Pediatricians should take a lead role in identifying and helping children experiencing mental health disorders, a national pediatricians group said Tuesday.

Roughly 1 in 5 children experience a mental health disorder, but just 20 percent of those children receive treatment for such conditions. And pediatricians must fill this gap, according to a mental health task force from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a supplement to the journal Pediatrics published Tuesday, the task force recommends that pediatricians should be on the lookout for mental health disorders ranging from autism to depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, each time they see a child.

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The reason: early identification and treatment can yield better outcomes for these children. And, since pediatricians often have a long-term relationship with families, they are in a position to develop trust and become a resource if and when there are mental health concerns.

What’s more, the group recommends that doctors establish a network of mental health professionals to refer parents to and that they look to creative solutions — like psychiatric services provided over the telephone — when local resources are limited.

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