Going through a stressful, even life-threatening event can be devastating for the mental well-being of any person, but the experience is likely to be especially unnerving to those children whose bodies and minds have not yet fully developed to the stable stage of adulthood. Any pre-adolescent or teenage trauma can have a lasting impact on a person’s entire life and can warrant serious intervention to preclude major negative developments.

What defines a traumatic event varies from person to person. While tolerance levels vary, some people might be especially vulnerable to emotional and others to physical abuse. Traumatic response can be triggered by either a one-off event or a series of incidents over the years, such as domestic disputes culminating in a divorce. The source of this overwhelming anxiety might not even involve the affected person directly, and can come in the form of community violence or natural disasters, or even hearing about someone else’s experience.

What is clear is that this form of psychological distress is much more common than many adults would like to admit, to the point that some experts have labelled it a ‘silent epidemic’. The exact number of afflicted youngsters is hard to estimate, but all available data shows that a very significant number develop symptoms of PTSD before they hit 20. Some particularly gruesome events are known as extremely potent factors in leading to the condition, as almost 75% of children involved in a school shooting and a staggering 90% who were sexually abused develop PTSD at some stage in its aftermath.

The outcomes resulting from traumatic stress can vary widely, but are often life-altering. It has been shown that severe trauma can have significant detrimental impact on brain development during critical periods of adolescence. Victims might outsource their anxiety and anger by victimizing others, or manifest it by divulging into drugs or alcohol at a young age. The afflicted person might try to escape the events of the past through substance abuse, hence the well-known vicious link between trauma and addiction.

Asking someone suffering from traumatic stress to simply ‘forget’ about their experience is one of the cruelest things that a human could ever do to another, and simply reinforces their nihilism and escapism. Instead, the key to overcoming this burgeoning fear is to face it. It is here that the family and community can play an integral role in supporting young adults adjust to the harsh reality of the world that they suddenly find themselves exposed to. Parents and teachers in particular play a key role in this regard. Instead of egotistically blaming the problem on the children themselves, they should try to empathize and help them make amends.

Childhood adversity is of epidemic proportion, underlying
and fueling morbidity and mortality in all fifty states
in America. From the opioid epidemic which claimed
greater than 47,600 lives in 2017 (CDC), or the close to
6000 homicides in America’s 50 cities in 2017 (Madhani,
USA Today), untreated trauma can become a significant
contributor to the underbelly of unintentional or
intentional suicide and/or homicide.

Sometimes, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and other interventions from healthcare professionals are also necessary and should be pursued with the same urgent rigor as a medicine for a physical condition.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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