Thursday, June 24, 2010

But not my kid!

By R. Scott Benson, M.D.

A recent study by the Jed Foundation and the American Psychiatric Foundation showed that most parents of college age children understand that there is a high rate of depression, suicide, and substance abuse problems in college.

“But not my kid!” Nearly two-thirds thought these problems would not affect their children.

Surveys of college students show that most experience important mental health issues in themselves or a friend. And other studies have shown that emotional problems are a leading impediment to college success.

Now that the excitement of senior trips and graduation has settled families are putting the finishing touches on a transition plan as their teenager moves to the excitement of higher education. Most families have discussed the obvious needs – a place to live, what courses to take, how to pay for all of it. But families should take time to discuss the possibility of problems and how to get help.

Since this new territory is fraught with emotional pitfalls the American Psychiatric Foundation has teamed with the Jed Foundation to develop a website of information that will provide a framework for this important discussion. Transition Year has material to help parents and teens learn the warning signs of problems. And systematically collect contact information preparing for the situation where help is needed. The site has collected links to reliable sources of information about psychiatric conditions that are often seen in college age youth.

The site would be useful to families who are still considering their child’s college options. An entire section on “Choosing a school” provides guidance on important issues to explore in order to find a best fit.

Of course in some communities the choice is simple. Go, Gators!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Kids Are Out of School, Now What?

By Gariane Phillips Gunter, M.D.

Summer is here, whoohoo! People of all ages, across the nation are having fun in the sun. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that summer also is the time of year consumers are most likely to be injured.

What can you do to keep you and your family safe?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay safe this summer is to wear a helmet and other safety gear when biking, skating and skateboarding, and when riding scooters, all-terrain vehicles, and horses.

If you are sending the kids to camp, be sure to check out the camp to ensure that your children will be supervised adequately for safety.

Protect to prevent a swimming pool tragedy. This includes placing barriers completely around your pool to prevent access, using door and pool alarms, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency.

When cooking outdoors with a gas grill, check the air tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing. If you ever detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas at the tank and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed. Newer grills and propane tanks have improved safety devices to prevent gas leaks.

Make sure your home playground is safe. Use safe surfaces that cushion falls. Concrete, asphalt or packed dirt surfaces are too hard.

Use softer-than standard baseballs, safety-release bases and batting helmets with face guards to reduce baseball-related injuries to children.

If you are a soccer mom or dad, beware that movable soccer goals can fall over and kill children. Make sure the goal is anchored securely at all times and never allow anyone to climb on the net or goal framework or hang from the cross bar. Remove nets when the goals are not in use.

To prevent serious injuries while using a trampoline, allow only one person on at a time, and do not allow somersaults. Use a shock-absorbing pad that completely covers the springs and place the trampoline away from structures and other play areas.

Don't allow a game of hide-n-seek to become deadly. CPSC has received reports of numerous suffocation deaths involving children who crawled inside old cedar chests, latch-type freezers and refrigerators, iceboxes in campers, clothes dryers and picnic coolers. Childproof old appliances, warn children not to play inside them.

If summer plans include camping and you want heat inside your tent or camper, use one of the new portable heaters that are equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). If oxygen levels start to fall inside your tent or camper, the ODS automatically shuts down the heater before it can produce deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Do not attempt to use alternative sources of heat or power to warm a tent or camper. Traditional camping heaters, charcoal grills, camping lanterns, and gas generators also can cause CO poisoning.

Install window guards to prevent children from falling out of open windows. Guards should be installed in children's bedrooms, parents' bedrooms, and other rooms where young children spend time. Or, install window stops that permit windows to open no more than 4 inches. Whenever possible, open windows from the top - not the bottom. Also, keep furniture away from windows to discourage children from climbing near windows.

Summer also means yard work. When mowing, keep small children out of the yard, and turn the mower off if children enter the area. Never carry children on a riding mower.

Although summer schedules can be chaotic, don’t forget to follow up with your mental health provider for appointments as directed!

Have a safe and happy summer!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Won’t they do other drugs?

By R. Scott Benson, M.D.

This is a question I get every time I talk with a family about medication treatment for their child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And the best answer has been “some will, some won’t”.

But at the APA meeting in New Orleans there was a report from the research group at the Mass General in Boston. They have been able to suggest answers to a lot of question about the outcome of children with ADHD. There is a higher rate of substance use problems in adolescents and adults who have a diagnosis of ADHD. But in this 10 year follow-up of children they asked “What are the predictors?”

Their data confirmed that a diagnosis of ADHD was associated with an increased incidence of drug and alcohol problems. But the finding of severe conduct problems in these children was even more highly associated with future substance use problems.

The take home message for me is that medication alone will not be sufficient to address the severe problems that many children with ADHD present. Parent training, especially for those with severely disruptive behaviors, is a necessary, integral part of their treatment.