Child Development Unit

School age and adolescence are crucial life stages for mental health. In fact, some mental health disorders, such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression are common during childhood. At MetroWest Medical Center, we have a child development unit (CDU), located at Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick, that provides specialized pediatric mental health services.

Our child development unit features:

  • A 17-bed locked, inpatient unit exclusively for children 3-17 including five brand new beds that were added in April 2021
  • A compassionate environment that focuses on children’s strengths rather than their weaknesses
  • Group therapy sessions

Mental Health Problems in Children and Adolescents

According to the World Health Organization, 10-20% of children and adolescents on a global scale experience mental health conditions. Half of these mental health conditions normally start at age 14.


Some of the most common mental health issues in children and adolescents include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder (CD)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Self-harm
  • Tourette syndrome


Parents should watch out for the following warning signs of mental health issues in children:

  • Constant worrying
  • Decline in personal care (not concerned with his/her hygiene)
  • Feeling extremely sad
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Isolation
  • Not wanting to do the things he/she used to enjoy
  • Out-of-control behavior
  • Oversleeping or not being able to sleep
  • Severe mood swings
  • Showing obsession with his/her weight

Risk Factors

The following factors may increase a child’s risk for a mental health condition:

  • A chronic physical illness
  • A family history of mental health problems
  • A history of physical or sexual abuse
  • Death of someone close to the child
  • Divorce or separation of parents
  • Experiencing discrimination (i.e., because of race, sexuality, religion, etc.)
  • Experiencing struggles in studying (i.e., failing grades, etc.)
  • Poverty or being homeless
  • Suffering from bullying
  • Taking on adult responsibilities

Our Pediatric Mental Health Services

Our child development unit at Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick is a statewide leader for preventing the use of restraining and seclusion in children’s mental health care. We have an experienced team of board-certified child psychiatrists, nurses and staff who provides pediatric mental health services that aim to address the specific needs of our patients. These services may include:

  • Psychopharmacological evaluations
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling
  • Medications
  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Access to our 24-hour crisis assessment team

We also have on-site tutors who work with outside agencies and schools so children learn continuously as they receive care.

Find Help

If your child is showing signs of a mental health condition, please schedule an appointment with one of our child psychiatrists as soon as possible. Mental disorders can take a toll in a child’s life and may even lead to life-threatening circumstances, so please do not take them lightly.

In case of a psychiatric emergency, such as a suicide attempt or a violent behavior, please immediately call our assessment team at 508-650-7339. Doctors may also refer patients through this phone number. Your safe care is our #1 priority.

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