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UCLA CARES program provides support for children with anxiety

The UCLA Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support, which gives people information about how they can treat anxiety, will launch new programs to better treat the condition. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

By Shweta Chawla

Sept. 26, 2016 9:47 p.m.

A UCLA center that gives families and professionals resources to help treat children’s anxiety has been conducting research and hiring more staff since it was established earlier this year.

The UCLA Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support gives people information about how they can treat anxiety through its website. The website features a list of anxiety symptoms, advice on how to cope with mental health problems and tools that help medical professionals learn about child anxiety, said Kate Sheehan, managing director of the program.

Organizers also hope to add a series of programs that would research the causes of child anxiety and help develop treatments.

Patricia Lester, the director of the UCLA Division of Population Behavioral Health, and John Piacentini, a psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences professor, began the center with funding from an anonymous donor, Sheehan said.

Sheehan did not disclose the donation amount.

The team, which consists of co-directors Lester and Piacentini, Sheehan, several physicians and project managers, will work to update the website consistently and decide what programs the center should launch.

[Related: UCLA researchers discover new drug that alleviates anxiety]

One of the center’s pilot programs, the Youth Stress and Mood Program, teaches youth about the importance of mindfulness in coping with anxiety, Sheehan said. The program encourages students to acknowledge their feelings, so they can manage their emotions in a more positive way.

In a training session for staff at the UCLA Lab School, program leaders taught teachers about how they can incorporate mindfulness into their classes. Sheehan said the children at the lab school are usually more loud, but the session was successful in changing students’ behaviors.

“The next day, every teacher was practicing and explaining mindfulness with her students, and (the teachers) noted that the students had never been so quiet,” Sheehan.

Throughout the year, the team will analyze the changes in the students’ behaviors to evaluate the program and help find better ways to treat child anxiety, Sheehan said.

[Related: Lab School, UCLA implement new vaccination policy for future Bruins]

Sheehan said the center has also begun recruiting student interns, including a graduate student in psychology and a psychiatrist fellow. They will also add two undergraduate students majoring in disability studies to the team this winter.

In the future, the team aims to establish a greater online presence, increase the number of pilot programs and published research and expand their work beyond local clinics. In a statement, Lester said CARES aims to be a national model for professionals and families and would like to explore new ways for children to access mental health resources.

“Awareness and change truly start when the adults know how to react appropriately to the signs of anxiety in a child,” Piacentini said.

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Shweta Chawla
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