First-of-Its-Kind Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit Opens

November 14, 2013

Dr. Duru Sakhrani leaves a ceremonial handprint on the

wall in the new unit after the official ribbon cutting.

All patients treated in the new unit will also leave

a handprint on the wall.

ST. LOUIS - According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 4 million children in the U.S. have some type of serious mental illness, one that significantly interferes with daily life.

Mercy Kids is leading the way in treating children with mental health disorders in the St. Louis area. A new, inpatient child and adolescent behavioral health unit opened recently at Mercy Children’s Hospital providing a healing, kid-friendly environment for youth suffering from emotional and behavioral disorders. The new unit – the first of its kind in the St. Louis area - is the only pediatric behavioral health unit housed in a children’s hospital and led by board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists. Its dedicated children-centered staff implements a program allowing patients and families to feel welcome and start to heal in a modern and comfortable environment.

“This is our giant step in eliminating the boundaries and stigma of mental illness,” said Duru Sakhrani, MD, Mercy Kids pediatric psychiatrist. “With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, these kids grow to achieve the goals they set for themselves.”

The most common mental illnesses in children include depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and anxiety. The average delay between on-set of symptoms and intervention is eight to 10 years, so it’s important to know the warning signs.

According to NAMI there are 10 common warning signs of a mental illness:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks (e.g., crying regularly, feeling fatigued, feeling unmotivated)
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
  • Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  • Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits (e.g. waking up early and acting agitated)
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that puts a person in physical danger or causes school failure
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities like hanging out with friends or going to classes

Dr. Sakhrani also recommended noting sudden changes in function at school or home.

Mercy Kids is a network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.  It is powered by over 700 pediatricians and family doctors in partnership with 125 pediatric specialists.  Anchored by two acute care pediatric hospitals in St. Louis and Springfield, Mo., Mercy Kids offers a full range of services to support healthy childhoods, including pediatric, specialty and educational services.


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