Essential Pittsburgh: Where Mental Health Issues in Children Begin and End

Apr 9, 2015

New research within the field of epigenetics may change the way we look at the treatment of mental health issues in children. Dr. Sharna Olfman, a professor of developmental psychology at Point Park University and a practicing psychologist, has published a new book, The Science and Pseudoscience of Children's Mental Health, that aims to de-mystify how mental health issues are introduced within a child's developing brain.

Dr. Olfman believes that the question is no longer confined to internal factors, but instead an integration of children's changing environments with the processes of early brain development and transferrable genetics.   

"We put tens of thousands of chemical toxins into our environment, kids are sitting in front of screens for hours a day…we’ve radically changed the way kids eat…we’ve really changed every facet of their environment." - Dr. Sharna Olfman

Also on the program, a new application out of the Entertainment Technology Center helps children cope with traumatic experiences through gameplay, and the President of the Senator John Heinz History Center Andy Masich commemorates the 150th anniversary of the day the American Civil War came to an end. 

Alleviating Trauma With Digital Games (starts at 15:41)

A new application developed by Allegheny General Hospital and the Entertainment Technology Center at CMU has children with traumatic pasts playing a life skills game that helps them navigate away from negativity. Dr. Judith Cohen, one of the founders of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Theory explains how the game's storyline helps children put into practice the coping skills they learn in a therapist's office. 

Civil War Anniversary (starts at 29:07)

This month, the nation will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. On April 9, 1865, Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia to officially end the four-year war. Joining us to address Pittsburgh’s role in the Civil War is Andrew Masich, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be found here