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One in three children who were diagnosed and treated for mental health conditions on an outpatient basis saw their primary-care doctors for this care, a new study reports.
Using data from a nationally representative survey, the researchers found that about 35 percent of children receiving mental health care in the past year had appointments only with their primary-care physicians compared with about 26 percent who saw only psychiatrists and 15 percent who saw only psychologists or social workers. The findings highlight the role that primary-care providers are playing on a national level in caring for children with mental health conditions, said Dr. About one in 10 school-age children in the United States has a mental health condition, and there are not enough child psychiatrists to care for them, Van Cleave told Live Science. To get a glimpse at who provides outpatient mental health services to children throughout the country and the types of diagnoses and medications prescribed, the researchers analyzed data from about 43,000 children in the United States ages 2 to 21 between the years 2008 and 2011. The research did not include information about mental health services provided by schools, juvenile justice programs and child-welfare agencies, and it did not capture the number of kids who may have a mental health problem, but don't seek treatment for it. Although the research didn't look at doctors' rationale for prescribing medication, Van Cleave speculated that the higher prescribing patterns among primary-care providers probably occurs because child psychiatrists might see particularly difficult mental health cases or they might see children who don't respond to a prescribed drug.
Some areas identified by the study where primary-care doctors could be doing better is in collaborating more with child psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, and co-managing cases they refer to these mental health specialists. The study's findings help demonstrate that primary care is a good area to put more supports in place for children's mental health, Van Cleave said. The studies counter the misconception that nuclear disasters have caused widespread death and physical illness, with the researchers finding that the mental health effects were far more profound.

In 2006, the United Nations Chernobyl Forum report found that accident's most serious public health issue was its damage to mental health, an effect made worse by poor communication about the health risks of reported radiation levels. Radiological health experts said analyzing such events gives vital information on how best to protect those living near nuclear power plants. A large body of research — particularly among people in the United States — has tied religious beliefs with positive outcomes for mental health. Studies on the brains of religious people may also provide an explanation for the link between religion and mental-health benefits, said Dr. Some religions also advocate that members stay away from high-risk health behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or overindulging in food. However, religion doesn't always have a positive effect on mental health — its impact depends on a person's beliefs, and whether religion is generally accepted by the larger community, experts said.
In addition, if some people believe that a health condition — such as addiction — is a punishment from God, they may be less likely to seek treatment, Newberg said.
She explained that in recent years, primary-care providers, which for many youngsters often means their pediatricians, have gotten more involved in identifying and managing kids' mental health conditions because of a shortage of mental health professionals for children. For both mental health conditions, primary-care providers were more likely to put children on mood-altering medications than child psychiatrists. She also said that parents who might not want to put their child on medication may seek additional services from a mental health specialist.

These supports may include better access to child psychiatrists or mental health experts for questions that doctors might have about a child's treatment plan, as well as better communication with mental health experts involved in a child's care to make sure therapy is going well and the child is progressing along a good treatment path, she said.
A slew of research has tied being religious with better well-being and overall mental health.
For example, a 2005 study of older adults in the San Francisco Bay area found that being religious served as a buffer against depression among people in poorer health, with the highest levels of depression among those who were in poor health and not religious.
In addition, a 2013 study found that patients who are being treated for mental-health issues such as depression or anxiety responded better to treatment if they believed in God.
Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, found that more religious people had fewer depressive symptoms. Certain religious practices may even change the brain in a way that boosts mental health, studies suggest.

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