Dr. Perry Klass, a primary care doctor, and columnist for the New York Times Health recently wrote about the concern primary care doctors, as well as pediatricians, and obstetricians have in speaking to their patients about depression. “Like many other primary care doctors I sometimes sense the shadow of depression hovering over the edges of the exam room.” The right questions may be critical in helping the patient get the correct diagnosis, without stigma.
Research into postnatal depression has underscored the importance of following up on parents’ mental health in the first month’s of a baby’s life. However, a parent’s depression can be linked to all kinds of issues, and may endure or appear in the lives of older kids. Often, people who are depressed do not seek out help. Dr. Williams Beardslee, professor of child psychiatry at Harvard medical school says “Untreated, unrecognized parental depression can lead to negative consequences for kids.” These consequences can include lowered school performance, increased visits to the emergency room, poorer peer relationships and adolescent depression. However, when depressed parents get treatment and help with parenting, families are much better off.
There are higher rates of depression in parents whose kids have chronic medical problems. This may also reflect the stress of dealing with the issues surrounding the child. Dr. Jacqueline M. Grupp-Phelan, a pediatric emergency room doctor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital said “There is a high burden of maternal depression, and anxiety among moms bringing their kids to the emergency room.” “It influences their own perceptions of how well they can deal with their kid’s problems.” Dr. Grupp-Phelan believes moms in the emergency room like to be asked how they are doing… it may be the only time they’ve been asked about their depression. “The last thing in the world we should be doing is blaming parents.” “We should be reaching out and offering hope.” And there is a lot of hope. Healthy family routines and rituals can be rebuilt, and there is extensive research to show that kids are resilient……… Ny Times Health May 7, 2012