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Why is a psychological evaluation important?

Anne Moss Rogers; Sunny Shin,Ph.D., VCU Social Work; Lisa Wright, MSW, LCSW, RPT-S, CTP, SCAN

Richmond has a trauma informed care network (TICN) for which I am a member. I presented to this group on suicide and mental illness and how my family was treated in Virginia. I did talk a lot about the fact that we never got a diagnosis in this state, even when I begged for one.

Maybe this isn’t surprising when you consider Virginia ranks forty nine for services related to major depression. Lack of a diagnosis didn’t seem to stop anyone from prescribing medication. The methodology is “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.” If you are a parent, don’t stand for that.

Would anyone ever approach a patient’s heart condition that way? Would doctors do some diagnostics before prescribing medication? They sure would. They wouldn’t prescribe for a heart condition without in-depth investigation.

So why is it that no one ever wanted to know what an evaluation might say about my son? This was 2011. It’s not like we lived in the fifties. Psychological evaluations did exist and were done regularly. Yet we didn’t get one until wilderness? For thirty five thousand dollars. Something that is normally completely covered by insurance.

Remember those words. And don’t let anyone treat your child without getting a a psychological evaluation which will give you a diagnosis which leads to a treatment plan which often includes a plan of medication and some kind of therapy. With some medications making teens suicidal, you need to know what it is they suffer from. Because bipolar and depression can look the same sometimes and those with bipolar can have serious adverse reactions to medications typically prescribed for depression.

Some kids with behavior looks like mental illness don’t have one at all. That’s why evaluation is important. Some kids’ behavior is the result of childhood trauma, also known as ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). For that child, we don’t want him mislabeled as having a mental illness and medicated when there isn’t one.

When a child is suffering behavior problems, there are several things that need to be considered. Behavior problems can include self harm, irrational anger, cavalier attitude about life, temper tantrums, drop in grades, no motivation, trouble with the law, oppositional behavior and more. And a child can have more than one of these. They can lead to early death including substance use disorder, suicide, and serious health problems such as heart conditions and diabetes.

  1. PANDAs-pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections.
  2. Substance use disorder (drug and alcohol abuse)
  3. ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences (Childhood Trauma) Take the ACEs test.
  4. Mental Illness
  5. Autism/Asperger’s (ADOS is the test for this)
  6. Human Trafficking– Don’t discount this one.
  7. Online grooming (meaning someone is coercing your child to engage in online activity that is dangerous or inappropriate – e.g. Blue Whale Challenge)

Behavior is the result of some struggle. So dig for the root cause and don’t assume a kid is just “born bad.”

See Oprah Winfrey’s segment on 60 minutes about childhood trauma and ACEs. You should also check out the documentary, Resilience. There are often several screenings in Richmond and other cities around the United States.

Charles’ Diagnosis from Wilderness

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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