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Mood Disorder Clinic Serves Antidote to Teen Despair

October 11, 2007
Elizabeth Kastelic_detail

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Elizabeth Kastelic, M.D., offers tailored prescriptions for managing mood disorders.

When Elizabeth Kastelic’s young patients leave the hospital they take with them their “coping” cards – handwritten reminders of their favorite things to do, whether it’s going for a run, talking with friends or working on a scrapbook. These are their own recipes against disaster, the substitutes for cutting themselves, taking drugs or attempting suicide when the low moods strike – and for these young patients with mood disorders, they will at times.

“We teach them that they have to ride out these low feelings and learn how to manage them, and not turn to alternatives that don’t work,” says Kastelic, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Hopkins Children’s, and director of its Young Adult Affective Disorders Unit. “The little cards become tools they can carry with them when they leave the hospital.”

Older teens and college-age young adults with mood disorders arrive at this innovative four-bed inpatient unit in crisis – suicidal, incapacitated by depression and despair. Developing good coping skills is paramount for these young people, but their illness has clouded their view of the world and their ability to learn. But here, in a group inpatient setting once reserved only for adults, they do better.

“In the company of others struggling with the same chronic illness,” says Kastelic, “they discover they’re not alone, that’s there’s a name for their condition, and that it’s treatable.”

The unit, in part, is a micro-model of a larger mood disorders unit that will open with the new hospital scheduled to open in 2011. That unit will have pods of rooms that can be arranged into subspecialty units for treating an array of disorders, including eating and mood disorders and substance abuse. “As we can now in this small, specialized unit,” says Kastelic, “we’ll be able to offer extensive illness education to all of our Hopkins Children’s patients and their families, tailored precisely to their needs.”