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Mental Health First Aid (Youth Curriculum)

Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.

The Walter P. Lomax, Jr. Speaker Series Presents “Brain Strain II”

Join DBHIDS Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans as he speaks on the subject “Brain Strain II” at the Franklin Institute.

“Brain Strain II” will help define trauma and how parents can identify if their children are suffering from it; the work that DBHIDS is engaged in around the role that trauma, stress, and exposure to violence has on the behavioral health of our young people; and programs and strategies that have been proven to work

The purpose of this event is to rraise awareness in our community about the physical, mental, and societal impact that trauma plays on how our young people learn, grow, and are socialized, Additionally, a multi-pronged, multi-media examination of the impact of trauma on our young people’s ability to succeed in school and beyond will be investigated, as well as tangible information to parents, caregivers, teachers, and others who care about our young people’s wellbeing

There will be several components of this program that include two 7-10 minute presentations (Dr. Hallam Hurt and Michael O’Bryan) and two 15-20 minute panels: First, a Medical/Behavioral Health Perspective on Trauma (featuring Dr. Evans and Reggie Jones from Bryn Mawr); 2) The Impact of Trauma on Education (Panelists are: Otis Hackney; Pam Grossman, Dean of Penn’s Graduate School of Education; and Rahim Islam, CEO of Universal Charter Schools). This will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Kids and Trauma: When Does It Require Treatment?

A child watches her father kill her mother. A tween has a medical emergency and nearly dies. A teen is sexually assaulted.

When children experience a serious trauma, most will show a visible change in behavior and emotions but will recover within a few months. A significant minority, however, go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder— a severe and often chronic anxiety disorder whose symptoms include nightmares, intense fearfulness, preoccupation with avoiding memories of the trauma, and decreased interest in formerly enjoyed activities.

Is there any hope for them? It appears so. Psychological interventions – particularly cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) – are effective in treating PTSD in children, concludes recent research from Clinical Psychology Review. A round of psychotherapy for PTSD may even alleviate the additional depression that frequently co-occurs with PTSD in children.

One review estimated at 16 percent – about one in six children will develop PTSD from experiencing trauma. Rates appear to be lowest for boys exposed to non-interpersonal traumas such as life-threatening accidents or natural disasters (8 percent) and highest for girls who are exposed to interpersonal traumas such as assault or sexual abuse (33 percent).

This latest study is an important one because it is a well-designed meta-analysis in which the authors carefully selected 39 already-published studies of treatments for childhood PTSD and combined the results using sophisticated mathematical techniques.

CBT was defined by the authors as psychotherapy that focuses on the memory of the trauma and/or its meaning. Examples include TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused CBT) and Prolonged Exposure. CBT for PTSD might also include helping clients to approach the memories and triggers they have been avoiding, such as by telling the story of the trauma, drawing pictures of it, or visiting safe places that remind them of the trauma like the site of their car accident or the hospital at which they were treated.

You might be having a “well, duh” moment, assuming that any therapist who treats PTSD would necessarily have the client speak directly about the original trauma.

You would be incorrect. Other research with adults has shown that therapists are often reluctant to encourage patients to approach memories and other trauma-related triggers for fear that this might be too upsetting, make the PTSD permanently worse, or somehow erode the trusting relationship between therapist and client.

But, as the current study and many others have shown, in the hands of a trained therapist, focusing the treatment on the remembering and processing of the trauma can help a lot, even with children and teens.

My own experience as a clinician providing CBT to traumatized children is in line with the published research: Helping the child gradually to tell me about the trauma in detail helps them, even when a child is reluctant at first. Over a course of therapy, the memories become less scary and the child more willing to talk about them. Parents, too, are helped, and report exhilaration at watching their child emerge from the aching fog of PTSD.

Two major hurdles for parents are finding a trustworthy source of information about what psychotherapies have scientific backing and then locating a therapist who has been trained in these evidence-based interventions. One online resource I highly recommend for both is Effective Child Therapy, a website maintained by the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology of the American Psychological Association. The National Center for PTSD has lots more about the disorder in both children and adults. The Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services website has information on accessing evidence-based treatments for PTSD locally.

Student Assistance Program (SAP) Services

Student Assistance Program (SAP) Services