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Trauma in children
An event that is stressful, or frightening, for one child, might be experienced as really traumatic by another. It is not necessarily the event itself that is traumatic, but how the event leaves a child, or young person, feeling. For many different reasons, they may be more vulnerable to Trauma than their peers.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Many young people will go through trauma – where they felt very scared for themselves or for someone else. Sometimes, this can lead to mental health difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD). In this video you will learn about PTSD – what it might look like or feel like, the main symptoms, and where you might go if you need help or support.
What is trauma-focused CBT?
Trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapies are our best-evidenced way to help young people to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Learn about what trauma-focused CBT is and how it can help someone to face and overcome their traumas.
Coping with scary and distressing memories
When young people go through traumas one of the hardest things to deal with can be their memories of what happened. This video gives brief advice on what you can do to help cope with memories that are very scary or distressing, and where you can turn to for support.
Absolutely not: and other thoughts you might have about mental health support
After you’ve been through very frightening experiences, asking for help and getting mental health support can feel scary or overwhelming. Sometimes it might feel like there is no one that could possibly help. This video talks about getting mental health support after trauma, and why, even if it feels hard, it can be helpful.
A traumatic event may be one-off, such as an accident, or a bereavement, or ongoing; for example, if the child is living in a traumatic atmosphere where there is domestic violence, or neglect. A trauma may also be shared, so children and young people whose communities have experienced war, are refugees, or are experiencing social injustice may also be suffering the effects of Trauma.
It is important to let the child, or young person, know that they can talk to you about their feelings and to help re-establish a sense of safety and connection that will have been disrupted by Trauma. They may be feeling helpless, trapped, ashamed, or continually under threat. Giving them a safe space to express these feelings and helping them to understand that these are a normal response to Trauma is important and may help them to start to make sense of their distressing experiences.
If the feelings and other Trauma responses don’t lessen in the following weeks, CAMHS (your local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) can offer further professional support.
Read and download the comprehensive Trauma and Children factsheet written by Dr David Trickey.