Mental Health Matters: Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can result from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect, accidents or disasters, sudden or violent separation from a loved one, exploitation, terrorism and more. Unfortunately, childhood trauma affects nine victims for every 1,000 children according to national statistics.

“Childhood trauma is far more common than people realize,” said Jonathan Ponser, LCPC, manager of child and family therapy with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “But adults can help with the aftermath by reassuring the child, finding appropriate mental health professionals to provide counseling or therapy and being willing to adapt to the child’s timetable for recovery.”

Not sure what childhood trauma looks like? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides these signs of potential traumatic stress for children:

Preschool Age

  • Fear when separated from parent or caregiver
  • Often cries or screams
  • Eats poorly; weight loss
  • Regular nightmares

Elementary Age

  • Constant anxiety or fearfulness
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to fall and stay asleep

Middle and High School Age

  • Feelings of depression or isolation
  • Evidence of eating disorders or self-harming behaviors
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Engaging in risky sexual behavior

Ponser added that children who have experienced trauma will often exhibit acting out behaviors, which can result in punitive responses from adults. Instead of assuming the worst, adults who interact with children should consider what trauma-related baggage the child may bring with them and how best to provide help.

Memorial Behavioral Health is providing telehealth and phone appointments with their patients.

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