The end of August means that school is back in session in Missouri and that’s a perfect time to schedule that back-to-school checkup for your child. On top of a physical exam and checking for routine immunizations, parents are also encouraged to get a mental health screening for their children.

Dr. Ravi Johar, with United Healthcare in St. Louis, said mental health often gets ignored.

“One of the things that we found out during COVID is that unfortunately there was a marked increase in mental health issues for children,” said Johar. “As a matter of fact, ages 6 – 11 is when we see the most mental health issues start to present themselves.”

Johar said checking on your child’s mental health is just as important as checking on their physical development, especially considering that TV, movies, social media, and videogames have an influence.

“All of these are bombarding our kids constantly,” Johar said. “You know they’re dealing with social media issues that we never had to deal with. There’s a lot that’s going on in our kid’s world. So, I think it’s really important to let them know that it’s okay to talk about what’s going on and that there are options for anything that could happen.”

Johar said that 60% of youth with major depression symptoms, that really need treatment, are not getting any kind of treatment at all.

“People don’t screen for it and that’s why it’s really important for the pediatricians to be doing that at the time of visits and for the parents to be asking, just to watch the things of that sort,” according to Johar. “A lot of times people don’t recognize what some of those symptoms are for kids. You know, a lot of things where you just see the kids just acting different. You think it’s just a teenage thing. It may not be.”

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