Woman and young girl sitting and talking to a doctor in a white lab coat

Did you know that pediatricians have a significant opportunity to start early conversations about mental health with families? 

While many families will not reach out to a therapist or other mental health professional unless they are in crisis, many families visit a pediatrician at least once a year for their wellness exam. 

This gives pediatricians an opportune moment to discuss child and adolescent mental health, and educate families about the community resources available to them. 

Educating Families About Adolescence

As children and adolescents grow, it is perfectly normal for them to experience difficult emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

But parents often struggle to differentiate those “normal” challenges from indicators of a more serious mental health condition.

Pediatricians can help guide conversations around adolescent mental health so that families can better understand what to expect during puberty, and how to respond if they suspect their child is in need of mental healthcare. 

The Importance of Mental Health Screenings for Pediatric Patients

Yearly wellness exams are an excellent time to begin screening for other mental health concerns with the patient and their family. 

We recommend screening, such as a biopsychosocial exam, which gathers information on the patient about their genetics, past and present mental health situations, and environment. Biopsychosocial exams are an excellent tool for gaining a multifaceted view of patients and understanding any mental health issues and potential underlying causes.  

As the child enters adolescence, it is vital to give the adolescent privacy during these conversations to help teach them advocacy and communication skills.

Screenings are necessary for a pediatrician to understand what is happening with a patient and  how to best make referrals for additional mental healthcare. 

Fostering Collaboration Between Pediatricians and Mental Healthcare Providers

When a family comes to the pediatrician, they may not know where to turn for mental and behavioral health resources. As a pediatrician, it is crucial to direct them to the appropriate care they need and work collaboratively with the agencies you refer to. 

Collaboration is important in order to ensure you’re providing the best care for the patient and their family. It can be exhausting for families to repeat themselves or relive traumatic events, and by working collaboratively, you may be able to help “fill in the blanks” and take some of that extra burden off of families in crisis. 

When and How to Make Pediatric Mental Health Referrals

When a patient or family discloses concerns they have about mental health, make sure to listen actively and take the time to direct them to the right resource.

Suppose a patient reveals self-harming behaviors, suicidal ideations, or homicidal ideations. In that case, it is best practice to get them a Psychological Evaluation at the nearest hospital by a professional mental health worker and provide the family with outpatient resources in your area.

If the family expresses behavioral concerns, referring them to an outpatient mental health treatment would be best. This may include local therapists or psychiatrists. Reminding the family that they are not alone in caring for their children’s needs is a meaningful way to help establish trust.

At Backpack Healthcare, we provide outpatient mental health treatment for individuals and families, including psychiatry options for specialized pediatric-focused medication management for behavioral health services. We also believe in collaborative care work and will provide updates on the client’s treatment to give the client and their family a professional support group they can rely on.

We have several ways to refer patients to telehealth mental health treatment, depending on your personal preferences:

  1. Email intake@hellobackpack.com
  2. Call or text 866-968-6342 
  3. Completing the referral form on our Partners Page

We look forward to partnering with you to bring the highest quality of care to your patients and their families! 





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