Monday, November 21, 2011

Mental Health, A Family Affair

We know how families can impact what we think, and how we act long after we have grown up and moved on. So how does growing up with a parent who has a mental illness impact kids?  In a recent study, 21,000 families observed over 4 years shows that those kids who have two parents with depression are at a particularly high risk of behavioral or emotional problems. Those with only one parent being depressed are more likely to experience these issues than the rest of the population of children. Kids in this study ranged in age from 5-17 years old. The data shows when dad is depressed , approximately 11 % of kids  showed signs of behavioral or emotional problems. When Mom was depressed the number rises to 19% and to 25% when both parents are depressed. Teens aged 12-17 with depressed dads, males, and who lived with smokers had even higher rates of depression. This study appears in the journal, Pediatrics. At any rate, it is clear pediatricians and family practice  physicians need to pay more attention to the levels of depression in parents in order to help treat any issues in the kids.  It is evident Dad's depression may be overlooked as they are rarely the parent who brings the child to the doctor. However, a good history could alert the practitioner of some underlying depressive issues that occur in the family. It is unclear at this juncture, if the depressed parents make their kids more depressed or vice versa. What is clear is anyone who has contact with children, and who suspects they may have a problem with depression or anxiety needs to look at the family as a whole before proceeding with a course of treatment. Mental health and well being is truly a family affair. 

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