The co-occurrence of mental health problems (MHP) such as anxiety symptoms and chronic primary pain1 in children and caregivers constitutes a serious health problem which manifests in multiple ways: Children with chronic primary pain suffer substantially more from MHP compared to healthy children (Balottin, Fusar Poli, Termine, Molteni, & Galli, 2013). The co-occurrence aggravates and leads to severe MHP and pain problems in adulthood when untreated (Vinall, Pavlova, Asmundson, Rasic, & Noel, 2016).
Affected children display significantly worsened treatment outcome, even in the most intensive form of treatment, i.e., intensive interdisciplinary pain programs (Hirschfeld et al., 2013; Simons et al., 2018). The co-occurrence is also worrisome in parents. Children of affected parents constitute a high-risk group for developing both, MHP and chronic pain (Stone & Wilson, 2016). Despite the deleterious effects of this co-occurrence, there is a substantial lack of translational research into risk factors and mutually maintaining factors, a lack of prevention and treatment strategies and a lack of communication of the research findings into clinical practice.
It is therefore my vision to make a substantial impact to decrease the co-occurrence of MHP and chronic pain in three ways (see Figure 1):
- developing translational research projects,
- implement evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies,
- engage in science communication with children and caregivers, child educational professionals and child health care professionals.
For an overview of the current research projects, please follow this link.