Psychiatrists are medical doctors with special training and skills in diagnosing and treating mental illness and emotional troubles.
Some psychiatrists are paediatric or adolescent psychiatrists. This means they specialise in the mental and emotional problems that children and teenagers might go through.
If your child has mental health or wellbeing concerns, health professionals like psychiatrists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why your child might see a psychiatrist
Your child might see a psychiatrist if they have:
- childhood depression or pre-teen and teenage depression
- severe childhood anxiety or teenage anxiety
- a complex neurodevelopmental disorder like severe autism
- a severe conduct disorder
- an eating disorder
- emotional or mental health problems that are making a physical illness worse
- post-traumatic stress and related disorders
- self-harming behaviour
- suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
If your child is experiencing any of these conditions or issues, your psychiatrist will look at the best treatment for them. The psychiatrist will look not only at your child but also your family.
Treatments might involve:
- individual therapy
- family support – for example, education and advice
- family therapy
- medication – for example, antidepressants
- parent counselling
- a combination of these treatments.
To see a psychiatrist, your child will need a referral from your GP. Your GP can help you find someone who’s right for your child.
Before going to a psychiatrist
Before seeing the psychiatrist, it’s a good idea to find out about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a psychiatrist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment, or will the GP make it for you? Does the appointment need to be in person, or can it be via telehealth?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the psychiatrist?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the psychiatrist cost? Medicare covers part of the cost of seeing a psychiatrist, but you might have to cover some costs yourself.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the psychiatrist – for example, public hospital, private hospital or consulting rooms.
You can ask your GP these and any other questions before you go to the psychiatrist. You could also ask the psychiatrist’s clinic when you make your appointment. It’s a good idea to write down your questions, so you don’t forget.