Oct 3, 2018, U.S. News: Getting Kids Help in Time—Rising rates of mental health and behavioral issues are prompting worry – and action https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2018-10-03/treating-childrens-mental-and-behavioral-health THREE-YEAR-OLD NASIAH was hitting other kids and doing nothing the teacher asked, says his mother, Shannon, who requested their last names remain private. His aggressive outbursts continued in kindergarten, where he showed little improvement even after working with school behavioral aides. Frustrated, Shannon sometimes wondered if she should "give up" on seeking help. She blamed herself, thinking: "What am I doing wrong?" When Nasiah's behavior continued to decline, school staff recommended he switch to nearby Edgewood Primary School, where students needing help with mental health and behavioral issues could access a special on-site program run by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. Now, every morning before the school day starts, a trained C.O.O.L. Zone (short for "children overcoming obstacles and limits") therapist checks in with Nasiah, who attends weekly sessions in the program's dedicated therapeutic room – complete with an igloo-shaped playhouse – to learn coping skills. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Nasiah, now age 7, can retreat to the igloo when he gets upset, pull out some play dough, and calm himself down. If an incident occurs beyond the C.O.O.L. Zone classroom, a trained pro is there to help…. Launched as part of an effort to expand UPMC's psychiatric services to more kids, the program additionally aims to help equip schools with integrated, full-service behavioral health teams. It's also an example of how health systems are responding to a growing problem. "I think every school should have it, and not just in elementary," says Dreahma Marshall, whose son Darius Turner joined the Edgewood program as a kindergartner when he was having trouble sitting still and would get up and "talk to everybody." When the family moved recently, Marshall was relieved to find a C.O.O.L. Zone at her son's new school. Nearly 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. experiences a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder like ADHD in a given year. Sometimes the issues are mild and temporary; increasingly they are serious and even life-threatening. Yet regardless of severity, most kids don't receive any specialized treatment. Hospitals are aiming their efforts at early interventions while also scrambling to manage an influx of youth walking through their doors seeking mental and behavioral health care. … The country's uptick in youth suicides is especially alarming. The number of kids ages 5 to 17 hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts has more than doubled since 2008, according to a recent Vanderbilt-led study analyzing data from 2008 to 2015. Rising rates of anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and aggression are also worrisome…. "Eight years ago there was not nearly the same demand," and usually kids could be placed immediately, says Greg Plemmons, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine… At the same time, children's hospitals are working to better train pediatric primary care providers to diagnose and treat mild cases of anxiety and depression…. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta estimates that 25 percent of its primary care patients have mental and behavioral health concerns…. Pediatric primary care offices also have been called upon to step up their screening techniques. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new guidelines recommending depression screening for all kids starting at age 12, although experts say screening could begin as early as 6 if there is a concern….