IN today’s article, we will be closing off on the series of the type of mental health issues that children may suffer from.
So far, we have had an opportunity to look at issues such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Tourette syndrome, among others.
Today, we will go further to look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it might affect children.
Most of us out there think that we know everything about certain mental health issues, including PTSD. You might have even heard someone talk about how they may have experienced it before.
PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event, either by experiencing it or witnessing it.
Situations such as a child being physically, sexually or emotionally abused, being a victim or witness to violence or crime, serious illness or death of a loved one, or close friend or family member, natural man-made disasters, or severe car accidents, among others.
As many people experience multiple and repeated traumatic events, it is important to learn how traumatic events can affect children.
The more you know, the more you will understand the reasons for certain behaviours and emotions and this can help us prepare ourselves learn how to help children and their families cope.
There are a couple of signs and symptoms that can signal that a child is experiencing PTSD. These symptoms can vary depending on the setting and environment. Young children react differently than older children.
Children in preschools might fear of separating from their parents or caregivers, especially when been dropped off at school. The younger ones may cry or scream a lot or may develop an eating disorder and can lose some weight, and they may experience nightmares.
Kids between grades three to seven might become anxious or fearful or may feel guilty or shame. Further, the children may have a hard time concentrating, as well as having difficulties sleeping. Lastly, children in high school might become depressed and feel alone. The kids may develop an eating disorder.Depending on the type, this might lead to extreme weight loss, anorexia or extreme weight gain obesity. Children may develop self-harming behaviours and become sexually active as well as abuse alcohol and drugs.
For some children, these reactions may interfere with their daily life and their ability to function and interact with others.
The impact of child trauma can last well beyond childhood. In fact, research shows that child trauma survivors are more likely to have learning problems which can lead to poor performance of the individual. Kids may constantly get sick physically and develop worse mental health problems.
Not all children experience child traumatic stress after experiencing a traumatic event, but those who do can recover. With proper support, many children can adapt and overcome such experiences.
As a family member or other caring adult, you can play an important role by assuring the child that he or she is safe and nothing will harm them. Explain to the child that whatever happened is not their fault and they mustnot feel responsible for it. You need to be patient with the child. Remember that every day is a trying period and there is no correct timetable for healing, as some may recover quicker than others.
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. One may have more PTSD symptoms when one is stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you might have gone through, for example, certain scents can make you relive a bad experience, or seeing a report on the news about a sexual assault case, or a violent act etc.
PTSD is likely to manifest in adulthood and can disturb the quality of life that an individual lives. If you might have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they are severe, or if you feel you are having trouble getting your life back under control, you or your loved one may need to seek help from a professional therapist and make regular visits so that they can help you overcome the trauma that may be distracting you from living in the present.
Remember that all mental health issues are manageable with the right amount of care and precaution. We need to continue working towards ending the stigma so that our loved ones can have an opportunity to freely seek the professional help without the fear of stigma or being judged.
The author is a mental health activist and founder of the Mental Health Awareness and Aid, an organisation that fights stigma attached to mental health. For more comments, call the author on 0974 363421