Mental Health: See the Signs

Navigating the mental health care system can be challenging for patients, families and providers. Add to that, a COVID-19 pandemic that upended nearly all aspects of ‘normal’ life almost overnight. However, the team of clinicians who make up the Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama continued to connect adult callers to mental health resources when they needed it the most.

PIRC is a collaboration between Children’s of Alabama and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation for Hope. It opened in 2018 to connect adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens. Calls are answered by licensed mental health clinicians trained to assess a child or teen’s emotional and behavioral needs.

The PIRC is only one of three of its kind in the country. The team at Children’s of Alabama has established itself as a strong group of expert clinicians. Each member of the team brings his or her own skill set, with specialties including ADHD, autism, developmental delays, sexually reactive behaviors, mood and psychotic disorders and behavioral concerns such as conduct disorders.

In its first 12 months of service, PIRC took more than 1,100 calls and had a database of more than 1,000 mental health providers representing every county in Alabama. In 2020, PIRC received more than 1,900 calls, and its database has grown to more than1,600 providers. Clinicians emphasize the PIRC is not a suicide or crisis hotline, but instead a valuable resource for parents, physicians, school nurses, teachers, counselors, grandparents, foster parents or anyone who is seeking mental health services on a child’s behalf.

PIRC does not provide over the phone diagnoses. PIRC is open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Any adult with a mental health question or concern regarding their child is encouraged to call 205-638-7472.

Anyone experiencing a crisis should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For more information, visit ChildrensAL.com/PIRC.

Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children. Ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves patients from every county in Alabama and nearly every state. Children’s is a private, not-for-profit medical center that serves as the teaching hospital for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, psychiatry, research and residency programs.

Warning Signs:

Parents should watch for these signs of mental distress occurring more than two weeks in their children:

  • Isolating themselves
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Mood swings
  • Increased irritability and frustration
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Violent, aggressive outbursts

Once these signs are identified, call the PIRC to find the appropriate mental health treatment for your child.

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