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Information for parents and caregivers
Deciding whether to start your child on medication can be a difficult decision. Below, you will find some information and resources to help you make an informed decision. Printable information in plain language on use of specific medications in children and adolescents is available from the categories listed to the left.
What are medications for mental disorders?
Medications for treating mental health problems are also sometimes called psychiatric medications. They are used to treat the symptoms of many mental health problems/mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depressive illness), depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. These medications are prescribed by doctors including Family Physicians and Psychiatrists, and are often used with other treatments such as counseling or psychotherapy. They can play an integral role in treating many mental health problems.
What do I need to know about medications for mental disorders?
1. Medications will not produce the same effect in all children/youth
Depending on the individual child/ youth’s age, sex, body size, and diet, as well as other treatments/medications they may be on, medications may have different effects. This may include differences in side effects, doses, and symptom relief.
2. Changes in doses and /or psychiatric medications are not unusual and may help in reducing the negative effects on the child/ youth
If your child is experiencing or suspected to have negative effects on their health and wellbeing due to medications, including their sleep patterns, appetite and the ability to maintain an appropriate weight; parents and caregivers should speak to an appropriate health care professionals regarding changes to dosage and/or the type of medication.
3. All medications, including herbal supplements and over the counter medications, as well as all other forms of treatment should be discussed
Many of us may assume ‘over-the-counter’ medications or ‘natural’/herbal preparations are generally safe. However, if they are used in combination with psychiatric medications there may be drug interactions or side effects that may be dangerous for your child. In order to ensure safe, effective and appropriate treatment, parents/caregivers need to be honest and open in informing their healthcare professionals about all the medications, including herbs, and supplements, as well as all other forms of treatment their child/youth may be using, when discussing use of psychiatric medications. Open communication can help your doctor find the right psychiatric medications for your child/youth.
What questions can I ask my doctor about these medications?
These questions will make communication among the partners in care (e.g. patient/client, parent/caregiver, service provider) easier and will support collaborative decision-making to improve treatment outcomes.