He's Not a "BAD Kid"—Emotional Trauma and Its Effect on Behavior and Health

Positive or negative, all behavior has meaning. While behaviors are used to project our emotions, many children often lack the ability to verbalize their feelings; therefore, they communicate through behavior. Children who have experienced trauma often display challenging behavior in attempt to communicate their discomfort. Unfortunately, many of these children are labelled as “problem kids” without any respect to events occurring in their lives. Rather, we should consider these symptoms as a red flag that something deeper is occurring in the child’s life and help them seek treatment as we do with physical ailments.

“At Mississippi Children’s Home Services (MCHS), we use a therapeutic practice known as trauma-informed care where we identify the root of the child’s behavior and then treat both the trauma and its outward manifestations,” said John Damon, CEO of MCHS. “Treating the issue from the inside out assures the child receives the right treatment while helping them build skills to overcome their challenges and transform their lives.”

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is a treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of trauma. Within many of the programs at MCHS, clinicians use trauma-informed care to gain insight into a child’s burdens. Building relationships and creating a “safe place” for clients is essential to guiding them through proper treatment. For each child, his or her experience and reaction is unique, which means there is no blanket “cure” for trauma. Counseling sessions focus on the child opening up about traumatic experiences to help the clinician identify the event that has caused emotional or mental injury. When a clinician can combat the underlying cause of these disruptive behaviors, they can also help the child develop healthy ways to express their emotions, which in turn treats the outward manifestations.

Early Childhood Trauma Happens More Often than You Think

The National Survey of Children’s Health completed in 2011/2012 by the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics estimated within the state of Mississippi almost a quarter of a million children ages birth to 11 had lived through at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). Traumatic experiences involved in this study include sexual, physical and emotional abuse; mental or physical neglect; parental incarceration or absence; parental mental illness or substance abuse; and witnessing acts of violence. From the original CDC-Kaiser ACE study performed in the 1990s, the proprietors of the study estimated as much as 67 percent of the U.S. population could identify with at least one ACE category.

While most children are able to adapt and overcome traumatic events, many develop overwhelming mental health challenges—approximately 1 in every 5 children. Furthermore, of those children identifying with mental health challenges, fewer than 20 percent receive treatment for these disorders. In several studies, including follow up from the CDC-Kaiser ACE study, science found that children who suffer from excessive exposure to ACE stimuli face extreme detriment to their overall lifelong health. Science furthermore concludes during the time that a child’s body and brain are still developing, overstimulation of the child’s stress response (the release of cortisol, adrenaline, elevated heartrate, etc., that relate to the body’s “fight or flight” reaction) causes extreme harm to the body and can affect the child’s brain structure and function, immune system, hormonal system and even the structure of DNA. Without proper mental, physical and emotional care this trauma can gravely impact a child’s lifelong health.

Treat Mental Trauma like You Would Physical Trauma

It is imperative that parents and those who work with children vigilantly identify red flags for emotional or behavioral disorders. Just like we would not ignore a broken bone, neither should we ignore the signs of an emotional or mental injury. Their life and health may depend on it.

MCHS offers an array of clinical and psychiatric services to help release a child from the shackles of trauma. To learn more about the behavioral, educational and mental health solutions provided through Mississippi Children’s Home Services, please call 1 (800) 388-6247.

Source: Mississippi Children's Home Services


Categories: Children's Issues, Healthcare and Medical News

Tags: ACE Study, adhd, behavioral health, mental health, stigmas

About Canopy Children's Solutions

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Canopy Children's Solutions, formerly Mississippi Children's Home Services, is Mississippi's largest and most comprehensive provider of children's behavioral health, educational and social services.

Kym Williams
Director of Public Reations, Canopy Children's Solutions
Canopy Children's Solutions
1465 Lakeland Drive
Jackson, MS 39216
United States