JOPLIN, Mo. — Your child’s pediatrician could be a valuable resource for their well-being, for more than just physical health.

The role those doctors play in mental health is the next portion of The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness.

“Well, obviously, it’s life and death important, right?” Said Dr. Paul Petry, Pediatrician.

Dr. Petry at Freeman Health System is talking about the importance of recognizing the warning signs of suicide in our children.

“When they hear these clues, where do we go? And that’s when I’m going to say call our office. Talk to your pediatrician,” said Dr. Petry.

Dr. Petry reminds us pediatricians are one of the front lines in your child’s health, which includes mental health.

“Most of the time, when you take the time to talk to teenagers, they’ll tell you what’s going on,” said Dr. Petry.

Doctors use a form called the PHQ9. It’s a pediatric health questionnaire with nine questions.

“Are you sleeping? Do you have a hard time getting to sleep? Do you feel bad about yourself? Do you have a hard time concentrating?” Said Dr. Petry.

And, when those answers become alarming, that’s when someone like Licensed Clinical Social Worker Sarah Willoughby might step in.

“If I can come to the clinic, talk to the patient and the family, I’m happy to do that. I work at three different pediatric clinics,” said Willoughby.

Dr. Petry or any of the other providers can refer to Willoughby for a variety of reasons including PTSD or a general lack of resources.

“I am a behavioral health coach at Freeman Pediatrics, and part of that is supporting children, teenagers, families, in whatever way I can,” said Willoughby.

Whether it’s depression, family problems, or getting bullied at school, Willoughby can help with the resources that a child might need.

“What I have seen is that they need more support. It seems to me that teenagers really need someone to sit down and take the time to listen,” said Willoughby.

The first step, according to Dr. Petry, to understanding your child’s mental well-being is to simply eat a meal with your kids.

“Take time to catch up with your kids and eat dinner. Eat a meal together with your kids and ask them, talk to your children. That’s the most important thing to do,” said Dr. Petry.

If you know anyone struggling with their mental health and they need someone to talk to, we urge you to call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-talk.

Later this week, that lifeline across the nation will simply be 9-8-8 on your phone.

We also have more resources for you under the Suicide Crisis tab.