A new way to address mental health issues in children

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Amid all of the violence and trauma people are facing in our area, a new mental health service is opening up for young people — and it uses toys and video games as a form of therapy.

A CCSS bus is a new innovative way to help get rid of the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Oftentimes, kids experience trauma but don’t have anyone to talk to — so this mobile mental health clinic uses play therapy to help take away the stress by making kids feel like their right at home.

Doreen Upshaw is a play and art therapist who said the idea of ​​a mobile mental health clinic came to her in a dream. Usually, she said, her dreams are fleeting — but this one stuck with her.

“This one was so vivid that I started to research to see if this was being done and who to model it after but it wasn’t,” Upshaw said.

When COVID-19 hit, she lost a lot of her patients, because her type of therapy can’t be done through video, so she decided to build something that goes to them.

The CCSS mobile unit will serve children from age 4 through 18. She believes they need counseling – just as much as anyone else.

“With kids, play is how they understand their world. That’s how they connect with people, that’s how they connect with the world and they start doing that from a very young age. They don’t know how to grieve and a lot of times , we as adults, don’t know how to relate to them. Play therapy allows them to work that out. If I’m angry because my dad is not with me, I can take two dinosaurs and bang them together. I can play the guitar or drums.”

And with youth violence so prevalent in Pittsburgh, she thinks this clinic is a fun but private outlet for their feelings by catering to things they like such as video games and drawing.

It’s an outlet that she said is much needed after tragedies like the Easter mass shooting in East Allegheny.

“6 people already registered, 2 of them are teenagers and unfortunately from that incident, I ended up with three clients,” Upshaw added.

Upshaw said she hopes the stigma of mental health will go away some day — and this mobile clinic becomes a modernizing way to provide people with the help they need.

“I’d like to see someday a shuttle that is able to pull up into someone’s driveway, someone look out the window and say, ‘Oh she’s getting the help she needs, this is good for her.’ Mental health touches every human being on the planet,” Upshaw said.

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