A study of more than 2,000 18-year-olds found nearly a third had experienced trauma in childhood. A quarter of these went on to develop PTSD - an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Researchers say that the study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry should be a "wake-up call".

Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Lewis, from the Medical Research Council, said: "Providing effective treatments early on could prevent mental health problems continuing into adulthood."

Here, Rachel Cowey, a counsellor with our Young People's Service writes about how to recognise the symptoms and what can be done to help: 

When people usually think of PTSD, they think of soldiers, victims of conflict and service personnel. However, anyone can actually suffer from PTSD.

We see a lot of children and young people who are experiencing trauma or post-traumatic stress symptoms in our counselling service here at Children North East Young People’s Service.

People can experience trauma from one single event – they could be directly involved in it or could be a witness to the event. Both can cause traumatic reactions. It is not the event itself that determines whether something is traumatic to someone, but how the person experiences the event and the meaning they make of it.

The body remembers

A reaction to trauma can happen at any time – even months or years after the event. People can also experience trauma from events that they have no memory of – it is said that the body remembers.

Research has shown that trauma can even be experienced pre-birth. If an expectant mother experiences trauma, the unborn baby can also be affected.

We see children and young people who have experienced trauma reactions to a variety of events. Bullying, domestic violence, family separation, crime, child sexual exploitation and sexual assault are all examples.

The effects of trauma are very individual but can include changes to the brain, reduced immune systems, increased physical and mental stress and decreased trust.

Often the brain has not been able to process the memory of the traumatic event properly into a long term memory, which is why often people can feel like they are still experiencing the trauma and, for instance, have flashbacks.

Common reactions to trauma to be aware of include: anxiety; depression; feelings of shame and guilt; feeling hopeless and helpless; panic attacks; emotional numbness; loss of time; memory lapses; suicidal thoughts; loss of concentration; feeling disconnected; questioning one’s purpose.

Person-centred counselling

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and CBT for Trauma (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are two of the recommended therapeutic interventions for trauma. Interestingly, EMDR has been proven to be successful even on six-month-old babies.

Currently within our counselling service, we offer person-centred counselling which can help with trauma or post-traumatic stress symptoms alongside psychoeducation about how trauma affects our brain and body. However, if intensive and/or further support is required, we are able to refer on to the Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS).

Further help and information

For more information on accessing our services visit: https://www.children-ne.org.uk/mental-health-support

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