Hard to acknowledge, and even harder to talk about, is the shocking aftermath of trauma looks like for children in the United States, and around the world. More than two thirds of children in the United States experience a traumatic event or circumstances-such as abuse or neglect, death of a loved one, or community violence-by the time they turn 16. Young children (birth to age five), in particular, are disproportionately exposed to traumatic events and circumstances (Bartlett, 2016).
Exposure to trauma during childhood can dramatically increase a person’s risk for 7 out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the U.S. This includes high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Aftermath from childhood trauma is now being treated as a national public health crisis (Harvard, 2015). After several decades of research and investigation, many medical professionals are shifting to utilizing a concept known as ‘Trauma Informed Care’, so that instead of asking What is wrong with you? the question becomes What happened to you? (Kelly, 2014). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), they define the trauma-informed approach as A system that realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; 1. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system 2. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices 3. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization. (SAMHSA, 2018).
The goal of this paper is to educate and emphasis the problem at hand, which is that soldiers are not the only people who experienced horrific traumas: they are our neighbors, siblings, and students. Many of them are children and young adults. As mentioned previously, trauma informed care asks a patient what has happened to them, as an attempt at getting to the root. Children, teens and young adults are some of the most vulnerable populations in our society. Children all over the country, and world, experience trauma and do not have the ability to advocate for themselves. Indicators of trauma include having an alcoholic parent, experiencing sexual abuse, natural disasters, accidents, and human trafficking (Van Der Kolk, 2014). Dr. Van Der Kolk, as well as Dr. Nadine Burke (another famous psychiatrist who has devoted her life to working with trauma victims), and many others believe that the way in which we treat trauma patients can drastically improve not only their quality of life but expected life span as well. With children, this is crucial, and can alter the course of their lives.
The question posed in this paper is this: what mental health professionals can do in implementing Trauma Informed Care for children and teens, who are need of protection due to the traumas that they have experienced. We will be referring to literature written by leading researchers in this field, as well as studies performed on outcomes, in supporting my case.
Trauma Informed Care
We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past;