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The Child Mind Institute Releases a Comprehensive Overview of Ways to Mitigate the Impacts of Trauma in Children and Young Adults

October 10, 2022

Report emphasizes an urgent call for increased research into effective treatments, as well as survey findings on American families’ experiences of trauma today.

New York, NY – In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10, the Child Mind Institute is releasing the 2022 Children’s Mental Health Report: Treating Symptoms of Trauma in Children and Teenagers. This new analysis explores traumatic stress and the treatments aimed at mitigating the impacts of trauma in children and adolescents. The report also includes results of a new Child Mind Institute survey with data collection by Ipsos among a nationally representative sample of 3,200 parents of children ages 24 and younger that explores traumatic events, treatment, impacts of the COVID pandemic, and the strategies families use to cope with these pressures.

“We’re encouraged by the findings of this report which illustrate a number of promising trauma treatments to help America’s most vulnerable young people,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, founding president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute. “The impacts of COVID are clearly still being felt by families across the country with four in ten parents reporting negative changes in their child’s mood and around 25% saying their child’s behavior worsened over the course of the pandemic.”   

The report unpacks the two most common conceptions of traumatic response today: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex trauma. PTSD is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5) as a response to a wide range of disturbing and/or life-threatening events, including interpersonal or sexual violence, abuse, war, natural disasters, and serious accidents. Complex trauma is an increasingly popular understanding of how trauma affects people through chronic, ongoing negative experiences as opposed to single, extreme events. Complex trauma is thought to affect a child’s ability to relate to others and build trusting relationships with caregivers and other authority figures.

There are encouraging treatments for the symptoms of trauma that can make a positive difference for children coping with its impacts, with the strongest evidence supporting treatments based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) such as trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT). The Child Mind Institute urges researchers and clinicians to continue developing the literature supporting trauma treatments and trauma-informed care. Additional treatments include the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC) model, Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Cognitive Processing Therapy. 

It’s also essential to work toward reducing the incidence of traumatic events themselves. “Minimizing the impacts of trauma on children requires not just prevention and intervention on an individual level but also a commitment to making sure that all families and communities have the resources and support they need to raise healthy, thriving children,” said Hannah Sheldon-Dean, author of the report and managing editor at the Child Mind Institute.

In the Child Mind Institute survey looking at families’ experiences of trauma today and reflect the reality that trauma and stress can have profound impacts on children and families. Key findings include:

Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • Parents reported high rates of stressful pandemic experiences. About half of all parents report that their child experienced a family member’s illness with COVID-19, and around 20% say their child experienced the death of a family member during the pandemic. About 20% indicate that their child experienced a parent’s loss of work, and between 15% and 21% (depending on the child’s age) say their child experienced food insecurity.
  • According to their parents, roughly 1 in 10 children were struggling in school before the pandemic. But during the pandemic, the proportion of children struggling in school nearly tripled, with about one-third of parents reporting that their child struggled during 2020–2021. Since the start of 2022, the proportion of children still struggling in school according to their parents has lessened but has not returned to the pre-pandemic levels.
  • Four in ten parents reported negative changes in their child’s mood, and about 25% said that their child’s behavior worsened over the course of the pandemic.
  • Parents of children ages 13–24 are more likely to report that their child(ren) exhibited signs of increased stress and depression during the pandemic than parents of younger children.
  • 30 percent of parents of young adults (ages 19–24) who exhibited mood issues during the pandemic said that their child continues to struggle with depression, compared to 20% of all parents of children that exhibited mood issues during the pandemic. Forty-four percent of parents of young adults that exhibited mood issues during the pandemic said that their child continues to struggle with anxiety, compared to 34% of all parents of children that exhibited mood issues during the pandemic.
  • 29% of parents said they sought help for their child from a mental health professional. Of those, 86% found it at least a little helpful, andlmost half (49%) said that it “helped a lot.” Many parents also reported that their children tried deep breathing exercises and mindfulness practices to support their mental health during the pandemic. Of those who said that their children tried these practices, the majority reported that doing so had a positive impact on their children’s mental health.

The survey included personal insights into the ways that trauma affects the lived experiences of American families. The report includes written responses from parents explaining in their own words the ways the pandemic has impacted their families.

  • “His social growth has been severely impeded by the lack of contact with other kids his age. He has almost no confidence and won’t try new things.”
  • “I feel my child is much more depressed and I have trouble with her drinking alcohol and vaping, which all began during the pandemic.”
  • ”My middle child was afraid to leave our side due to fear of getting sick or dying.”

The survey also asked respondents to define trauma and what parents and their children consider traumatic.

  • In general, 40% of parents described the word “trauma” in the context of mental health as something that affects a person’s psychological well-being or mental state. Over one-quarter mentioned a negative response to an event or experience[1].
  • Over half of parents reported that either they, or both they and their children, have experienced a traumatic event. Only 41% said that neither they nor their children had ever experienced a traumatic event.
  • Around 30% of parents of kids ages 7–24 reported that, even before the pandemic, their child had been diagnosed with a mental health or learning disorder. Anxiety disorders and ADHD were the most commonly reported diagnoses across most age groups.
  • Fewer than half (45%) of respondents reported that a pediatrician, doctor, or mental health clinician had ever asked if their child had experienced traumatic stress.
  • 21% of parents surveyed report that their child has received professional help for traumatic stress.
  • Among parents who said their child has not received professional help for traumatic stress, 26% report that either they or their child has experienced traumatic stress or acute stress without receiving treatment.

The 2022 Children’s Mental Health Report and parent survey are sponsored by Blue Shield of California. The Child Mind Institute and Blue Shield’s BlueSky initiative are collaborating to share the latest research on youth mental health.  Blue Shield of California is an independent member of the Blue Shield Association.

Conducted in the summer of 2022 with a representative sample of over 3,200 American parents, the full Child Mind Institute parents survey results can be viewed here. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points for all parents.

Read the full 2022 Children’s Mental Health Report at www.childmind.org/2022report.

About the Children’s Mental Health Report

The Child Mind Institute’s annual Children’s Mental Health Report brings together thought-provoking, incisive, and practical information on child and adolescent mental health care, based on reliable studies and emerging research. Each year the Report takes on a new focus in children’s mental health; the goal is to spark conversations from kitchen tables to the halls of Congress and promote effective solutions.

About the Child Mind Institute

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The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders by giving them the help they need. We’ve become the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health by providing gold-standard evidence-based care, delivering educational resources to millions of families each year, training educators in underserved communities, and developing tomorrow’s breakthrough treatments. Learn more at childmind.org.

For press questions, contact our press team at childmindinstitute@sunshinesachs.com or our media officer at mediaoffice@childmind.org.

About Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax-paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Shield Association with 4.7 million members, 7,800 employees, and $22.9 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid, and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $192 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation in the last five years to have an impact on California communities.  

For more news about Blue Shield of California, please visit news.blueshieldca.com.   

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[1] Data is based on open-ended responses from parents that were analyzed for themes and quantified.

Tagged with: Child Mind Institute News, Mental Health, Trauma and Grief