UA focuses mental health symposium on moms, children - Tucson News Now

UA focuses mental health symposium on moms, children

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Mental health issues affect more than the patient, especially when that patient is also a parent.

The longest running Women's Mental Health Symposium in the country took place in Tucson on Friday.

With Mother's Day around the corner, the symposium was focused on more than mom. The 13th annual Women's Mental Health Symposium, sponsored by the University of Arizona expanded to focus on children.

The experts said depression is one of the greatest health burdens in the world.

"It's somewhere between number 2 and number 5 in terms of overall health costs, and in women in the United States, it's really becoming number 1," said Dr. Charles Raison with the UA College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.

In fact, women experience depression about twice as often as men do.

Research has shown there's a link between women who are depressed, even during pregnancy, and the problems their children may experience.

"So if kids then develop and have more problems with irritability or more academic problems or behavioral problems or learning now to have healthy relationships, then that has not only consequences for the child, but also for the family," said child psychiatrist, Dr. Kathy Smith.

Critical research into better ways to treat depression is underway at the University of Arizona.

It's not only about developing new drugs, but exploring entirely new ways of treating patients.

UA researchers are thinking outside the box, looking for ways to use mind-body connections to heal the brain. For instance, scientists are heating the patient's body, and that is showing promise.

"And the data thus far suggests that this may be a very exciting new treatment that works maybe better than anti-depressants, and it works almost immediately," Dr. Raison said. "So people that are really depressed are feeling better within a day or two."

"They're hitting different systems like the immune system or like stimulating the skin, different very novel ways of doing things," Dr. Raison said.

As that research continues, experts at the symposium said women need to be aware that depression is treatable now.

"It's really important that women understand that if they're taking good care of themselves, they're taking good care of their families," said Dr. Marlene Freeman of Massachusetts General Hospital.

"What we want to do is make sure that health care providers are informed about the treatment of depression in women and throughout the life span, from childhood to older age and we want to make sure also that the public is aware of the importance of specialized care as well," Dr. Freeman said.

What attendees learn there, they'll take home to improve the care they provide to their patients.

The Tucson area has resources available to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Crisis Response Center is available to anyone, children and adults.

The hotline number is (520) 622-6000.

The CRC also is open 24/7 for walk-ins.

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