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How Telehealth Can Enhance Mental Health Care

How Telehealth Can Enhance Mental Health Care

If you've noticed your child or teen is struggling in school, having difficulties with family or friends, has changes in how they eat or sleep, or seems depressed, hopeless, anxious, or angry, they may be giving you signs they can use some extra support.

This article is also available in other languages. See links to download at bottom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many children, teens, and young adults feeling a sense of loss. They have lost time with friends, family and community. They have lost activities at school. They may have even lost people they know to COVID-19. Everyone has felt a loss of normalcy during this time.

Start with your pediatrician

If you're worried about your child's emotional health, you might be able to schedule a telehealth visit with your pediatrician. Telehealth can be a visit that takes place by video or phone. Pediatricians are finding that this is a good way to talk with you and your child from the comfort of your home. A telehealth visit can ease any feelings of discomfort that some children and teens may feel when talking about emotional health issues.

What to expect during the visit

During the first telehealth visit, your pediatrician will listen to you and your child and then make suggestions. They may ask you to fill out forms about your child's mood and symptoms before or after the visit to get a complete picture of what is going on. They may suggest including a pediatric mental health specialist in your child's care.

Pediatricians are skilled at talking with your child about what's going well and what's not going so well. During telehealth visits, pediatricians are finding kids are more open to talking about what's bothering them. Or if they are younger, they may tell the doctor about having more stomach aches or headaches than usual. The doctor can talk with you and your child more to see if an in-person visit might be needed.

How to prepare

When you schedule your visit, talk to the doctor's office about any difficulty you may have with equipment, like not having a camera or earbuds. They will work with you to make the visit go smoothly.

  1. Find as quiet a place as possible to have the video or phone call; turn off all screens.

  2. Make sure the office has your consent and phone number.

  3. Ask another adult to watch other children so you can join the visit.

  4. For younger children: have a quiet activity like coloring or a book to flip through while you talk with the pediatrician.

  5. When it's your child's turn to talk, allow them to talk!

One-on-one time

It's important that teens and young adults have time set aside during their telehealth visit for a one-on-one discussion with the pediatrician. This allows them to talk openly about their health and any concerns they may have. It's a critical step toward encouraging independence. They can use headphones or earbuds during this part of the visit. The pediatrician will let you know when you should step out of the room so they can talk privately.

Prior to this talk, the pediatrician will explain confidentiality, and will let your teen know that they won't share these private talks with you or anyone else unless their safety is at risk.

What if telehealth isn't for us?

It's okay if you feel a telehealth visit isn't for you or your family. Share the needs of your child or teen with your pediatrician; you may decide an in-person visit would be better. Either way, don't delay a visit. You might continue your child's mental health care in-person or you might try shorter, more frequent follow-up visits by telehealth.

More information

Other languages available

This resource is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $6,000,000 with no percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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