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Children's Mental Health Awareness Day: Focus on Childhood Trauma


National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, May 10, this year focuses on Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma. The observance highlights the importance of an integrated health approach to supporting children, youth and young adults with serious emotional disturbance who have experienced trauma.

Join in a Live Town Hall Event

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will bring together youth and family leaders, federal officials, leaders from professional health organizations and others for a town hall discussion on how to transform children serving systems to be more trauma informed. APA President Altha Stewart, M.D., will be among the panelists.

The event will be at The George Washington University’s Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre, in Washington, D.C.

You can join a live webcast of national town hall meeting being held in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m. Join the webcast.


Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma, involving emotional or physical harm or threat of harm, can result from natural disasters, exposure to violence or accidents. An estimated one in four children will experience a traumatic event before age 16, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Children can react both physically, such as an increased heart rate, or psychologically, such as feeling agitated or hyperalert. Sometimes reactions can continue causing problems with everyday functioning and interacting with others.

A trauma-informed approach means understanding the widespread impact of trauma, recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma and responding in an integrated way that supports healing and recovery. It can be applied across service settings, including social services, schools and health care.

Children’s reactions to traumatic events can vary greatly. Typical reactions and how to offer support are often different depending on the child’s age and level of development. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network suggests some general reactions expected at different ages and ways to help:

Young children – may feel fearful and helpless and may have problems putting into words what is bothering them. They may lose development skills they previously had, may have nightmares or difficulty sleeping, and may want to stay closer to parents than usual.

School age children – may continue to be concerned about safety for themselves and others, they may be preoccupied by the event, and may also have nightmares or difficulty sleeping. They may also have trouble concentrating at school.

Adolescents – may feel self-conscious about their reactions to the event and may withdraw from friends and family. They may have feelings of shame or guilt or may engage in risky behavior. It may shift the way the think about the world. Many of the teens who experienced the horror of the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., focused energy on powerful activism and advocacy for change in the aftermath of the event.

Particularly for younger children, parents can help by offering comfort and reassurance about safety, providing opportunity to play or draw and maintaining routines. For older children and adolescents, parents can encourage and support them in talking about their reactions and feelings.



AnxietyConduct DisordersBipolar DisordersDepressionPatients and FamiliesPTSD


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