Living with a chronic illness that requires a lifelong commitment to a strict gluten-free diet can be difficult for anyone. For children and teens, the emotional and psychological impact associated with celiac disease can have particular and profound challenges. We know from emerging brain research, for example, that the teenage brain is especially sensitive to peer approval as they develop the ability to see themselves as others see them. No wonder, then, that celiac disease and the need for strict adherence to a gluten-free diet can cause severe stress on families and social relationships, and can contribute to a sense of social alienation, feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and depression.

In the first national effort to systematically address the emotional and psychological issues of young people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) and Children’s National Health System (Children’s National) have launched a new partnership to expand mental health education around this specific issue and to empower healthcare providers and community-based peer support facilitators to provide counseling. CDF is the nation’s leading disease advocacy organization for celiac disease; Children’s National is based in Washington, D.C., and is recognized as one of the nation’s top pediatric teaching hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. CDF is grateful for this partnership, funded by a generous endowment from the Resnick Family, longtime supporters of the Foundation.

“Living a gluten-free life is just the beginning for young people diagnosed with celiac disease,” stated Peter Resnick. “While the gluten-free diet is absolutely critical, at the same time, we often overlook the emotional impact on children who are alienated by their peers because they can’t eat the same foods. Without learning how to cope with this alienation,” Resnick continued, “children can withdraw and become prone to depression. That is why we are thrilled to see this partnership form and that this important project is underway.”

“Celiac Disease Foundation and Children’s National will stand together to provide help and hope,” said CDF Chief Executive Officer, Marilyn G. Geller. “We are pleased to be working with one of the nation’s most distinguished pediatric hospitals to help individuals and families affected by celiac disease. Our common mission will include training healthcare providers and community-based peer support facilitators in supporting the psychological needs of young people living with a gluten-related disorder.”

About Children’s National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has been serving the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is Magnet® designated, and is consistently ranked among the top pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is one of the nation’s top NIH-funded pediatric institutions. With a community-based pediatric network, seven regional outpatient centers, an ambulatory surgery center, two emergency rooms, an acute care hospital, and collaborations throughout the region, Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as an advocate for all children.