How To Talk With Kids About Terrible Things

For the more than 3,000 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday’s mass shooting was terrifying and life-changing. But what of the tens of millions of other children, in schools across the country, who have since heard about what happened and now struggle with their own feelings of fear, confusion and uncertainty?

For their parents and teachers, we’ve put together a quick primer with help from the National Association of School Psychologists and Melissa Reeves, a former NASP president and co-author of its PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention curriculum.

Full story at NPR

Doctors can help prevent teen smoking, panel says

Children and teens may hear about the dangers of smoking from parents, teachers and friends, but they may be less likely to take up the deadly habit if they hear the message from at least one more important person: their doctor.

That’s the conclusion of an influential panel publishing new recommendations today in two medical journals, the Annals of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. In a number of studies, kids were less likely to try smoking if they got some kind of counseling or education from their doctors or other health care providers, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

“We didn’t recommend any particular intervention, because a variety of things seem to help,” says panel member David Grossman, a pediatrician and researcher at the Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington-Seattle. “The important thing is that the message is coming from a physician and that’s an important voice … even to kids.”

The report says “even very minimal interventions,” such as a doctor’s office mailing a series of prevention guides to parents and kids, could make a difference.

Full story of teen smoking at USA Today

CDC says 20 percent of U.S. children have mental health disorders

CDC Says 20 Percent of U.S. Children Have DisordersUp to one in five American youngsters — about 7 million to 12 million, by one estimate — experience a mental health disorder each year, according to a new report billed as the first comprehensive look at the mental health status of children in the country.

And the rate is increasing, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which produced the study, released last week.

Childhood mental disorders that alter the way children learn, behave and cope with their emotions affect 13 percent to 20 percent of youths under age 18, the CDC said Thursday. They also cost families and society at large an estimated $247 billion a year in treatment, special education, juvenile justice and decreased productivity, it stated.

Although the prevalence, early onset and effect on society make childhood mental problems a major public health issue, only 21 percent of affected children get treatment because of a shortage of pediatric sub-specialists and child and adolescent psychiatrists, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Full story of mental health in children at The Washington Post

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Drugs don’t help ADHD in little kids

ADHD Medication Does No Good in ChildrenMost preschool-age children with moderate-to-severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, continue to experience severe symptoms years after their diagnosis despite treatment, a study shows.

Six years after their diagnosis, about 90 per cent of the 186 children followed by researchers still had difficulties with symptoms such as over-activity, impulse control or inattentiveness, according to a study released this week by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adult Psychiatry.

ADHD affects three per cent to five per cent of school-age children, mostly boys, according to the National Institutes of Health. Treatments include medication and behavior therapy. The ailment increases the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse and difficulty keeping a job later in life, according to the NIH.

Full story of adhd drugs in kids at The Star Phoenix

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ADHD drugs – bad medicine for poor academic performance?

ADHD Drugs and Academic PerformanceThe furor began in October when Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician who treats mostly children from low-income families in Georgia, said that he routinely prescribed ADHD medications for kids struggling in school.

Red flags went up more recently when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last month that said Missouri is second only to Mississippi in the percentage of kids who are prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis.

The study indicated that Missouri doctors also may be making the ADHD diagnosis too frequently. The data show that nearly 9 percent of children in Missouri have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that 80 percent of them take prescription drugs for the behavioral disorder.

Full story of adhd drugs and academics at St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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More Kids Than Ever Are On Antipsychotics: But Is There An Alternative?

More Kids on AntipsychoticsA widely reported new study finds that more kids and teens are being prescribed antipsychotic medications than ever before. Many of these prescriptions are for “off-label” uses – those not approved by the FDA – like treatment for ADHD. Given the fact that we don’t know a whole lot about how these meds affect the brain over the long term, should we be so quick to put our kids on them? On the other hand, this issue begs another obvious one: What’s the alternative?

In children and adolescents, antipsychotic medications are approved only for treatment of bipolar disorder (in kids 10-17), schizophrenia (in kids 13-17), the irritability that can accompany autism, and the “tics and vocal utterances of Tourette syndrome.”

So the fact that their prescription has risen so markedly in recent years means that that “the range of mental disorders treated with these medications in practice has broadened,” according to the authors of the new paper. “In young people, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other disruptive disorders account for a substantial proportion (37.8%) of antipsychotic use.” Again, these drugs are not actually approved to treat these disorders, making these “off-label” uses for the class of drugs.

Full story of kids antipsychotic drugs at

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Children with bipolar disorder: Maybe true, definitely troubling

If the incidence of a childhood illness increased 4,000% in 9 years, you would think more people would be alarmed. The diagnosis of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (PBD) did increase that much from 1994 to 2003, and is still on the rise. There is more buzz in the media about it the past few years, and research has been (and continues being) done.

PBD is not in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text revision; DSM-IV-TR ), which is the current guide to mental disorders; approved by the American Psychiatric Association in 2000. However, PBD is an accepted diagnosis by many psychiatrists and doctors who cite studies validating the need for it.


If a child or adolescent demonstrates “more than a few” of the behaviors below, and the parent or caregiver realizes there is definitely something wrong, it is possible the child could be diagnosed as bipolar.

Full story of children with bipolar disorder at The Washington Times

Maternal Stress During Pregnancy Impairs Child Health – Study

By Mita Majumdar

Maternal StressMany studies have established that prenatal stress in the form of life and emotional stress to the mother during pregnancy can have a lasting negative impact on the behavior and biology of the offspring. The children of such mothers have an increased risk of malformations, asthma, and mental and behavioral disorders. So much so that, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the role of maternal stress during pregnancy should be given high research priority.

In view of this, Clinical psychologist Marion Tegethoff and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether stress during pregnancy could be a risk factor for various child diseases in the offspring.

The study was based on data from the Danish National Birth Cohort. The information on maternal stress was gathered from a telephone interview taken around 30 weeks of gestation. And information on children’s diseases was derived from the Danish National Hospital Register. Complete information on maternal stress during and after pregnancy as well as the data on diagnoses was available for 66,203 (99 percent) of the eligible mother–child pairs that participated in all of the relevant interviews.

Full story at MedIndia

Mark Curran, 7-Year-Old, Under Investigation For Sexual Harassment (VIDEO)

By Laura Hibbard

Mark Curran Sexual HarassmentA 7-year-old boy at South Boston’s Tynan Elementary School is under investigation for sexual harassment after he struck a boy in the groin, The Boston Globe reports.

The boy’s mother, Tasha Lynch, says her son, Mark Curran, was only defending himself after the other boy allegedly choked Curran on a school bus Nov. 22.

"I think my kid was right to fight back," Lynch toldThe Globe. "He wasn’t doing anything except protecting himself."

Lynch describes the alleged incident further to Boston’s WBZ.

"He just all of a sudden came up to him, choked him," Lynch said of the November 22 incident. "He wanted to take his gloves, and my son said, ‘I couldn’t breathe, so I kicked him in the testicles."

Full story at Huffington Post

Health Aware: How to tame holiday blues

Naperville Sun

Holiday Mental HealthEverybody loves George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He’s the poster boy for holiday blues, and many of us can relate to his distress, at least to some degree. The season can mean a hectic schedule, added financial pressure and unmet expectations about how the holidays “should” be.

“A number of factors make the holidays difficult,” according to Fatima Ali, a psychiatrist with Linden Oaks at Edward and DuPage Mental Health Services. “Family tensions can be high. There may be arguments about how to divide time among the relatives, which gets more complicated if there’s been a divorce. It’s also a tough time for coping with the loss of loved ones who are now missing from family gatherings.

Couples having difficulty getting pregnant also face challenges.

Full story at Naperville Sun