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Experts Call For Greater Focus On Children's Mental Health Issues

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Mental health issues have long carried a severe stigma, even when it comes to children.

Few kids receive the treatment and services they need, and the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to change that, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

Studies estimate that one in every five children suffers from a mental disorder such as anxiety and depression that could impact their health into adulthood, not to mention how those issues impair performance at school.

For example, 18-year-old Kennedy Campbell has been dealing with anxiety since she was in daycare at age 3.

"I didn't talk to anybody for six months, so they just thought I was really shy," said Kennedy.

Her anxiety would leave her unable to speak. Doctors finally diagnosed her with an anxiety disorder known as selective mutism.

"Talking is like overwhelming," she said. "A lot of people with this disorder don't speak outside of the home

"It would have been helpful if the doctors had diagnosed her earlier," said Kennedy's mom, Theresa Wilson Coney.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is releasing a new report that provides pediatricians with guidance on how to help children with mental health challenges.

"There is a huge shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists and increasing prevalence of these problems," said Dr. Cori Green of the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "We can help play a more effective role so that more children get recognized and into treatment."

The report calls on pediatricians to recognize and address trauma and other threats to children's mental health.

"The big disorders that are more prevalent and probably within the scope of a pediatrician are things like ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance use," said Green.

Kennedy founded arts for anxiety, which encourages people to use the arts to help with their symptoms.

"I feel very happy that I can inspire children and let them know they aren't alone dealing with this anxiety because I felt alone," she said.

She also receives counseling and therapy which she says has helped her overcome her anxiety and find her voice.

For a long time, mental health problems weren't thought to affect many children. Now we know that everything from anxiety to bipolar disorder to depression affects kids, and severe depression is a known contributor to the rising rate of teen suicide.

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