. Finding the appropriate setting is paramount in helping them get the help they need and setting them on a path for life success.

Lisa Evans

By Lisa D. Evans, COO Perimeter Healthcare

This Perimeter Healthcare article is also featured here on Healthcare Advancement Today.