I HAVE JUST FINISHED reading "Action for Mental Health," the challenging report of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health. This comprehensive 5-year study, completed in 1960 and just published, presents this complex and enormous health problem realistically, pointing out that progress depends on removing those three well-known obstacles of manpower, facilities and costs.
One of the Commission's recommendations for a national mental health program is better use of present knowledge and experience. There is an acute shortage of professional resources for the care of mentally ill patients, as we know. Of all categories of psychiatrists, the Commission reports, Child psychiatrists are in shortest supply, "children being especially trying to work with and requiring the close co-operation of the parents and infinite patience on the part of therapists." Because pediatricians offer a considerable potential for helping emotionally disturbed children, the Commission recommends that the National Institute for Mental Health provide support for resident training programs in pediatrics that incorporate adequate psychiatric information and that it provide allowances for pediatricians who wish to take postgraduate courses in psychiatry. The aim is not to convert pediatricians into psychiatrists (although a good pediatrician certainly has an abundance of the "infinite patience" required) but to increase the resources of the community.
Actually, of all medical specialties, pediatrics has for many years played a key role in mental health, as we know, both in early recognition of emotional maladjustments in childhood and in prevention by fostering good mental health concepts in child rearing. This has applied not only to private practice but to public health work such as well child conferences and school health service.
- Copyright © 1961 by the American Academy of Pediatrics